Ms. Hicks was the very public face of the Boston busing kerfuffle.
She and Spike Lee could have quite a chat about the evils of integration:
“I grew up here in New York. It’s changed,” Lee said at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, an art, design, and architecture school. “And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every mother******* day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. … The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.”
Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, said the city has witnessed an enormous recovery since 2001, and the greatest change has been felt in Brooklyn, which has drawn newcomers because of its housing, access to Manhattan and improved safety.
“Cities don’t stand still, and the cities that stand still are Detroit,” Moss said. “So if Spike Lee wants to see a place where there is no gentrification, he’ll also find a place where there are no investments. Obviously, he’s someone who knows how to make a movie but doesn’t know anything about cities.”
He added: “Brooklyn has become more attractive to more people. Of course, that means some people are going to have to find other places to live, but that’s the magic of New York. We create new places. Today, Bushwick, which was an area that people were afraid to go to, now has some of the best restaurants in the city.”
“Let me just kill you right now,” Lee, the “Do The Right Thing” director, told D.K. Smith, a Brooklyn homeowner and tech start-up director, at the speech when Smith brought up the subject of the “other side” of gentrification.
And then he launched his lengthy tirade.
Smith told Lee on Tuesday that he didn’t dispute his point that services in the neighborhoods had changed after the new people — most of whom are white — moved in.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” said Lee. “Let me kill you some more.”
“Can I talk about something?” Smith said.
“Not yet. Then comes the mother******’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here,” he said to applause from the audience.
He gave the examples of people playing drums in Mount Morris Park, a tradition he said lasted 40 years until the new residents complained.
And then there was the one that literally hit home. Lee said his father, “a great jazz musician,” bought a brownstone 46 years ago.
“And the mother******’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass. It’s acoustic. We bought the mother******’ house in 1968, and now you call the cops? In 2013?
Point of clarification, Spike. They call the police at two in the morning.
And are you complaining about the increased security and waste management?
Smith couldn’t get a word in during Lee’s speech Tuesday night. But the next day he said he was glad the filmmaker got people talking about the issue.
But Smith said there was a definite lack of balance in Lee’s rant.
“I’m black, and America is America,” he said. “I don’t need to moan and groan about it all the time.”
“I’m personally tired of moaning and groaning about being black,” he said. “Here’s a case where it has its advantages — for the first time tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of blacks can participate in American wealth creation. My God, that’s what this country is all about.”
Referring to reports that Lee’s 9,000-square-foot mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is on the market for $32 million, Smith said: “Spike is a causative factor in gentrification. If Spike moves to a swamp … that land next door goes up immediately.”
Spike Lee is the living embodiment of “what this country is all about.” A film school grad with smarts and ambition, he made a film, She’s Gotta Have It, that launched him to international stardom. Deservedly—he’s a great filmmaker. I don’t begrudge him a single dollar he’s earned, a single square foot of his “mansion”, a single front row seat at Knicks games. But it’s not just black people buying tickets to see his movies. I was among the “influx of white New Yorkers” who not only went to see his movies, but moved to a “marginal” neighborhood (for the neighborhood as much as the rent, more Dominican than African American). Curiously, the public services did not improve upon our arrival.
Many of the neighborhoods that were predominantly African American in Spike Lee’s youth bore strikingly different ethnic identities in the decades before. Immigrant Jews and Italians lived in Harlem as newcomers (which was named by the original Dutch settlers); before that:
Harlem was “a synonym for elegant living through a good part of the nineteenth century.”
Many people share Lee’s lament and frustration. I live in a town many lifers can no longer afford to live in—due in part to mother******’ newcomers like me bidding up house prices. I guess that makes me a serial gentrifier. (I did the same thing when I lived in London—only Americans and Arabs can afford to live in some neighborhoods.)
But the best refutation of Lee comes from the academic we quoted above: “Cities don’t stand still, and the cities that stand still are Detroit.”
PS: It’s not Lee’s first offense:
Ted Nugent apologized. Now it’s Spike Lee’s turn.
Lee sided with Minister Louis Farrakhan when the leader of the Nation of Islam accused President George W. Bush’s administration of intentionally blowing up levees during Hurricane Katrina. “It’s not far-fetched,” Lee said, “And also I would like to say it’s not necessarily blow it up. But, the residents of that ward, they believe it, there was a Hurricane Betsy in ’65, the same that happened where a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save another neighborhood and flood another ‘hood, flood another neighborhood … ” Far-fetched? “Presidents have been assassinated,” Lee said, “So why is that so far-fetched? … Do you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don’t think that was rigged? If they can rig an election, they can do anything!”
No apology from Lee for accusing Bush of mass murder?
This brings us to Lee and the Trayvon Martin case.
In Chicago, Obama’s hometown, murders in 2012 topped 500. 2013 saw a “low” murder total of 421 — the equivalent of a Sandy Hook every three weeks. Most of the killers and the killed are black. Worse, only about one-fourth of these cases are “cleared,” where a suspect has been identified and arrested. Nationwide, the No. 1 preventable cause of death among young black males is not accidents — as it is with whites — it is homicide, almost always committed by another black person.
But when a black is killed by a non-black, even where the shooter could reasonably claim self-defense, out comes Lee’s agenda. To Lee, the killing of Martin, a 17-year-old black teen, by non-black George Zimmerman was a referendum on how America’s criminal justice treats black victims. Incensed that authorities had not yet arrested and charged Zimmerman, Lee tweeted what he thought was the home address of Zimmerman’s parents. Wrong address. Lee did apologize for this one, later paying a financial settlement to the owners of the “wrong” home.
Lee also once publicly stated his opposition to “interracial couples.” About a year after he released “Jungle Fever,” a film about a black-white couple, Lee said: “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.” This might have been news to Obama’s parents.
Lee, a gun control proponent, seems okay with the use of a firearm — depending upon the target. He once verbally threatened NRA head Charlton Heston. Lee said somebody should “shoot him with a .44-caliber Bulldog.”
No president ever held a fundraiser in Ted Nugent’s mansion. Lee, on the other hand, has a close relationship with Obama. Will Lee apologize for calling Lott a “card-carrying member of the Klan,” for urging the assassination of the president of the NRA or for affirming accusations against George W. Bush of mass murder?
Nugent apologized. Now it’s Spike’s turn.
Add one more to the list.