Spike Lee came for his first visit to Columbia on Tuesday, when he spoke to an audience at MU’s Jesse Auditorium and showed his 1989 movie "Do the Right Thing."
Lee talked about the state of NCAA sports, rap artist 50 Cent, the portrayal of blacks in the media, and his life of directing and producing movies.
Lee released his first film, “She’s Gotta Have It” in 1986. Since then, he has directed 18 feature movies. His 1989 film, "Do the Right Thing," follows the lead character, Mookie (Lee) through his Brooklyn neighborhood on a hot summer day when racial tensions escalate and eventually erupt.
Lee was brought by MU’s Department of Student Activities, a committee of the Missouri Students Association, for about $25,000.
While Lee’s visit was planned before the recent sit-in outside Jesse Hall, DSA members felt the film’s content and Lee’s appearance could promote discussion of race relations.
"It’s a relevant issue to students on our campus whether we are aware of our biases or not," said Jonathon Coulson, a DSA committee member.
In his 1998 film, "He Got Game," Lee looked at the recruitment process of college athletes. In an earlier interview he said things have gotten worse for athletes since its release.
"I think they’re pimping them,” Lee said. “I think the bigger the money, the bigger the school, the more corruption."
In his speech, Lee suggested that Division I athletes should get paid, and he said that everyone else is making money off them, including CBS’ television contract with the NCAA for $6 billion.
"Black men in America feel like they have three options: I'm gonna play ball, I'm gonna be a rapper, or I'm gonna sell drugs,"
To him, it’s what the media pushes with rappers like 50 Cent, who is famous not for his lyrical skills but the fact that he has survived several bullets.
"Somewhere in this twisted ignorance, they equate intelligence to being white and if you’re on the street corner smoking blunts, holding your nuts, and drinking 40s, then you’re ghetto, you're black, and you're down," Lee said. “This kind of thinking is genocide.”
Lee also talked about a new movie to be released called "Soul Plane," which stars rap artist Snoop Dogg as a pilot on a plane that serves fried chicken and collard greens. Lee denounced it as minstrelsy and an "advanced stage of coonery and buffoonery."
While none of his speech discussed anything specifically related to MU, an audience member told him of the recent sit-in after an article published in the MU Student News. She then gave him a copy of the article for him to read later.
During an earlier interview, Lee said what he thought the role of the Greek system was on college campuses.
"I think that fraternities and sororities are good if they do what they were founded for, but not if they’re getting drunk every night,” he said. “The hazing I could do without.” Lee said he is not a member of any Greek organization.
Lee will release his next movie, “She Hate Me,” in the summer. It follows a man who has lost his cushy corporate job after a scandal similar to Enron, who decides to open a business in which he helps lesbians have children.
Lee said: "This film is about the ethical and moral decline of America frm the bedroom to the boardroom."