Spike Lee is a New Yorker through and through, just as Donald Trump is a New Yorker through and through — but the similarities pretty much start and end right there.
Asked what he thought when he saw Sarah Palin endorsing Trump for president, Lee replied in a voice so quiet it was almost a whisper:
“We’re all going to hell in a handbasket.”
Lee was in Chicago on Thursday to talk about the Amazon Prime release of “Chi-raq.” We talked about the reaction to that film, the ongoing problems of gun violence in Chicago and Lee’s upcoming documentary about Michael Jackson’s iconic “Off the Wall” album — all of which I’ll address in a follow-up column.
It was Donald J. Trump, and of course the controversy over the absence of minorities among this year’s Oscar acting nominees, that took center stage in our conversation.
“I’m surprised no one is really talking about that slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’ Those are code words. Are you going to bring back George Wallace, standing on the doorsteps of schools in Alabama? You want to bring back Bull Connor, with the water cannons and the German Shepherds? You want to send all the undocumented Hispanics back? You going to take back a woman’s right to vote? African-Americans’ right to vote?
“Mr. Trump, we’re not going back to ‘Ozzie & Harriet,’ we’re not going back to ‘Father Knows Best,’ ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ ”
As for the Academy Awards, Lee has been clarifying he never called for a boycott of the ceremony.
“If people choose to boycott, they should. If you want to go, you should go. Do what you want to do.
“Same thing with Chris Rock [hosting]. Chris Rock is my man. Whatever Chris wants to do, I support. My wife and I aren’t going. We’re going to the Knicks game. They play the Heat.”
Lee received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar at the Governors Awards last November. I point out the Knicks are only a .500 team. It’s not like they’re the Golden State Warriors. You could miss a game.
“At the Oscars, I would not be able to give a 21-minute speech like I did at the Governors Awards,” says Lee.
“If you go online, I addressed a lot of things about diversity in my speech. I said it’s easier for a black person to be president of the United States than president of a Hollywood studio. I said the United States Census Bureau says by 2043, white Americans will be a minority in this country. Diversity is what makes us great, so why is Hollywood so resistant where everybody else embraces it?”
Even if the Knicks WEREN’T playing on Feb. 28, Lee would have opted out this year.
“I know that usually when you win an honorary Oscar, which takes place in November, you come back for the big ceremony, but I can’t do it. I can’t support it.
“But there’s no right or wrong. If [Will and Jada Pinkett Smith] don’t go, I support that. If they did go, I would support them. Whatever position you take, you’re right. Unless you’re Stacey Dash.”
So what DOES Lee think of Dash, the actress who has been all over the media, saying here shouldn’t be a Black History Month and there shouldn’t be a Black Entertainment Network?
A long pause. “I’m going to use a term my grandmother would say: God bless her. God bless her.”
So when Stacey Dash says all this talk about a lack of minority nominees is a non-issue?
“God bless her. God bless her.”