A disclaimer at the beginning of Spike Lee’s new film "BlacKkKlansman" says that "dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real s---," but what the film only mentions in passing is that some of that "fo’ real s---" wouldn’t have been possible without El Paso, Texas.
Ron Stallworth, the police officer protagonist of the film (played by John David Washington) who successfully infiltrated the Colorado Springs chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in 1979, spent most of his life before the police force as an El Pasoan.
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In a new interview with Texas Monthly, Stallworth credits his experience growing up as a minority in Texas with giving him the ability to successfully pull off his con of then-Klan grand wizard David Duke (played in the film by Topher Grace).
"All my friends were white," Stallworth told Texas Monthly. "I learned at an early age how to traverse the white world, the white-dominant world. I learned and I was successful at it. I learned the nuances, I learned how to act, how to be, but I always was conscious and aware of my blackness."
Stallworth wasn’t originally from Texas, though. His mother decided to move the family to El Paso from Chicago in 1957, when Stallworth was 4 years old. There, he attended Alta Vista Elementary, Burnett Elementary School, Bassett Junior High School and Austin High School. Depending on which school he went to, he was either the only black kid in his whole class, or one of many as a part of the city’s historically black community.
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In high school, he said he would go back and forth between crowds.
"So I would sit at the table with the black kids during lunch, and we’d do our banter back and forth," Stallworth told Texas Monthly. "But occasionally I’d get up and I’d go sit down with the white kids and chat with them and what not. Of course, because I come from the black table they would look at me like, ‘Why are you here?"
Stallworth’s Texas roots aren’t mentioned much in the film, except for a brief scene where he is feeding his partner information (Adam Driver), who is impersonating him during in-person meetings with the Klan, on where he is from.
After his career in law enforcement, Stallworth returned to El Paso, where he lives today with his wife Patsy Terrazas, whom he married after he reconnected with while planning an Austin High reunion. They attended a showing of "BlacKkKlansman" at the Alamo Drafthouse El Paso on Tuesday, where Stallworth signed copies of "Black Klansman," the book the film is based on.
Read the full interview at Texas Monthly.