The Chive

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The Best of Enemies


How fucked up is it that the inbred, racist coneheads known as the Ku Klux Klan were out, loud, and proud as recently as the 1970s? It's pretty fucked up but way less fucked up than the fact that, after a few decades when all but the assholiest of them went underground and hid their KKK club cards from the rest of society, now the cross-burning shitlickers are back out on the streets, and on the Interwebs, all comfortable in the light again.


It's like the KKK was a virus that we all but eradicated, but then some racism anti-vaxxers fucked with our herd immunity, and now there's another angry, itchy, red (well, white) outbreak of their ignorant, intolerant bullshit.  Let that be a lesson to all you, "Open everything back up NOW!" Corona-deniers.


Back in the KKK's hay day of hate, 1971 to be exact, the president of the local KKK chapter in Durham, North Carolina was a bad ol' boy named C.P. Ellis (Sam "You" Rockwell). He wouldn't serve African Americans at his gas station, and he wasn't above violent intimidation tactics like shooting up the house of a white chick who was dating a man of color.


Ellis must've hated the absolute tits off of local racial equality firebrand Ann Atwater (Taraji P. "Jim" Henson). The Best of Enemies introduces us to Ann as she tries to get the City Council to get a local slumlord to stop taking advantage of his predominantly African American tenants by, you know, giving them apartments and houses with running water, heat, etc. and not charging them a skin color tax.


Schools in Durham were still segregated at the time, and when the African American elementary school burns most of the way down, Ann pushes for those kids to be allowed into the white kids' school. The City Council tells her to fuck right off, and after the NAACP files a lawsuit, the fraidy cat judge dodges his responsibilities by pawning the decision on whether to integrate the schools onto the townsfolk themselves.


The town hires a mediator of sorts to conduct a charrette. What the fuck is a charrette, you ask? Excellent question! A charrette is an intensive, stakeholder-driven conflict resolution mechanism, and in Durham in 1971 it meant that C.P. and Ann co-chaired weeks of meetings involving folks from all walks of life and with varying degrees of racism. At the end, 16 of them voted on whether to integrate the schools.


Like a gorilla riding a dolphin or a cobra being besties with a mongoose, the charrette somehow turned C.P. and Ann into lifelong friends. And racism was no more! Oh, wait.


May 22, 2020