Movie Review: BlackKklansman

I saw this movie a little over a week ago, and have been trying to work through how to write a review of it. It is the type of movie that is funny, but speaks to something much broader; as such, I want to make sure the comedic elements do not overshadow the intention of the movie, but also want to commend the way the movie inserts comedy in such a way that goes against modern comedic sensibilities.

The other issue in my mind when writing this review is that of language. This movie deals most directly with racism and antisemitism, and does not shy away from the language that would be used 50 years ago in a town that leaned toward bigoted behavior. Naturally I am no person to be employing the terms used in the movie, despite their usage being vital to the message and impact of the movie. So, I will be rather careful when writing this, and focus mostly on the impact. You can always read a plot summary on Wikipedia.

IMPACT

This movie is important, and I don’t think that popular culture will view it in this light. It takes a difficult issue — race and bigotry — and turns it on its head by using a true story that is ultimately amusing at its core. The idea of a black cop and white (Jewish) cop teaming up 40 to 50 years ago to infiltrate the KKK is patently absurd on the surface. Yet, once you see it play out, you can understand how it occurred so successfully. The premise being accepted, I could then focus on what the movie was really saying. What it was saying is that to some degree, our society has regressed over the past 50 years. We though we had made, and were actively making, progress towards the equality of every citizen in America, yet the current political climate and the actions that have been enabled by our current President have shown us quite the opposite is true.

There are certain statements made throughout the movie that effectively break the fourth wall, and speak directly to the viewer of the movie. When our main character is scoffing at the idea of someone like David Duke being elected president, the other officers set him straight, letting him know that once the face of racism has changed to something more palatable, it can be put in front of the American people as something worth voting for. It can be overlooked if the other talking points of a candidate are sufficiently engaging.

This movie is also a plea for peaceful progress and resolution to the race issue in our country. The Black Student Union plays a large role in the movie, and by extension so does the Black Power movement, notorious in its day for their intimidating techniques. Our main character, being a black police officer, keeps emphasizing his belief that systems can be changed from the outside without resorting to more drastic measures. Even in the face of a potentially violent demonstration on both sides, he sticks to these values and shows success, even if it is localized, can occur.

The end of the movie is much more explicit. It shows video of the violent and lethal protests in Charleston from 2017, in which a car drove at high speed into a group of demonstrators multiple times. President Trump refused to condemn any particular “side” of the altercation. Subsequently we are shown video of David Duke (who played a prominent role in the movie) giving a speech, saying that the President’s remarks are affirmation of their beliefs of white supremacy.

While this movie will not necessarily change the tide of society — the echo chamber that our world is in makes any one (or thousand) of individuals able to do so — it draws parallels to an earlier time. It points out that we have not made the progress we believe we have in this country, and there is significant work to do. It is not hopeless, but it is dangerous and frustrating.

I highly recommend everybody watch this movie. It will not change people’s minds, because our society has become too combative for that. But, it tells a wonderful story about persistence and change, when we live in a world where it is difficult to keep the former and obtain the latter.

 

Trevor Project Donations

I recently put a short story I wrote on Amazon. It’s called When You Come Back.

You can find a link to it here.

When I originally wrote it, mental illness was not necessarily on my mind. But, the majority of its readers have told me it resonates with them to a fairly strong degree. So, I’ve put it up for $1 and any proceeds I receive will go towards The Trevor Project, in support of mental illness assistance.

If you’re not interested in the short story, or in providing Amazon with some of the overhead that comes with buying a Kindle book, you can donate to them directly.

If you want the story in PDF form, you can contact me.

Mathbook: Introduction to Sets

Quite a while ago, an endeavoring individual tried to start an open-source repository of mathematical information called Mathbook. I contributed an article, which I’ll put down in two parts on this blog.

It seems that the project has died, although the website is still available. While this is a bit of a shame, I would like to give some of my own little lessons here. The creator’s idea behind Mathbook was to focus on giving people an understanding of why we do math in a certain way. This is missing from mathematical curriculum today, but it is vital to understand that when math was developed, decisions were made for specific reasons. Moving forward, I’ll occasionally add a new post here to that effect. The people in my life don’t always understand the math I learned, so this is part of my effort in showing it.

Continue reading “Mathbook: Introduction to Sets”

New Chapter

I started my first post-graduation job at Art of Problem Solving this past week. I was an intern here last summer, and I was lucky enough for that to lead to a job. My official role is “Curriculum Developer”. I work on developing their elementary school math curriculum, as that is their current focus. It’s an incredibly good job, with fantastically intelligent and caring people.

While it is a great company whose mission I am deeply invested in, and San Diego is a beautiful place to be, these first few days have been very tough. It was weird driving across the country, having a good time, then suddenly getting to work. I’m living on my own, in a room I’m renting (technically an AirBnB) from a nice lady. I know the area from last summer, but I’m still getting over a mental hurdle of actually going out and doing things. Although at the time I write this I’ll have only been here a few days, I’m already feeling antsy. It’s strange.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my feelings is that I spent my entire life in Minnesota. I am very rooted there, and despite many friends leaving who have also graduated, there are many people I’ve left behind. I’m leaving the comfortable world of academia to work at a place where I have no true connections. It’s a rather isolating feeling that I am working through.

Yet, this is something I correctly anticipated. I have been solidifying Operation: Have a Conversation and Comical Start as ways to keep in contact with people. I’ve reached out to people (or luckily have had them reach out to me) to stay in contact via phone calls or letters. And I also committed to myself that I would write weekly on this blog, and not worry about people reading it. It’s just a good thing to have on my schedule, both for the purpose of self-reflection, and to stop myself from falling idle after I do a day of work.

I already reached out to the San Diego Concert Band, a local community band that has fairly open policies for joining. I’ll be rehearsing with them regularly starting next week, which I am incredibly thrilled for. Although my percussion chops are not what they once were, they will improve and I will be better off for having the experience. I also plan on finding a group (or maybe just a person or two) to try and play tennis with. It’s an easy sport to play as long as you have another person, and I definitely enjoy playing it. Ideally I’d find a softball league as well, and I also have a long book list to get through.

Despite a touch of melancholy and some misgivings on traveling so far, I am excited for what is to come. Knowing that my time here is rather indefinite, I can feel more comfortable finding my place and joining new things. I have more opportunity to be involved and help myself as I go along. It’s an interesting time.