While it is easy to watch Spike Lee’s Inside Man as an entertaining-bank-heist thriller, it is interesting to note that Lee still uses the entertaining storyline to make comments about race in America. In a “blink and you’ll miss it” type of moment, I noticed that the pizzas that are delivered to the bank are from our favorite Bed-Stuy pizza joint: Sal’s.
I felt that this was a reminder by Lee to understand that race is still in issue in this film, although it may be blanketed within scenes filled with action, deception and explosions. For example, Lee makes a comment about America’s post-9/11 views towards middle-easterners when the robbers release Vikram with metal container wrapped around his neck. When a police officer questions Vikram while he is still within his painter suit and his face is covered, he calmly asks him if that thing around his neck “is a bomb?” (36:20). As he asks this, Vikram’s hood is taken off to reveal that he is wearing a turban. The police officer’s guard immediately rises as he exclaims, “Oh shit! A fucking Arab!”(36:24), to which Vikram corrects him, saying that he is in fact a Sikh. Once the container is removed, Vikram is wrestled to the ground and the police take off and search his turban, which he wears in accordance to his religion. Vikram later complains to the detectives that he can’t go anywhere without being harassed, saying that even when he is a hostage, the police assume he is a terrorist because of his turban and the color of his skin.
Lee uses another scene to make a comment about silent racism. As a police officer is recounting the time he was held at gunpoint to Detective Frazier, he uses the slur “spic” to describe a latino boy whom he had an encounter with. When Detective Frazier reminds him that he must be conscious of the language he uses when describing others, the police officer works to correct himself when describing another encounter with a young black boy, calling him a “nni-African-American.” As the conversation comes to a close, the officer acknowledges that the Detective is right, not because of the derogatory meaning of the terms he uses, but because one “never knows who is listening” (1:32:40). I felt that this was Lee’s way of saying that these viewpoints are alive and well in America, but people may hold back on using racist terms because they know the words would paint them in a bad light.
These were the two most prominent examples within the movie that I could think of. Let me know if you guys interpreted the scenes differently or can think of any other examples.