Are Spike and/or Denzel racists?

Not sure this is a Cafe thread cuz I don’t want to discuss their actual work.

Somebody recently commented to me that they won’t watch Spike Lee and Denzel Washington films because they are racists.

Are they really? How so?

I have no idea about Denzel, but Spike Lee clearly is. He stopped talking to his dad because he married a white woman.

I think there was a Denzel Washington movie where he was in love with a woman of Indian decent (from the subcontinent of India, not Native American).
Also, I think the woman who played his wife in Out of Time wasn’t black, but I’m not remembering to good, so I could be wrong.
So anyway, at least, on screen, he has no problems with mixed romances. As for real life, I’m not sure.
Then again, if the thing about Spike lee is true, then he definitely is a racist. Hey, I never saw the movie, but does Jungle Fever put mixed dating in a positive, or negative light, because if it puts it in either a positive, or, at the very least, not negative light, I think I’d find it somewhat ironic that he has a problem with it in real life.

I just looked up something on Spike Lee and it said that Jungle Fever put mixed romances in a dim light. So nevermind the last part of my previous post.

First time I’ve heard anything about Denzel Washington being racist (heard shitloads about Spike Lee, though).

Could it be because Denzel played Malcom X in Spike Lee’s film?

A couple years ago at the Academy Awards they did a little special tribute to Robert Redford (and his role in the creation of the Sundance Film Festival). Whoopie Goldberg (<— racist) was the host, after the tribute she said something to the affect of, “notice there weren’t any black people applauding?”, I suppose because Robert Redford isn’t famous for having tons of black people in his productions. Anyway, there was little mention of this event by anyone in the media, no mention at all that I noticed. I often wonder what the consequences would have been had the tables been turned?

How can Whoopie Goldberg be a racist when she had a thing with Ted Danson?

Why do people do this? The “what if the tables were turned” hypotheticals are getting old.

For the tables to be turned, whites would have to comprise some small population of the Hollywood establishment. They would have to be historically excluded from mainstream films and academy awards. Films in which whites dominate the cast would NOT be considered mainstream films. Whoopie would have to be a white comedian talking to a predominately black audience, and the producer being honored would have to be black. All of this person’s films would have to be predominately black.

When I imagine the “tables being turned”, I don’t see the outcome being any different.

If Whoopie is an anti-white racist for telling this joke (a joke that I believe is open to multiple interpretations, not necessarily yours), then we’re all racist. In most of her movies, she’s been the lone black actor in a sea of white. Her humor is mainly “cross over”, non-racial stuff. She has dated at least two white men, and she voluntarily named herself “Goldberg”. I dunno what’s going on in her head, but “I hate Whitey” is probably NOT one of her regular thoughts.

Spike Lee is a(n aging) Angry Young Man and his anger is aimed at problems blacks face in the U.S. As such, he has made a number of movies and a number of statements that can get him branded as either hateful or as racist by people who do not take the time to study his overall message. He has, for example, tackled black-on-black racism in the U.S. on several occasions.

Now, it is possible that his anger has led him to a point where he is, in fact, racist, but I suspect that a lot of accusations of that nature are prompted by angry reactions to his own angry expression. I note that he does not have much trouble getting good white actors to appear in his films, so he does not appear to be scaring them off. (Of course, if one needs for him to be racist, then I suppose we simply write off any white actor who worked with him as attempting to assuage their liberal guilt and we are back to a simple “he is racist.”)
I’ve never heard any claims against Denzel Washington as a racist or as a jerk or anything else. (I would tend to think that his role as Malcom X might have bothered some people who keep forgetting that acting is a job–not to mention the misunderstanding that some people express toward Malcom X.)

I agree with tomndebb. Just judging by his movies, Spike isn’t racist. I think he’s controversial in a racial way, but not racist.
I haven’t seen all of Spike’s movies, but I have seen a good deal. Here’s my take on them (using imdb as a guide):

The Huey P. Newton Story: Great and powerful glimsp of the most well-known Black Panther. Since it was directed but not written by Spike, I don’t think he gets credit for the content of the play.

