"This world is run by gangsters," Lee said during a press conference at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival


Spike Lee is denouncing racism in America on the international stage.

On Tuesday, the acclaimed director, 64, spoke to reporters at the Cannes Film Festival, where he's serving as the event's jury president.

Lee said very little had changed since his film Do The Right Thing debuted at Cannes in 1989.

"When you see brother Eric Garner, when you see king George Floyd, murdered, lynched, you would think, you would hope that thirty-some motherf---ing years later Black people would stop being hunted down like animals," he said, via Reuters.

Lee continued, "This world is run by gangsters," before alluding to former President Donald Trump as "Agent Orange."

"Agent Orange, this guy in Brazil, and Putin are gangsters," Lee said, via Yahoo! News. "They have no morals, no scruples. That's the world we live in. We have to speak out against gangsters like that." 

spike lee
Spike Lee
| Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty

In June 2020, Lee spoke to PEOPLE about the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the resulting nationwide protests. The director said the only real solution to fixing systemic racism in America is to overhaul the entire system. 

"We have to look at everything as we enter A.C., or After Corona," he told PEOPLE at the time. "The inequality between the have and have nots, the racial injustices. This country has to, and must, rectify what's wrong. We have to make a concerted effort at all levels to address American life, and the areas where we've been lacking. All those deaths will have been in vain if we go back to the same thing."

In May 2020, Lee appeared on CNN where he spoke about the murders of Black Americans, telling Don Lemon, "What we're seeing today is not new. We've seen this again and again and again. Now we have cameras, but the attack on black bodies has been here from the get-go."

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Breonna Taylor
Breonna Taylor
| Credit: Instagram

A day after the interview aired, Lee released the short film 3 Brothers: Radio Raheem, Eric Garner, and George Floyd, which linked footage of the deaths of his fictional Do The Right Thing character with the two real-life unarmed Black men who died in the exact same manner— excessive police force via chokehold, or in the case of Floyd, asphyxiation from an officer kneeling on his neck while being held down by three other officers, which was once again caught on film.

The 74th Cannes Film Festival runs from July 6-17.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.

National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.