Spike Lee is sick of history repeating itself when it comes to systemic racism against black Americans but believes that we can change: "As Jesse Jackson said, "Keep Hope Alive."

Advertisement

Director Spike Lee is sick to death of America's brutal history continually repeating itself when it comes to treatment of black Americans.

On May 31, when the nationwide protests against the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were just heating up, he told CNN, “What we’re seeing today is not new. We’ve seen this again and again and again.”

The following day, 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.

“We’ve seen this again and again,” Lee told Lemon. “Now we have cameras, but the attack on black bodies has been here from the get-go.”

In the latest PEOPLE issue, Lee says 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 tells PEOPLE. "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."

Spike Lee cycles along with George Floyd protesters in Brooklyn
Credit: MEGA

Read more about Spike Lee in the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands now.

Lee has recently been joining in the protests in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and says he's been glad to see that it's not just the African-American community sick of all the endless violence.

“This stuff is diverse,” he told CNN of the protests. “I’m seeing a whole lot of white young people out there who are joining with us.”

Now Lee has the film Da 5 Bloods coming out on Netflix (June 12) that tackles another black American experience: serving in the military (in this case, the Vietnam War) and fighting and dying for their country while still facing racism and hatred back home.

“I think it’s a disgrace that with Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, you have soldiers who fought for this country who are homeless," Lee says, speaking to how veterans of all races are treated in the U.S. upon returning from duty. "That’s a travesty.”

During filming, Lee notes that he couldn't believe how embracing everyone in the country were of him and his cast and crew. "What they told me is they don't have a problem with Americans. They have a problem with American government."

da five bloods
Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo as EDDIE, CLARKE PETERS as OTIS, DELROY LINDO as PAUL, JONATHAN MAJORS
| Credit: David Lee/Netflix

He can relate. He has been vocal in his dislike of the current President, especially regarding his actions amidst the protests. He was particularly offended when President Trump recently had Washington D.C. police use excessive force clearing the streets so he could take a photo holding a bible in front of St. John's Church.

“This show of force – gassing, beating innocent, peaceful bystanders so you could clear the street so you could take a walk to the church. It was ridiculous," he recently told the BBC.

He tells PEOPLE, “As President Obama has said, this upcoming presidential election will probably be the most important presidential election in the history of the United States,” he says. “I want to take it one step further. I think this election is going to be the most important election in the history of the modern world.”

If there can be a change in leadership, and if white Americans continue to fight alongside their black friends and neighbors to stop systemic racism, Lee does believe things can change. Or at least he hopes so.

He says, “As Jesse Jackson has said, ‘Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.’”