Toriano Porter

Trump responsible for rise of hate groups, filmmaker and KU professor Kevin Willmott says

Filmmaker and University Kansas professor Kevin Willmott lambasted Donald Trump's long and troubling record on race, saying that the president has cleared the way for hate groups to re-emerge out of the shadows.

In a Facebook Live interview with The Kansas City Star, Willmott said the country has learned a sobering lesson in recent months that we don't actually live in a post-racial society.

“We still have a lot of work to do” on issues of race, he said. “We have to admit that this is an ongoing struggle.”

Willmott, co-writer of the new Spike Lee-directed film “BlacKkKlansman,” said the movie based on the real-life story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American police officer in Colorado Springs, Colo., has particular relevance in the current political climate. Stallworth infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s.

“One of the things Spike really wanted to do was make a film that connected to today,” Willmott said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of connections. The Klan has really had a rebirth. This comes out of the appeal for Donald Trump. He has made it OK for hate groups to be far more public in their approach to things.”

The film, which was also co-produced by Jordan Peele of “Get Out” fame, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May and won the Grand Prix award, one of the festival’s top honors. It’s scheduled for nationwide release Aug. 10, the one-year anniversary of the deadly Charlottesville protests.

Both Lee and Willmott have been unabashed critics of Trump and his "very fine people on both sides" defense of white nationalist protesters.

“When you have political parties not willing to call things out and tell their members or supporters this is not who we are and this is not what we believe in and this is against everything we stand for — when they don’t do that, it makes it a lot harder to bring those people over here to what we are really talking about,” Willmott said. “Donald Trump is a really good salesman on division. He sees what divides us and he heads right there.”

Willmott, who has called Trump a racist and has argued that America is a racist nation, said he was unwilling to dilute ugly truths.

“Donald Trump’s record on race is just horrible,” Willmott said. “The Muslim ban. The Mexicans are rapists, but some of them are OK people as well. I mean, Archie Bunker wouldn’t say that on an episode of ‘All in the Family’ without us going, ‘My God, he’s the most ignorant person in the world. He's the most racist person in the world.’ ”

Willmott also made headlines when he wore a bulletproof vest during lectures at KU last year to protest a state law allowing concealed handguns on college campuses. Undeterred, he plans to wear the vest again next semester.

“There is no way to monitor if people are abiding by the law,” Willmott said. “It’s an insane policy.”