Spike Lee reflects on why George Floyd protests are different from past movements

Spike Lee discusses new film and protests
Spike Lee discusses new film and protests 11:26

Spike Lee joined Americans nationwide who are protesting against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death, and said he finds hope in how different today's demonstrations are from past movements. The "Do The Right Thing" director is no stranger to racism and the battle for civil rights, and his new Netflix movie, "Da 5 Bloods," reexamines the division-fraught Vietnam war era from the perspective of black soldiers who were also fighting for social justice back home. 

"You had the black power movement, the anti-war movement, the women's movement and all these things were coming together to move the country forward," Lee said on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday. "We're seeing this today in the United States of America."

The Vietnam War was the first conflict of its kind to be widely televised to Americans, which partially spurred its fierce opposition from people seeing the true horrors of war. Lee said he thought the intense ideological clashes of the period are not unlike today's anti-racism protests. 

"What I remember in the 60s when we grew up, that's what I'm seeing now in the streets," he said. 

Lee said that today's protests, which he joined in-person in Brooklyn on Sunday, "don't come out of nowhere."

"The last time New York City had a curfew was 1943. You know what the reason was? A black soldier coming back from World War II gets killed by a cop. Harlem went crazy," he said. "I don't know why there's discussion why people are mad, this stuff has been happening."

It's not the "what" of today that is different, Lee said, it is the "who."

"I'm seeing my young white brothers in the streets marching with their black and brown brothers and sisters," he said. "I have faith that this young generation — white, black, brown, red — is going to lead the way."

The director said he finds hope in today's white youth challenging elder generations' beliefs and their resistance to duplicating "what their parents and grandparents have done." 

Racism is learned, Lee said. 

"You get it from your parents. You get it from your friends. So this young generation, my young white sisters and brothers say 'hold up, I'm not hearing that. You're wrong, not only wrong, you're gonna be on the wrong side of history.' Maybe we'll make their parents, you know, think a little differently," he said. 

Despite past movements doing relatively little to change the racism that is prevalent through U.S. institutions, Lee remains hopeful. 

"We have to have hope," he said. "My ancestors, stolen from the middle of Africa 1619 — that's 400 years, 401 years, to Jamestown, Virginia. So the struggle continues… hope it won't take another 400."

Spike Lee's film, "Da 5 Bloods," will be available on Netflix starting June 12, 2020.