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Italian-American Groups Protest Spike Lee Appearance

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 14, 2011 4:00PM

photo via North Central College
North Central College of Naperville chose filmmaker Spike Lee as as its Martin Luther King Jr. week speaker. "An Evening with Spike Lee" begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, January 18 and, predictably, some Italian-American groups are crying foul.

The Trib quotes Anthony E. La Piana, founder and president of the Lombard-based National Italian American Council, who says, "In no way is he a friend of Italian Americans, and the proof is in his films." Earlier this week the President of the Italic Institute of America also voiced objections: "Having Lee speak at an event honoring Dr. King is akin to having Maury Povich as the guest speaker at a Happy Marriage Convention."

Lee has regularly come under criticism at least as far back as Do The Right Thing. But, as is so often the case, these would-be censors are missing the point. Lee's films are designed to be controversial. They present stylized portraits of Italian-Americans, Korean-Americans, Irish-Americans, and, yes, African-Americans in order to force an audience to examine their own prejudices. At a speech a few months ago, Lee said, "Race is the great big elephant in the room. Black and white are afraid to talk about it. This country will never be as great as it can be until we talk about that."

We don't like all his movies (Bamboozled, for example, we downright detest) but we have deep respect for the filmmaker behind them, a true visionary who has always gone his own way. And we think Dr. King would respect him, too.