Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It

If you want to understand why racism or anti-Semitism is ineradicable, do not study history. Do not visit the scenes of the crime, so as to mark a map with a series of thumbtacks. Do not see how the pins turn the colors of the world into a single color, as the rivers and oceans go from blue to red, just as the cities and countries bear the blood of the cross and the chains of chattel slavery. Put aside what you know, and ignore history altogether, so you may listen to Spike Lee’s version of American history, because no award is big enough—not even his Academy Award for best adapted screenplay is good enough—for him to say: enough. No amount of praise from his peers, of all colors, was enough for him to be magnanimous—in victory and defeat—when “Green Book” won the Oscar for best picture.

By labeling the win a “bad call,” Lee revealed the sole color that darkens his soul. Too green with envy to have congratulated a fellow actor of color, Lee’s words were an attack against the co-star of “Green Book,” Mahershala Ali, winner of the Academy Award for best supporting actor. (This was Ali’s second Oscar in the same category, having won the award—in 2017–for his performance in “Moonlight.”)

Both times, Ali was the antithesis of Lee. He was gracious but not ingratiating, selfless but not solicitous, personal but not pleading. He was a professional.

If Spike Lee cannot emulate that example, if he cannot exemplify the best of his profession, he should consider another profession—not because he will win more awards elsewhere, but because we will not have to hear him belittle future winners of the Academy Award.

Photo credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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