Spike Lee Defends BlacKkKlansman’s Depiction of Police After Boots Riley Critique

Spike Lee. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley took to Twitter last Friday to outline his extensive critique of the “made-up” story of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, based on the 2014 memoir of police officer Ron Stallworth, who helped Colorado authorities infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan in the ‘70s. As Riley wrote in his three-page essay, the fictional elements in BlacKkKlansman all seemed to paint police as anti-racist. In a new interview with The Times, Lee defends his depiction of police, essentially saying “check my credentials.” Said Lee, “Look at my films: They’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of color. I’m not going to say that. ”

Among Riley’s criticisms of the film is what he sees as a downplaying of the years Stallworth spend infiltrating black radical organizations before the KKK operation, as well as the invention of a bombing and other discrepancies. He said of the bio drama, “For Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make a black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly.”

Riley ultimately concludes BlacKkKlansman’s depiction of police as heroic does a disservice to black organizations and civil rights figures targeted by law enforcement. Lee, however, hopes the film, and its African-American protagonist, leaves audience with a more nuanced take. “I mean, we need police,” explains the director. “Unfortunately, police in a lot of instances have not upheld the law; they have broken the law. But I’d also like to say, sir, that black people are not a monolithic group. I have had black people say, ‘How can a bourgeois person like Spike Lee do Malcolm X?’ ”

Spike Lee Defends BlacKkKlansman’s Depiction of Police