Bamboozled: It was a good story with a sour ending about a fictional–but all too real–exploitation of black characters on TV. If the sole white character–Michael Rapaport–is supposed to represent all white folks, then yeah–the movie is racist. But it doesn’t end there. The movie’s protagonist isn’t that great either (he is the quintessential negro sell-out, though he doesn’t start off that way), and the comic relief in the movie is provided by a bunch of black thugs called the Mau Maus.

Original Kings of Comedy: Funny stuff, although I didn’t care for Bernie Mac. Much of the humor is racial–that black-folks-are-different-from-white-folks stuff. Sometimes it’s tiring. But none of it is racist.

Summer of Sam: It’s a “white” movie…probably his only one. And while it does delve into the race-based fears during the summer riots of '77, it’s done in a realistic way. But that’s not really what most of the movie is about anyway.

4 Little Girls: I was speechless when I saw it. If it’s racist to tell a story about the victims of one of the country’s most horrible acts of modern terrorism, I don’t what racism is.

Get on the Bus: Delves into just about everything. All the characters (yes, including the white bus driver who bails out) have foibles. But most are also likeable and thus real. The story is much more about the lives of the guys riding the bus to the Million Man March rather than about their feelings about white people.

Girl 6: Stupid, non-racist movie.

Clockers: A “tales from the hood” kind of movie. The main white role is sympathetic. So is the black “thug”.

Crooklyn: One of my favorite movies. A coming-of-age story about a little girl in Brooklyn. White people really do not exist in this movie at all. Not a racist flick.

Malcolm X: A movie about a racist who transforms at the end. A powerful story–should have received a bunch of Academy Awards IMHO. If you don’t respect Malcolm X and believe him to be a racist (and many people do), then you probably won’t enjoy the movie. But if you read the autobiography and respect Malcolm for the impact he had on history, then you will love it.

Jungle Fever: A story about the taboo of black-white love. Or rather lust. No one really looks good in this movie. The movie isn’t racist because no one group or person really “wins” at the end.

Do the Right Thing: See above. The movie exposes black and Italian white racism and ignorance from beginning to end. The protagonist–Spike Lee’s Mookie–is an anti-hero who makes you scratch your head, especially at the end. The only one who comes out unscathed, IMHO, is the pizzaria guy. He’s white.

School Daze: White people do not exist in the movie. The subject of the entire movie is racism between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks. It’s a strange surreal movie (it’s like a musical) that I hope I never have to see again.

I’ve never heard Denzel being accused of racism, and Spike often. I’ve only seen a couple of movies, but never really “watched” them. No idea there.

I will say I think he’s a complete douchebag and way too fucking egotistical for his own good. Aehn TNT (I think) wanted to switch to SpikeTV he immediately began a media campaign accusing them of trying to build on his success.

Yet, Spike Jonez never had a problem with it. When I heard about this, all my respect was lost for him. That and his asshattery at NBA games.

I had not thought about Redford’s not having many Blacks in his films. Several productions have been about Hispanics and American Indians. I think he tends to do a lot of movies set in the West. Seems to me that Will Smith may have had a sizeabe role in Bagger Vance though. (Am I misremembering?)

I’ve never thought about Whoopi or Spike or Denzel as being racist – just incredibly talented. (Denzel should have had the Oscar for Malcolm X.) It’s reasonable to assume that anger drives a lot of Lee’s work, but that doesn’t translate to racism. Nor does his not speaking to his father after his father married a white woman indicate that the problem, if there is one, is her race of the marriage itself.

If you have to ask if someone is a racist, then it’s probably not a problem.

This interview explains his problem with his stepmother. He says the following:

So we can put to rest this rumor once and for all. I think it’s understandable that he is mad at his father.

I do no’t know about his being racist, but Spike Lee is race-obsessed. His feud with Quentin Tarantino over Pulp Fiction’s use of the word “nigger” is ridiculous, at best.

I haven’t heard anything about him being a racist, but I have heard more than a few accounts that he’s a complete asshole and a womanizer to boot.

The screwy thing about Spike Lee is, his movies are usually more nuanced and thoughtful than HE is!

