Mitchell: ‘Chiraq’ critics should let Spike Lee do his thing

SHARE Mitchell: ‘Chiraq’ critics should let Spike Lee do his thing

Director Spike Lee. Getty Images

The flak that Oscar-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee is getting over his plan to title a movie “Chiraq” is proof that many of us are in denial.

When innocent people are getting shot while sitting in their homes, survivors must feel like they are living in a war zone.

Indeed, when Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, said “we drive faster” through the black community — a comment that was described by pundits as a “gaffe” — he was speaking the truth.

It’s not just white people who speed through some neighborhoods because of the high crime rates associated with black areas.

African-Americans have fled Chicago in droves in search of a safer environment.

But if Chicagoans are good at anything, they are good at putting a positive spin on conditions that other cities would label deplorable.

For instance, outsiders describe Chicago as one of the most segregated cities in America. Yet we describe it as a city of neighborhoods.

Though the vast majority of black Chicagoans are not involved in gangs or drugs, many are trapped in neighborhoods where gun violence is a daily presence.

I appreciate that politicians don’t want these residents stigmatized.

After all, not everyone can afford to buy a house or rent an apartment in one of the city’s safer neighborhoods.

But grousing about a movie title isn’t going to change anything for the people who live in these crime-ridden areas.

Only black people themselves can stop the self-destruction that has turned too many African-American neighborhoods into wastelands.

Frankly, we ought to be saluting Lee for starting this conversation.

It has been nearly 24 years since John Singleton tackled urban violence in the film “Boyz n the Hood,” a riveting tale of gang violence in South Central Los Angeles.

Black people need to take a fresh look in the mirror. And no filmmaker does a better job than Lee at holding up that mirror.

“Everything he has done has been conscious-raising,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who defended the filmmaker on Facebook.

“Lee wants to talk about how we begin to move from this and have brothers love each other,” Pfleger said.

Frankly, the politicians who are now complaining about the city’s Chiraq label are a day late and a dollar short.

Last year, the “Noisey” website did an eight-part series featuring Chief Keef, calling it “Chiraq.” The film was shot on Chicago’s streets and spotlighted gang violence in Englewood.

And a pilot — with the same “Chiraq” title — about gang rivalry on the South Side of Chicago is in pre-production, according to the “Reel Chicago” website.

But when word got out that Lee is planning to make a movie using the title, politicians got defensive.

“To highlight the problems we are having with that type of name is an insult,” railed Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

Ald. Will Burns (4th) has hinted that the city could use a $3 million tax break that Lee is seeking as leverage in the dispute.

That’s just going to make Chicago look worse on the national stage.

Frankly, if aldermen want to be outraged over something, they ought to be concerned that Chicago is becoming a place where hip-hop wannabes like Lil JoJo are gunned down.

Chicago was once referred to as “Chi-Town” because the city was considered a cool place to be.

Unfortunately, for too many of us, that’s no longer true.

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