This weekend, SAB’s Lost Films presented BlacKkKlansman, the newest film directed by Spike Lee. As part of their effort to promote thoughtful conversation surrounding impactful movies, SAB organized a panel consisting of Lynn Maynard, Marcelle Giovannetti, Samson Arnold, Joshua Scarborough and Famatta Hne, to talk about the film and its effects.
The film is an adaptation of Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman. It tells Stallworth’s story of being the first African-American police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department and infiltrating a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.
“I think this movie is so important because it shows faces and names to issues that don’t normally get faces and names,” Famatta Hne, a junior English major with a teaching certification, said. “In history, we see white hoods and we see people killing and lynching and murdering others, but we don’t get to see faces. But in this movie, we see how power dynamics interact with racist ideology, and how racism is not just in the backwoods, it’s in our police departments, it’s in our institutions, and it’s in little comments, it’s in overt acts […] and I think this movie did a good job of covering all those facets.”
Because the film talks heavily about racism, panel members focused their discussion on the way that members of Messiah College can be active in fighting systemic racism. Panelists encouraged the audience to try de-segregating their lives and to talk more openly with multicultural students.
“We have a long history of recycled hate,” Marcelle Giovannetti, counselor at the Engle Center, said. “The population that’s targeted has changed over decades in the United States. The target it changing, but the hate is recycled over and over again. This movie is really hard for me to watch […] because at the end of the day, I think that it begs the question: how far have we really come? As a nation, as people, as followers of Christ.”
The existence of racism in the United States has not decreased since the abolishment of slavery or the addition of the Fifteenth Amendment, which allowed citizens of color to vote. Instead, it has evolved to fit into the changes in society. Lynching may no longer happen, but racial profiling still increases the likelihood of a colored person being sent to jail.
“I think what Spike Lee is trying to get at, to a degree, is that this is unfortunately a large part of what we are as a country,” Joshua Scarborough, senior politics and international business double major, said. “You cannot understand America’s history, and understand where America is now without understanding the role that racial violence has played in our up and coming.”
However, panelists discussed the chance to begin changing that reality. Whether it’s as small as making the choice to engage in more conscious discussion about how racism affects other people, or recognizing that diversity is more than giving people of color a position in leadership. The change begins with making a choice to be aware that racism still exists, but that each person has the ability to take steps toward making changes that allow people of color to feel safer, have more equal opportunities and rise into positions that they deserve.
Samson Arnold, treasurer of the Black Student Union, encouraged the audience to have open conversation with people of color and keep an open mind. The existence of the different cultural clubs on campus allows marginalized students to have a safe space to talk and share their experiences. Though the subject may be uncomfortable, it’s having conversation that allows for greater understanding between the different races on campus. It’s these discussions that can help shape the way we treat the racism we see and teach us how to fight it.
“You are the source of the light,” Giovanetti said. “So don’t forget it.”