Sorry To Bother You director Boots Riley had some choice words about BlacKkKlansman. On Friday, the filmmaker and Coup rapper posted a three-page essay to Twitter citing his problems with the Spike Lee film. While Riley explains how much Lee has influenced him, he explained, “I’m not gonna hold my tongue.”
In his post, Riley recalled the actual history behind BlacKkKlansman, explaining that while he realizes directors in Hollywood take creative liberties in films that are based-on-a-true-story, he was disappointed with the director’s decision to portray the police in a more positive manner.
“[T]o the extent that people of color deal with actual physical attacks and terrorizing due to racism and racist doctrines — we deal with it mostly from the police on a day to day basis. And not just from White cops. From Black cops too. So for Spike to come out with a movie where a story points are fabricated in order make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing, to put it very mildly,” he wrote.
BlacKkKlansman, based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 book BlacKkKlansman: A Memoir, details the journey of Colorado Springs detective Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) as he goes undercover in the local Ku Klux Klan chapter. Riley finds segments of the fictionalized plot problematic — like Stallworth’s “radical girlfriend” and the arrest of a racist cop — which he thinks were done to portray Stallworth, who Riley considers a “villain,” as someone who “risked his life to fight racism.”
Riley recalls that the real Ron Stallworth was a part of the FBI Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) and actually “infiltrated a Black radical organization for years (not for one event like the movie portrays)” to sabotage it while fighting against racist oppression.
“Cointelpro’s objectives were to destroy radical organizations, especially Black radical organizations,” Riley wrote. “Cointelpro papers also show us that when White Supremacist organizations were infiltrated by the FBI and the cops, it was not to disrupt them. They weren’t disrupted. It was to use them to threaten and/or physically attack radical organizations.”
Riley believes that Stallworth’s memoir was made “to put himself in a different light,” also revealing that the book was “published by a publisher that specializes in books written by cops.”
Near the end of his essay, Riley reveals that Lee “was paid over $200K” by the NYPD “to help in an ad campaign that was ‘aimed at improving relations with minority communities.’ Whether it actually is or not, BlacKkKlansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign.”