‘BlacKkKlansman’ Asks: ‘Why you acting like you don’t have skin in the game?

Why you acting like you don’t have skin in the game?

Phone calls can be dangerous as we learn in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” That call to the Ku Klux Klan took place in the 1970s. I had a similar white voice experience in the 1990s.

At the time, I volunteered for Southland Collie Rescue to do weekly checks on a local animal shelter located in an area that is 61 percent Asian. I blended in. It was one of two animal shelters I visited to look for purebred dogs. I’d take down their info and call up other local breed rescues as a courtesy.

Most phone calls were polite and some of the people I got to know fairly well by voice for the popular dog breeds. Most of the phone calls were forgettable; one call though sticks in my mind.

After reporting to the contact for this Asian breed, the woman, a breeder of show dogs of this particular breed, confided to me. “I don’t adopt to Orientals. Or blacks.”  I’m sure the list would have expanded except she had another call coming in. I left it at that except to report the experience to my regional coordinator.

When I saw “BlacKkKlansman,” I remember her and wondered how she felt now that the Asian and Latino population had exploded and the rise of influence of African Americans included the first African American president. The funky 1970s fashions beautifully displayed in “BlacKkKlansman” may have passed, but cross burnings and racism and other forms of prejudice have not.

In 2011, an 11-foot wooden cross was stolen from Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande, California. It was later set ablaze near the window of a mixed race woman in the wine region less than 50 miles away from where the movie “Sideways” was filmed. Four men, two of them Latino, were later arrested. One of them had tattoos that suggested interest in white supremacist groups.

More recently, there’s been a series of white nationalist gatherings with increasingly violent clashes. Something that Frontline’s  “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville” notes. Journalist A.C. Thompson ends up in Orange County, California, talking with local reporter Frank Tristan and Gustavo Arellano,the former publisher and editor of the OC Weekly, an alternative free newspaper. The investigations led them to expose UCLA PhD. candidate Michael Miselis, who had government security clearance through the contractor Northrop Grumman.

In the Frontline documentary, Michael German,  who infiltrated white supremacists groups during his time with the FBI but who is currently at the Brennan Center for Justice, commented about the violence in Charlottesville,  saying, “This was not just predictable, but predicted.” He cites the escalating violence in California cities–Anaheim, Berkeley, Sacramento and Huntington Beach. He also noted the inaction of the police, something that Thompson had already noted in Charlottesville. German said the violence will continue to escalate because these alt-right street fighters think “they’re [the police] going to protect me going in, then left me do it and protect me coming out.”

That violence isn’t directed just at blacks or Jews. There’s been a rise in hate crimes targeting Asians and that shouldn’t surprise anyone after #ThisIs2016 article in the New York Times. There’s history to that. Remember, California was central to the movement of yellow perilism. But California alone didn’t pass the federal laws and practices against Asian Americans. If one has seen “American Experience: The Chinese Exclusion Act” one can’t help but think about demographics and apply them to the cities Thompson mentions. Thompson doesn’t delineate the numbers, but Huntington Beach is 76 percent white, 11 percent Asian and 1 percent black, making it an ideal place for a pro-Trump rally. Compare that to Orange County which is 41 percent white, 43 percent Latino and 20 percent Asian. Irvine is, 46 percent white and 38 percent Asian. Anaheim is 55 percent white, 52 percent Latino and 15 percent Asian (3 percent African American). Berkeley is 56 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 11 percent Latino and 8 percent black. That’s very different from somewhere like Atlanta that is 61 percent black, 33 percent white and 2 percent Asian. Or Colorado Springs which is now 79 percent white and 6 percent black (Latino 17 percent and Asian 3 percent). Asians and Latinos definitely have skin in this game. 

Imagine what the California and the rest of the Pacific Coast and even the southwest might look like without the Chinese Exclusion Act that was only repealed in 1943 and the quotas from other Asian exclusion acts that were only changed with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

In Charlottesville, the Unite the Right supporters were chanting, “Jews will not replace us” as if they and their ancestors were in the U.S. first and forever. In “BlacKkKlansman,” the non-practicing Jewish character Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) can pass for white. Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) asks him, “Why you acting like you don’t have skin in the game?” Together they become one KKK new recruit Ron Stallworth but Flip’s association with the KKK in Colorado Springs, forces him to confront his place in the white nationalist scheme of things.

When Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte appears on the screen to talk as Jerome Turner about a lynching that he witnessed in the Deep South, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans should feel a sense of place. Sure the Deep South is far away from Colorado Springs, but according to Ken Burns’ “The West,” lynchings west of the Mississippi targeted Latinos, Native Americans and Asians more than blacks. In Los Angeles, Asians should remember the Chinese massacre of 1871.

Some Latinos and Asians can pass for white. Some Asians and Latinos are black. But we all have skin in this game. Charlottesville is part of “BlacKkKlansman” and the movie is dedicated to Heather Heyer who instead of resting in peace shall “rest in power.”

In the Frontline documentary, one white nationalist says of Trump “his movement has opened up the door; it is up to us to take the initiative.” The documentary shows a confident David Duke who thanks Trump for speaking the truth; quite a contrast to how Spike Lee’s movie leaves him (as played by Topher Grace). In the documentary, Thompson felt that Charlottesville was not only a crime scene, but part of a “national reckoning about race.” Spike Lee juxtaposes the white nationalists in the 1970s and 1980s to the Unite the Right of today. This is fo’ real fo’ now.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.