“In 1492, this guy, this terrorist sailed the ocean blue.”
Director Spike Lee called Christopher Columbus a “terrorist” as part of a mini-lecture on race that he gave hosts and other guests Wednesday on “Morning Joe.”
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Appearing on the MSNBC talk show to promote his new film “BlacKkKlansman,” Lee lamented that growing up, he was not educated in school about what he now sees as the “honest” history of America.
“You know, I think that when I was in public school in Brooklyn, New York, I was not told George Washington owned slaves. I was told he chopped down the cherry tree and wouldn’t tell a lie,” he said. “In 1492, this guy, this terrorist sailed the ocean blue. I mean, we have got to start teaching, I feel, my opinion, let’s be honest about our history and let’s move forward. We’re not honest about our history.”
WATCH: Spike Lee Calls Christopher Columbus a ‘Terrorist’ MSNBC Has No Issue At All
Lee has long commented on the African-American experience in words and film, including “Bamboozled,” a 2000 satire about blackface. He was prompted to offer his latest historical analyis after MSNBC analyst Elise Jordan brought up the recent spate of blackface scandals.
“What do you make of today and race in America?” she asked.
“I just think that what we’ve seen is evident to me that this stuff has never gone away. You might think it’s gone away, it’s bubbled under the surface, and it comes out,” Lee responded. “People have a past, and then you put that in with Gucci and Prada and Moncler, and Liam [Neeson] and this guy in the White House.”
Jordan and “Morning Joe” cohost Mika Brzezinski listened attentively. But they left the response to Willie Geist, who affirmed: “And I think this movie opens up a lot of that conversation.”
The litany of racial scandals that Lee alluded to were kicked off earlier this month when a racist photo of two men, one in blackface and the other in full Ku Klux Klan regalia, was discovered on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook page. The Democrat at first admitting he was pictured in the photo, but amid calls for him to resign, the Democrat quickly changed his story and denied being one of the men. He did admit to wearing blackface at another point in college, though.
With his comments on “Morning Joe,” Lee seemed to side with liberals – like journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates or Black Lives Matter activists – who see racism as a systemic and perhaps inherent feature of US life. However, conservatives have tended to argue that the outcry over old yearbook photos and bad fashion shows how far America has come toward achieving the ideal of equal rights at the heart of the American experiment.
Lee failed to mention another mini- blackface scandal this week over a pair of shoes created by pop star Katy Perry’s fashion line. The high-heels with faces on them were deemed to evoke the racist tradition, and were swiftly pulled from shelves with apologies from the company and Perry.
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