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'BlacKkKlansman' and White Women: Spike Lee’s New Film Indicts Their Investment in White Supremacy

August 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Rachel Leah, Salon

From legal slavery to now, white women have always participated in white nationalist violence in many forms

The new Spike Lee-directed film “BlacKkKlansman” begins with a scene from the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind.” In it, Scarlett O'Hara discovers the rows and rows of injured and slaughtered bodies at a train yard following the Battle of Atlanta. As the camera pans out, a battered Confederate flag buckles and billows in the wind, in what appears to show honor and resilience, despite the flag's shabbiness and the Confederacy's defeat.

The opening is significant not just because it demonstrates one of Lee's greatest gifts as a filmmaker, in that he forces us to re-examine history, or as Rembert Browne wrote for Time Magazine, he holds “up a mirror to society, ever hopeful that we’ll eventually open our eyes.” But in “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee is intentional about not just showing the atrocities of the hooded, cross-burning men in the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs, or of the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, or of the current president of the United States. Lee also demonstrates — critically — historically and presently, white women's investment in upholding white supremacy.

White women's stake in white nationalism has been, at times, a quieter presence. The sea of white men in collared shirts and cropped haircuts carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville one year ago bolstered a narrative that the racist belief and movement is primarily single-gendered. But Charlottesville came after the 2016 election when 53 percent of white women voters pulled the lever for Donald Trumpdespite his overt misogyny, and despite his alleged history of sexual abuse.

Many liberals and progressives questioned how so many white women didn't see Trump's sexism as a deal-breaker — and likewise, and more terrifyingly, the people in his administration who continue to be hell-bent on rolling back reproductive rights. How could they be so invested in the white nationalist rhetoric that Trump said and endorsed at the risk to their own bodies? But as Melissa Harris-Perry wrote in …read more


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