Paula Dean is poised to make a comeback after letting her “good ole’ southern cooking” empire slip through her butter-covered chubby little white fingers.  Whether she succeeds or not remains to be seen, although a private equity firm feels she is worth their seventy-five to one hundred million-dollar investment.  Her losses amounted to somewhere north of twelve million dollars after sponsors such as Kmart, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target and the Food Network walked away from her after she admitted in a deposition to using racial slurs in the past.  Funny thing about our pasts.  We hope to learn from our mistakes; the past is in the past.  Maybe the standard political ploy would work here.  Maybe she’s evolved.  Who knows.  The past has a way of defining who we are at the same time it tries to teach us who we should or could be.  Sometimes, the past, or how we view it, reveals a lot about who we really are in the present.

Took a cab from Fort Greene one would assume?

Took a cab from Fort Greene one would assume?

Enter Spike Lee.  Spike yearns for the past.  A simpler time for all of us to be sure.  A time, we seem to remember fondly, when things were clearer, things were they way they should be.  Or maybe we just remember them that way.  For many, including ole’ Spikey, we cling to the past and fear change, oftentimes looking back wistfully at what was while damming those we feel are responsible for the great upheaval in the perceived memories we’ve recorded in our biased mind’s eye.  Surely things were better back then.  Someone came in, some agent provocateur and tore down everything we cherished, destroyed what was once good.  Someone different. Someone not like us at all.  Someone who doesn’t belong.   Apparently someone moved Spike’s cheese.

It might have been Spike himself.  Or it might have been whoever forked over the one million dollars Spike earned when he sold his old home in the Fort Greene neighborhood of his youth.  Who knows.  Well actually, Spike knows.  It was the dreaded white man.  The same white man who left crumbling inner cities, we were told, because of the presence of the black man.  White flight has now turned into white infiltration and Spike is not amused in the least that the garbage is getting picked up with some regularity.  Or that the schools seemed to have stooped decaying.  Or that the home prices are all approaching the million-dollar mark, much the same as the home he sold.  And lo and behold, it’s black families, like Spike, who are selling their old homes for a profit and fleeing.  Ah, but maybe not fleeing; with a cool million dollars in their hands, chances are they’re on to greener pastures however they define them.  How dare they.  Don’t they know they need to stay and defend the culture?  Culture as Spike defines it.

I’m not sure what pisses Spike off the most.  Is it the fact that his father can’t play his bass in the park anymore, or the fact that when he strolls through his old haunts, he sees faces quite a bit more pale than he’s accustomed to.

One should follow up with Spike and ask him why the garbage never got picked up in Fort Greene before the whites came in and started taking over the parks, with their jogging and picnics, and little white faced babies peeking out from their strollers.  What culture does he lament being destroyed?  I’m confused here.  If the place was so wonderful Spike, why’d you leave?  Surely with all your clout, you could have cleaned up the streets, fixed the schools and celebrated the culture you seem to have waked away from.  I dunno, maybe the past looks a little hazy viewed from the pricey season-ticket seats court-side at the Knicks games.  I’m not quite sure but one would assume that you supported whatever individuals were in official positions in the local government in Fort Greene.  Ever ask them about the garbage?  Ever contribute to any of them?  Get your money’s worth?  What exactly did the place look like in the rear window of your limo as you drove away, your million white-man dollars stuffed neatly in your breast pocket?

Things change.  People change.  Times change.  Sometimes for the better.  Sometimes maybe not.  Our pasts however, never change.  But we hopefully learn from or past, from our mistakes.  I seriously doubt that Spike has learned that he’s just as bigoted as anyone he’s ever called a racist.  No, he can’t learn that.  Black people can’t be racist.  That’s something he learned from his past. Something I was always taught as well.  Looks like I’ve learned that that’s not true and obviously, never was.

I hope Fort Greene continues to change. For the better.  I for one don’t care what color its inhabitants are as long as they are affecting positive change on their lives and communities.   I would hope, as Spike should, that the people of color who choose to remain in Fort Greene are agents and beneficiaries of the positive outcomes of that change.

Who knows; if it changes enough, if it becomes elite enough, Spike just might return home.

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