The Ernest Opinion: 'Chi-Raq' is an affront to #BlackLivesMatter
Spike Lee’s new film on Chicago’s gun-violence crisis is everything that’s wrong with how America views the unfortunate deaths of black citizens.
This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Superintendent Garry McCarthy after failing to enact systemic departmental change that would have prevented one of the city's worst police shootings in recent memory.
The viral video of a white Chicago cop firing 16 rounds into the black body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has once again reminded America how complex the intermingling of race and the criminal justice system is.
Such killings reiterate the necessity of #BlackLivesMatter — the movement aiming to combat the institutional racial bias and injustice targeted at vulnerable black citizens.
But tragically, our nation’s most prolific black filmmaker plans to capitalize off of the antithesis of such a cause.
Spike Lee’s new film “Chi-Raq,” in theatres Friday, predicates itself on being a “satire” exposing the “self-inflicted genocide” of black-on-black gun violence in Chicago.
Chicago is my birthplace and an emotional bloodline to my understanding of urban life. It’s no secret that the climbing death toll due to gang-related gun violence is an unprecedented crisis that casts an ugly shadow over our nation’s third-largest city. Hence the city has been grossly called “Chi-Raq,” given that lives lost supersede the number of Americans killed during the Iraq War.
But we aren’t the only ones who’ve had our ups and downs. Remember when Philadelphia was “Killadelphia,” Baltimore was “Murder Ink,” or when Brooklyn used to be a bloody ghost town? All of these cities have had their fair share of national outcry when it came to excessive urban massacres.
But Mr. Lee believes that “no peace, no piece” will fix this problem. His “satire” is a patriarchal hetero-normative attempt at modernizing the Greek comedy Lysistrata that suggests that women stopping sexual intercourse with their violent male partners will end the war.
Sure, Spike…because the war began with black men killing one another for no clear reason and when they choose to stop — so will the war. It doesn’t get any more tone-deaf than such vapid logic.
This cinematic victim-blaming is an affront to the current movement of #BlackLivesMatter and any mature understanding of the urban sociology. It places the responsibility of gun-violence prevention on the most vulnerable communities who have fallen helpless to a system that has failed to protect them.
If you want to prevent senseless killings in America, stop looking solely at the killer — include a look at the environment that produces it. Whether you are in Boston, NYC, Chicago, or Philadelphia—they all have grotesque familiarities.
Such as an embarrassing poverty rate with a crippling education system that leaves people at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to employment…I’m looking at you Philadelphia. A heavily gentrifying population that pushes lower-income communities out of their neighborhoods with less access to proper resources—sounds familiar, NYC? Or how about a city whose use of racial profiling is second nature and has become accustomed to being an unwelcoming place for diversity—Boston, do better.
Among others, these factors—tied in with lax gun control policies—have created environments like “Chi-Raq.” Mr. Lee is putting the cart before the horse with his out-of-touch religious pathology of healing such communities.
His pathetic “Orange March” with the Rev. Al Sharpton after the NYC premiere of his film on Wednesday to raise gun violence awareness was nothing more than a marketing push that had hundreds of marchers wearing his memorabilia misguided.
It’s going to take a lot more than just poor black men putting down their guns to combat this issue—perhaps Mr. Lee should have done the right thing by letting the world know that.