It was the latter that made him move to New York from Texas, where he grew up, and where Majors – like so many other young Black men who grew up there – was given “the talk”.
“And the talk is, essentially, ‘Son, you’ve got to be twice as careful, right? And get home for dinner every day. Because you live in a society that does not value you at the same level as they do your white counterparts.’ And so because of that, you have to be very, very polite. I couldn’t shake saying, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir. No, sir. Yes, sir. No, ma’am. Yes, ma’am,’ you know, for a very long time. I still do it!”
It felt like, he says, basic training for a warzone: “In order to survive the day—because it’s a question of when, not if, you get pulled over.”
And sometimes, of course, “There are fellas who revolt with that. Who say fuck that. I’m not going to go that way. I’m going to live my life my way. And, you know, those fellas… sometimes we survive and sometimes we don’t. But at a point you’ve got to say, ‘Fuck it man, I’ve gotta live. And if I go out at 30, if I go out at 45, if I go out at 16, so be it.’”
Before the coronavirus struck, Spike Lee was due to take Da 5 Bloods to the Cannes Film Festival. He’s just come off a year in which he’d finally won that all-so-elusive Oscar—picking it up for Best Adapted Screenplay for BlacKkKlansman and he was due to be president of the Cannes jury, becoming the first Black person to hold the role in the process. Da 5 Bloods was due to screen at the festival, out of competition, and it was due a theatrical release before landing on Netflix.
“And now?” he says. “Straight to streaming, June 12th, around the world.”
Lee, now 63, has been doing the same as many of us, which is to say not a lot. He’s been at his New York home mostly, with our Zoom interview taking place in his office, “So I can have technical assistance.”
“Sometimes,” he says, “I ride a bike two or three times a week. And just keep my head low. Wearing a mask. Gloves. Day by day.” It’s going to be a long time, he says, before he feels safe. “And not just cinemas. Going to a baseball game. Going to a basketball game. Broadway. You know, for me, I’m not rushing.”
Finally, I ask if it bothers him that Da 5 Bloods will no longer be seen on the big screen as he intended.
“Even if it bothered me,” he begins, before opening his palms to camera by way of explanation, as if to say: What am I gonna do?
“I’m glad people are seeing it. And here’s the thing, and I’m not trying to be flip. The world has changed. Everybody had plans. Everybody. Plans went out the motherfucking window. Why should I be different? And what about the 100,000 people in the United States who died? They had plans. They had plans too.”
To which, of course, you could add the name of George Floyd, who died on May 25th in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the age of 46. He had plans. He had plans too.
Da 5 Bloods is out on Netflix on 12 June.
This story originally appeared on British GQ.