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The Spook Who Sat by the Door

Image of the original movie poster

The 1973 movie poster

I’m sitting here drinking  whiskey, watching the 30th anniversary edition of the classic movie “The Spook Who Sat by the Door.”  It was recommended to me by a friend, and now I finally got around to watching it. 

For those who don’t know, the movie (based on Sam Greenlee’s 1969 novel) centers on a character named Dan Freeman who is trained as the first Black agent in the CIA’s espionage program.  The program was born from political pressure to integrate the agency, and Freeman is amazing in the training program, being the one man out of 40 who makes it through the CIA’s weeding out process.  A few short years after graduating from the training program, Freeman quits his job with the CIA and moves to Chicago to take a position in social work.

What we quickly realizes is that his ulterior motive is to take street gangs and teach them everything he learned from the CIA in order for them to become “Freedom Fighters”…the protectors of the people rather than the predators.  Preparation begins with the ultimate plan being to duplicate combat training in the 10 largest urban center in the United States.

Halfway through, I realized that I was watching something very different than a run-of-the-mill blaxploitation movie.  There is a reason that, back in 1973, the movie ran in some cities for only one week before it was pulled from the theaters.

This movie is a classic.  So much was going on in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and this movie finally showed visions of the large-scale violent revolution that many Black Americans were already considering.

Here are some of my favorite lines from the movie:

Freeman:  “In guerilla warfare, the winning is in not losing.  When you sleep on the floor, you can’t fall out of bed.”

Freeman (after one of the Freedom Fighters asked about the purpose of everything that’s going on):  “Fight Whitey to a stand still.  Force him to make a choice between the two things which he seems to dig most of all.  There is no way that the United States can police the world and keep us on our ass, too, unless we cooperate.  When we revolt, we reduce it to a simple choice.  Whitey finds out he can’t make either.”

After Dawson (a cop and Freeman’s longtime college friend) says that “we have to maintain law and order or we might as well be back in the jungle,” Freeman replies:  “The ghetto IS the jungle.  Always has been.  Understand?  You can not cage people like animals and not expect them to fight back someday.”

I’ll tell you…it is inspiring to watch this movie in the midst of trying to respond to assignments in my APU Diversity & Equity class having to do with the educational inequities along racial and economic lines.  Have we been put to sleep?  Have we been lulled into complacency for so long that we are no longer willing to fight for economic, social, and educational justice?

Dan Freeman was right when he said that this revolution was never about hating white folks…he said that “it’s about loving freedom enough to die or kill for it if necessary.”


One comment on “The Spook Who Sat by the Door

  1. Pingback: Five for a Friday #7 | Mr. Brown

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2008 by in Black America, Movies and tagged , , , .


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