Spike Lee isn’t biting his tongue when it comes to recent criticism he’s received about his gentrification comments. In February, Lee made headlines when he expressed his opinion about gentrification in historically black neighborhoods during a speaking engagement at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute.  “You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here,” Lee told the crowd.

After making those comments, other people came to the defense of gentrification. Actor and director Michael Rapaport was the most recent person who took issues with Lees comments. As with others, he cited the fact that Lee doesn’t even live in Brooklyn any more, which seems to be the go-to rebuttal.  During a recent HuffPost Live interview, Lee fired back at Rapaport:

On Michael Rapaport:  
Lee: “First of all, motherfucking Rapaport doesn’t know what he’s fucking talking about. Here’s the thing … what Michael Rapaport left out because he’s stupid, he did not talk about the people who can no longer afford to live in Williamsburg, who can no longer afford to live in Fort Greene, who can no longer accord to live in Clinton Hill.”  

Lee: “So should Jay Z stop rapping about Brooklyn? When was the last time Jay Z lived in the Washington Projects? So from now on Jay Z can’t have any mention of Brooklyn? That is so ignorant that because I live on the Upper East Side — that’s fucking bullshit.”   

Lee: “Look, he’s not even a good filmmaker, first of all. He’s not even a good filmmaker. He’s not even a good filmmaker, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. I could live on the moon, Brooklyn is still going to be inside of me.”

Take a look at the interview below:

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  • Aziza1989

    Well jay-z talks about how bad the situation is in that specific area while lee glamourizes it (but chose to live elsewhere). Big f-ing difference.

    • Ask_Me

      Amen…Spike just needs to STFU about this issue.

      Instead of blaming the whites for moving in and changing things he needs to blame the thugs for making the community unbearable for middle/upper class blacks, who might otherwise consider living there with their resources.

    • Brad

      Gentrification is not just about white folks moving in, in place of thugish black folks and making things better.

      It’s also about whites and or industry pushing people who have made a home for themselves. It’s about prices being raised to the point where the people who have lived there all their lives can no longer afford to.

      It can negatively affect black people, elderly people and poor people. It often times leaves them scrambling to find afforable housing. A lot of those people are working and middle class and are happy living there.

    • Black Male Privilege

      I agree with you, honestly Spike is telling the truth about gentrification and the negative effects it has on each existing communities that it displaces.

    • Ask_Me

      Have you taken a look at the neighborhoods whites are “taking over”?

      Spike Lee is worried about preserving culture…that’s all fine and good… and to a large degree I agree with him…however, these communities are often run into the ground by people that many of us DON’T want to live next to/around. There is a reason we get money and immediately leave.

      The black people with resources are NOT going to live in areas where crime is a problem and the school system looks like shit. If you want to maintain the culture and keep black people in the area you have to do something about CRIME, DRUGS and all the ills plaguing the area.

      I feel bad for elderly, poor and middle class folks who find themselves pushed out by higher prices…but in my opinion his anger is misdirected. Whites wouldn’t have a chance to move in if black middle and upper class people thought they could live peacefully in those areas.

    • Brad

      I live in the south where I have seen white folks push black people off their land for over a hundred years. I know how white folks can and will do if they go unchecked.

      In Orlando I have seen not so much white people but, businesses move into inner city areas. The new Orlando Arena was built right in the heart of the inner city. Hughes Supply a fortune 100 company was placed right across
      the street.

      Despite the cities best efforts my father and the retired
      apartment residents were not able to be forced out as they intended.

      Iam not going to blame a few elements of the community for the greed of city government. Not going to get me to believe that the motivation is due to high crime rates
      and these people just wanted to do good by the community.


    • Ask_Me

      I’m sure whites have their own motives for moving in….but I’m also fairly certain that many of the black people they are replacing had their own motives for moving out.

      You cannot look at the issue of gentrification without looking at the reason why BLACK people leave the area in the first place.

      If schools were on point, crime was low, etc I guarantee those who made their way into cleaner and safer suburban areas wouldn’t have left in the first place. This hipster crowd is buying the property abandoned by black people who sought out greener grass.

      Some questions need to be asked here: Why in the hell can’t black people sustain prosperous communities and schools over time? Why are we forced to move to “other” communities to have peace of mind? Is culture enough to keep black middle and upper class blacks in areas that become unsafe over time? Where are the housing associations in predominately black communities?


    • Brad

      My parents community, where my mother still lives has been thriving peacefully since it was founded. It was a black middle class neighbor hood set up for teachers and black professionals.

      That was over 60 years ago and it is doing just fine. In that community there were black city commissioner and doctors and lawyers as well as postal workers.

      So I don’t know about where you come from but, the black people I know have “sustain prosperous communities and schools over time” just fine.

      But, that’s my experience growing up. Now, when I went off to college it was a different story but, just as prosperous. The communities surrounding Tuskegee University were filled with professors and people who worked at the University. They weren’t crime ridding communities where every one was trying to escape either. Some were poorer than others but, they were and all good communities.

      I’ve seen the exact same thing around campuses like Savannah State University and Alabama A & M University as well.

