It's been a little over a month since Spike Lee started a firestorm with his comments about gentrification in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute, but the sensitive subject remains an issue. While many agree with Lee's views, others have been rubbed the wrong way, with some even alleging that Lee's criticism is meaningless because he doesn't even live in Brooklyn anymore.
The latter is an issue that New York Times film critic A.O. Scott raised in a recent response penned to Lee. Scott basically said that gentrification is as much a result of Lee's success as it is the middle class whites who have moved into these neighborhoods.
Furthermore, Scott argued that everyone essentially benefits from gentrification, and that what is happening in Brooklyn is a reaction to Manhattan's elitism. That, in turn, makes it a class issue and not race issue. Spike Lee wasn't going to take being called out in the Times lying down (come on, he's from Brooklyn), so he responded to Scott in a letter on WhoSay because he didn't want the Times "editing, rearranging [his] words, [and] thoughts," or even ignoring an actual response letter.
Lee takes Scott to task, saying that if he's a hypocrite, then so is Jay-Z:
Did anyone call Jay-Z a Hypocrite when he helped with bringing The Nets from New Jersey to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn at the Corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue? Hey Buddy, Jay-Z had been long, long gone from The Marcy Projects and Brooklyn a long, long, long time ago and more Power to my BK ALL DAY Brother. Should Jay-Z no longer mention Brooklyn in his Songs because he no longer resides there? You already know the answer to that one, Sir.
Furthermore, he argues that, let Scott tell it, he should have never made several of his films because didn't live in the neighborhoods where they took place:
Let’s just say Mr. Scott, we follow your ill thought out, half developed argument that I’m a Hypocrite. Since you are a New York Times Film Critic this should be very easy for you. According to your logic I should not have Written and Directed JUNGLE FEVER because I have never lived in HARLEM and BENSONHURST. I should not have Directed CLOCKERS because I have never lived in Boerum Hill and the Gowanus Projects. I should have not Written and Directed HE GOT GAME because I have never lived in CONEY ISLAND. I should have never Directed my two Epic Documentaries on Hurricane Katrina – WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE and IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE because I have never lived in NEW ORLEANS. Or maybe, perhaps I should have never WRITTEN and DIRECTED DO THE RIGHT THING because I have never, ever, ever lived in BED-STUY (DO OR DIE). Do you see where this is going?
Lee closes the letter by telling Scott that you never truly leave the place where you grew up because it's grafted to your personality. It makes you who you are, and it's something you never lose, regardless of where you end up:
In closing please understand it’s what you get growing up and learning on the Streets of Brooklyn that empowers you to go anywhere on this God’s Earth to “Do Ya Thang” to be successful in the path you have chosen. It doesn’t matter where you choose to live because Brooklyn goes where you go. It still lives inside Larry King, Sandy Koufax, Big Daddy Kane, Bernard and Albert King, Barry Manilow, Stephon Marbury, Rhea Perlman, Adam Sandler, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Seinfeld, Busta Rhymes, Mike Tyson, Harvey Keitel, Willie Randolph, Carmelo Anthony, Mel Brooks, Marisa Tomei, Marv Alvert, Darren Aronofsky, Pat Benatar, Larry David, Mos Def, Tony Danza, Alan Dershowitz, Neil Diamond, Richard Dreyfuss, Debbie Gibson, Rudy Giuliani, David Geffen, Lou Gossett, Jr., Elliott Gould, Mark Jackson, Jimmy Kimmel, Talib Kweli, Nia Long, Alyssa Milano, Stephanie Mills, Esai Morales, Chris Mullin, Chuck Schumer, Jimmy Smits, Joe Torre, Eli Wallach, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Woody Allen, Barbara Streisand and may I mention none of the above still reside in B.K., but they will always REPRESENT BROOKLYN. Mr. Scott, please learn “SPREADIN’ LOVE IS THE BROOKLYN WAY.”
Hear that? That's the sound of a gavel.