Ten days after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, black filmmaker Spike Lee added his voice to the tumult over the incident. During Tuesday night's edition of Anderson Cooper 360, he told the CNN anchor: “Something smells bad in Ferguson, and it’s not just tear gas.”
“I do not think you should be killed in this country because allegedly you steal some cigarillos. I don’t think you should be killed in this country if there is marijuana in your system,” Lee told Cooper while referring to Brown. “The people -- not only in Ferguson, but all over this country -- do not trust what is happening. I just think there's a war on the black male, and it’s tearing this country apart." [See video below.]
Cooper began the interview by asking Lee to explain a comment he made that “it's obvious the Ferguson police, the state police and the National Guard don't have a handle on this, don't have a clue.”
The liberal activist claimed that retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré is the person “who could bring order” to the chaos because he oversaw the military response to Hurricane Katrina.
The host agreed with the choice, noting that “when he arrived in New Orleans, he was saying to the National Guard: put your guns down; take your helmets off; these are not your enemies.”
“That's what we need,” Lee declared. “We need somebody who's gonna cool things down and not escalate them.”
The CNN host then asked: “Are you convinced that [Brown] was doing nothing wrong, or are you simply saying that no matter what the situation, an unarmed person should never be shot six times by the police?”
In response, the filmmaker accused the officers of engaging in a conspiracy “to protect their own.” As an example, he asserted that the police finally identified the officer as six-year veteran Darren Wilson on the same day they released a video tape that supposedly showed Brown stealing items not once but twice from a nearby convenience store before his encounter with Wilson.
Also, that was the day the autopsy report was made public, and it showed that the black teenager had been shot four times in his right arm and once in his head before the final, fatal bullet penetrated the top of his skull.
The CNN host then referred to a study that demonstrated the “radically different” perceptions that African-Americans and Caucasian Americans have regarding such incidents, a pattern “we have seen time and time again.”
“Does that still surprise you that there is still that divide in perception and how Americans see this in different ways, largely in many cases based on race?” Cooper asked, still in full softball mode.
Many people thought that the moment when President Obama put his hand on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible and took the oath as the president of the United States of America, racism would disappear. Abracadabra, hocus pocus, gone as part of the so-called post-racial era. That is not the case.
And if you look at what's happening in Ferguson, it happened in L.A. with the Rodney King verdict, it happened after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.
“When people get to a point, to the tipping point, they can’t take it anymore -- and I’m not saying that people should burn down stuff, riot and loot, and I don’t even want to the use the word 'riot,' I’m going to use the word 'uprising,'” Lee said.
“But this is not the first time we’ve seen this,” he noted. “And I just hope that things will really blow up if the people aren’t happy with the verdict of this upcoming trial.”
Cooper then asked: “So what do you say to those largely white Americans who see what's happening here and maybe don't understand what's happening here or disagree with what's happening here?”
“I just think there's a war on the black male, and it’s tearing the country apart, in my opinion,” Lee answered.
“You really believe that there's a war on the black male?' the host asked.
“I think it's systematic, and we get blinded to think because we have Oprah [Winfrey], we got Michael Jordan, we got LeBron [James], we got Beyoncé [Knowles], we got Jay-Z [Shawn Carter]; everything's OK,” he stated. “But they are the exception. The black underclass is growing every single day.”
In conclusion, Cooper asked Lee if he had a message for the people who might take to the streets in another night of unrest.
“I'm not trying to be a spokesperson for anybody,” the filmmaker said while backing away from his incendiary rhetoric. “I just hope everything is cool.”