      But, that’s my view of black communities and maybe it is scewed and warped to the positive. Heck maybe that’s why when me and my girls took the subway to Harlem we didn’t think it odd to get off and walk around with out fear of being harmed.

    • Ask_Me

      I can give you a list of black communities, whole cities of predominately black people that have declined over time due to crime, violence, drugs and a whole list of social ills (lack of economic opportunity being one)…







      Dade county, Miami

      West End, Atlanta

      Adamsville Collier Heights area of Atlanta (Civil Rights leaders used to live in this area…I bet you won’t catch them or their descendents there today).

      I’m not saying these things are only central to black communities…I’m saying they are a HUGE problem in black communities and the strain of these things are unbearable to a lot of black people who relocate to the burbs in search of a better quality of life.

      You’re in AL…I assume. Just a few days ago I watched a video on youtube about poor schools and segregated school systems in Alabama’s black communities….


      Don’t confuse de facto segregation, which is common in the south, with sustaining prosperous communities. What I have found since moving to the south is de facto segregation is the norm and blacks are STILL often poorer than whites. This applies to everything from area schools to public services such as libraries. The housing often looks poor in these communities and the crime is bad.

    • Brad

      No I live in Orlando, Florida

    • Ask_Me

      Notice you listed the 10 richest black communities…which means they have resources….for every one of those communities there are 30 who don’t have money and their communities reflect this reality with crime etc.

      I didn’t personally say whites moving in will make the community better. I said get rid of the thugs, crime, violence if you want black people to stay. For whatever reason this only happens when white people begin moving into the community.

      I think you need to face some hard truths here…stop pointing to the UNCOMMON reality (i.e. RICH black communities) and start looking at the stuff staring you right in the face. Doesn’t it make you sad as hell that when whites move in…communities previously saddled with crime and violence become livable? It makes me sad as hell.

    • Brad

      Not me because when they move in the community policing comes right along with them. They do not provide the same resources until gentrification is taking place.

      But, also the fact that I wish the crime rate in my so called integrated neighbor hood was that of my mothers all black neighbor hood.

    • Ask_Me

      Sigh…and we just know people in crime ridden environments are jumping up and down to work with the police right?

      White people aren’t about to let their communities run amok with thugs, hookers, drugs etc. They work with the police. Do you honestly think this SAME ideology is present in today’s crime ridden black communities?

      It’s not entirely the police and government’s fault. This “no snitching” nonsense has done a fine job of creating lawless in the black communities.

      There is a documentary about Pruitt Igoe housing projects on Netflix. Check it out. You will hear from a woman who grew up in the that project, became a police officer, and found herself on the receiving end of attacks when she arrived to HELP when help was called.

    • kiki80

      I’m no expert, but a major contributor to the decline of black neighborhoods is the difficulty black folks have getting construction and home improvement loans. This naturally contributes to the physical decline of black areas. Another factor is the eagerness with which local govts. flood stable middle-class black neighborhoods with housing project residents (who’ve been displaced from land whites now desire). The lower income people bring their pathologies with them and bring down neighborhoods that had been thriving for decades.

      These are only two of many institutional influences on the health of black middle class communities. It’s not just us.

    • Ask_Me

      Well at least you admit this….

      “The lower income people bring their pathologies with them and bring down neighborhoods that had been thriving for decades.

      Thank you for acknowledging the pathologies…now can we agree people, black and white alike, don’t want to live around this nonsense?

      I’m no expert on home improvement loans, but if I had to guess I don’t believe a lot of people living in run down communities are applying for home improvement loans. Once the house is paid for the only improvement they probably do is add some bars to the window to keep folks from stealing their shit.

    • kiki80

      Of course, dirt poor people are not pursuing home improvement loans.

      However, middle class black people who are fully qualified have traditionally had a very difficult time getting approved for these loans. This is a direct result of racism — it is well documented. The real estate and financial services industries are guilty of egregious acts of discrimination.

      Any serious study of the formation of ghettos must include these factors.

    • Ask_Me


  • Brad

    Wikipedia does a thorough job laying it all out positive and negative.


  • ALM247

    What does Rapaport’s filmmaking quality have to do with gentrification?

    The fact that Spike has to bring in something unrelated makes me think that he is just attacking Rapaport because Spike has run out of good points to support his stance.

    Yes, gentrification can sometimes be unfair in that the original inhabitants of the neighborhood are often priced out of said neighborhood. This is duly noted, but why does Spike keep responding to this? Is he actually doing anything to help with the issue? At some point it’s a put up or shut up issue. In this case, if Spike is so passionate about this, why doesn’t he:

    1. Buy up 10 or 20 residences and give them back to people who were originally in the neighborhood


    2. Buy up some land (if there is any undeveloped land) or buy a few dilapidated blocks of property and build new affordable housing on that property so that at least some of the original residents can stay in the area.

    If someone attacked Lee’s filmmaking in a conversation that was not about filmmaking, he would be offended. Spike is childish.

  • Anthony

    Spike still sounds like he is in 1989. The man is too old to call people names because he doesn’t agree with them. I am all for debate, but I hate personal attacks when the argument is not personal.

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