Eight or ten years ago my former husband and I celebrated an anniversary on Martha’s Vineyard. I think it was Labor Day weekend and, to kill time before our ferry departure, we squeezed into the Black Dog Cafe in Vineyard Haven for a final indulgent breakfast. After we were seated, I noticed the father and son seated next to us and realized pretty quickly (confirmed by the Yankees cap) that it was indeed, Spike Lee and presumably his pre-teen son.
The conversation at their table had been lively and Spike looked a little exasperated, but even more amused. He and I made as much eye contact as was possible in our tinted glasses, and smiled at one another before exchanging a few words:
“Why do we teach them to speak?
They never stop talking!”
…and then we laughed.
It was pleasant and illustrated to me how he and I are much more alike than we are different. We’re both parents and we spend time teaching our children how (not what) to think and behave and communicate. It was a perfect encounter with a cultural icon.
If we’re incredibly lucky, we raise children who can communicate like Spike Lee. His ability to depict with film a reality with which many people are unfamiliar, is remarkable. In his most recent release, BlackkKlansman, he strings together images from Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, and 2017’s tragic white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA, with the true story of Colorado Spring’s first black police officer, Ron Stallworth, to make his case that overt racism is the American way. We’ve been perfecting it for generations.
I went to the movie with my generally aware 13 y/o, yet repeatedly found myself elbowing him to explain historical references such as a mention of Branch Rickey or the blaxploitation scenes, both subjects with which he was unfamiliar. When it came to the closing scenes of the violence which was perpetrated in Charlottesville last year, it was my turn to be unfamiliar – somehow I had avoided ever seeing that footage. I left the theater in tears.
If you haven’t yet seen BlackKKlansman – go.