In a movie like “Do the Right Thing,” for instance, there are only three white characters, and two of them are portrayed very sympathetically. Even the third, who shows some real racist tendencies, is not shown as an altogether bad person.

Lee can be sensitive and insightful in his screenplays in a way that he, apparently, CAN’T be in public appearances as himself.

I don’t see how that qualifies as having the tables turned. What you’re talking about is like a photo negative where you’re just changing the colors of everybody involved. Turning the table, IMO, is relevant because it is not a complete swapping of the situation.

For example, suppose CBS had the Ivory Awards, the white equivalent of the Essence Awards. Someone would say that’s what the Academy Awards already are, others would say that the Ivory Awards are white-power racism, others would say that those opinions are way off. Then perhaps those involved could actually have something to discuss.

The problem with table-turning hypotheticals is not that they’re meaningless or old, the problem is that nobody takes the time to go beyond posing them as though they bring to light some self-evident truth, and nobody takes the time to actually consider them seriously. If serious, thoughtful discussion can surround the merits of Affirmative Action for university enrollment, then I don’t see why we should dismiss the table-turning hypotheticals out of hand or accept them as pointing out some sort of heretofore self-evident truth.

But if you don’t turn around everything, then of course the outcome will be different.

If Whoopie said “notice you don’t see any white people clapping” in regards to a parade of predominately white films, it wouldn’t be funny. Not because it would be racist, but because their non-clapping would be very mysterious.

If Whoopie said “notice you don’t see any white people clapping” in regards to a parade of predominately black films, it would be funny to me. However, if the audience was predominately white (as the Academy Award ceremony usually is), then it would be kind of a bummer if her observation was accurate. Why should the honoree feel good if the majority of the audience didn’t clap for him? (This would be especially poignant if all the other awards went to white people).

Also, white people not clapping would be reminiscent of white people of yore not respecting black talent. There is no history–at least widely known history–of black people not respecting white talent for simply being “white”. But unfortunately the reverse has happened. So while the joke would be funny, it would leave behind a little stain.

Replace Whoopie with a white comedian and the funniness would be further diminished.

I’m guessing what you’re saying is that by “turning the tables” at the grossest, most parsimonious level, we’re able to construct some kind of working framework of the “problem”. By just flipping the “color”, we can imagine that the Ivory Awards would be received with more negativity than the Essence Awards has been. Well, yeah. This isn’t really a mind-blowing revelation. But if we want to dip further and figure out why this is the case (besides RACISTS BEING RACIST OMG!!), we need to evaluate the other differences between the players. This requires turning the table completely, IMHO. Make whites a small percentage of the population. Give them a history of exclusion. Label them as “non-mainstream”. IMHO, if we don’t do this, then we’re just doing a superficial examination of the issue.

I agree completely.

Tomndeb nailed it I think. Spike says on this issue:

WM: What about the rant that Edward’s character says through the mirror? Some people may think that it’s just like you to throw sometime like this in the movie.

SL: The lines were in the book. I also did a similar scene like that in “Do The Right Thing”. Let’s be honest, if you lived in New York, you would have some of those feelings about any one of those races. We named everyone. I think that it doesn’t necessary make you a racist or prejudice. It’s just part of living in NYC with all these different cultures combined and clashing with one another. But when you verbalize it, that’s something else. I’ll be honest, there have been times when I have been in a cab and I want to roll down the window. What do you want me to do? That’s what I love about NYC. Anyone that lives here will have a love-hate relationship.

I did my graduation paper on musicals 1972-2002, and watched School Daze several times. Not a great movie and even worse as a musical, but I always bring it up when people accuse Lee of making racist films. In fact, that’s what I came in here to do!

For those who haven’t seen it, and almost no one had, School Daze is set at a historically black college and has an all-black cast. There is some reference to racial conflict with whites and apartheid in South Africa, but the movie is about black-on-black conflict. Not just light-skinned vs. dark-skinned, but also students vs. staff, men vs. women, fraternity members vs. non-Greeks, and students vs. townies. Although the movie wasn’t that good, I think it did do a good job of showing diversity and conflict within the African-American community.