The Weinstein Company

The Curious Case of Emancipation: Hollywood, Myth-Making, Django Unchained, and Slavery

“What matters is not to know the world but to change it.” – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

“O my body, make of me always a man who questions!”  – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Being from an oppressed group, I have to always be cautious of the plate of food given to me.  Sort of like the Internet meme of the black child (assumption that he is from an African nation) looking conspicuously at the non-Black person offering him something (assumption that she is from some aid relief group). Either I must spit out the discolored cyanide laden food that is obviously given to kill me or be suspicious if there is no discoloration because I may have to perform some undignified favor for the food that has been given to me (select one of the following options: Pie in the face at a pubic event, dress as a woman for comedic relief, let somebody have sex with me who I did not want to have sex with, identify another person of color in a line up for a crime that I did not witness, allow my image to be depicted as a primate for a roast, etc.). The “trick” may not always come with any plate serving awards, rewards, and benefits but it comes often enough that you do not quite know what to do when there is not one. Side note: The “trick” is never time-sensitive and has no expiration date.

With this being said, I never go into any movie without a queer eye directed at the screen even if it is for purely boredom reasons or I am giving $10 for a potentially bad movie. To just blatantly accept the images and words that are being thrown at you like punches from the boxer John Arthur “Jack” Johnson is careless for one’s own psyche and reckless to the others we wish to recommend seeing such a feature. I reflect on Franz Fanon (the revolutionary and polymath in psychiatry philosophy, literature) quite often, especially in his constant assessment of the psyche of people in relationship to the curious case of race. Fanon, James Baldwin, and bell hooks sit on a mountaintop in their analysis of the fascination of the Black body. Thus when I see a Black body in the comforts of my living room on TV, in a magazine while I wait for my car to be repaired, walking down the street yet to be arrested, projected on the big screen, or in the mirror when I brush my teeth, I have to question in the vein of Fanon, who was intended to gaze on this body? What does the presentation of this body for gazing mean? How am I gazing this body as well? Am I also being gazed upon?

Thus what is presented below is an unpacking, not of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but of the many enlightening and disheartening conversations that have ensued. See I believe that the dialogue after the release of the film has revealed less about the “wrongs” of the movie but more on the “wrongs” of the conversations that followed (i.e. “finally” bringing slavery to the big screen, proclamations of hero-dom, and the age old “house v. field” debate).  Further, with the release of Django Unchained action figures much of what was espoused in bringing the issue of slavery to the screen by the director, actors, and “fans” of the movie has been nullified. Why? “Playing with” Django, Brumhilda, and Stephen will not assist us in reconciling, understanding, and respecting the history of slavery. Thus this is a true curious case of emancipation, not to freedom but to madness.

Spoiler Alert!!! (Not in terms of movie scenes and sequences but on my general disposition)

“In the World through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Preface: I was just plain bored. Not in choosing to see it but in actually sitting in a seat for the 180 minute running time (minus trailers and the ubiquitous Coke-a-Cola polar bear and silence your cell phone Sprint commercials).  I remained sitting just so that I could potentially answer questions from my students, family members, random conversations at a coffee shop, etc. I heard so much about the Spike Lee and Michael Eric Dyson’s lambasting of the film, people’s reaction to Spike and Dyson’s lambasting, people’s reaction to people’s reaction, and just plain people’s reaction to something they know not what they are reacting to. The movie was uneventful for me either as a source of entertainment during the holiday break or as a supposed source of inspiration. Thank goodness for modern technology that allowed me to be occupied with something else to do while sitting in the theater as I texted friends, answered a few emails, deleted the Angry Birds app, looked at my Facebook news feed, and searched Google for the top 5 Sith Lords in the Star Wars Universe. I made note of specific scenes, nuances with characters, and themes, etc.

With certain directors you know what you are going to get, Spielberg (Insight with a cowardice to go the distance), Bay (Big sights and sounds with little plot and emotional value), Lee (Clever visuals with a need for letting everyone know who made this film), Stone (Politics with a heavy mallet), and Scorsese (Leonardo DiCaprio will be in it). With Tarantino it is typically a love for the 70s and the need to display violence (insert: the word N!@@a at some point in a conversation, and often). I enjoyed Reservoir Dogs and unfortunately, the insight I saw in him and that film has been on a steady decline since he has become more and more famous. It is hard being a counter narrative person when all of sudden your are apart of the master narrative. Dogs with its minimal sets, incredible monologues (the Commode scene), and small ensemble cast (with then virtual unknowns) was brilliant in presenting the ultra violence at a time when America was attempting to be the most conservative, constrained, etc. I took the movie as a critique that said, “stop fronting, America and deal with yourself.” Thus I was expecting to see Tarantino have a field day (historically inaccurate or not) with slavery that by virtue was violent…Not. No scenes depicting the gutting of pregnant women, the tying of enslaved men to four horses and kicking them to move in four separate directions, the raping of enslaved women as a White males’ coming of age when they visited their cousin’s plantation for the summer, the humiliating prodding of every single orifice of every enslaved woman and man at the slave auctions, and trees with lynched individuals by the dozens. Not to say I wanted to see these images, but when I did not see them (even in an expected inaccurate way) I was bored because they are requisite to our comprehension of the incomprehensibleness of Slavery. The movie played more like a 2012 version of Mandingo (with Ken Norton) or Boss Ni@@er (with Fred Williamson) minus slavery scenes and true Western gunfights. Outside of the “Mandingo fight to the death” in a private living room, the requisite Black people working in fields of cotton or walking in chains, it was more a shoot-em up movie. Not even a cowboy (re: Once Upon A Time in the West) shoot-em up but more a Menace to Society shoot-em up (which I will return to under myth-making). There was so much shooting in the film that coincided with my boredom that I actually walked out with a headache…and I do not get headaches.

I am emphasizing my boredom because I did not see what the fuss was all about with the film, either for or against. This film is not a cut and dry film (thanks Doug) to wholesale accept or disparage and thus I subjected myself to a second viewing of the film for the purposes of preparing a post on it. I was also motivated to see it because of the strong prompt of interest from my students. My boredom was the same but my critique and reflections on Django-related conversations were clearer.

“The white gaze, the only valid one, is already dissecting me. I am fixed. Once their microtomes are sharpened, the Whites objectively cut sections of my reality… I see in this white gaze that it’s the arrival not of a new man, but of a new type of man, a new species. A Negro, in fact!”  – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Hollywood: Just because I have enough money to cover the price of the ticket does not mean a movie (if not all movies) is made in mind for me (or people who look like me). I am not the intended gazer of this Industry, but I was definitely intended to be gazed upon by somebody. I was definitely intended to be hung upside down, “balls out“ like Tarantino had Jamie Foxx as Django displaying his junk for the world to see.  Was this done during slavery? Absolutely.  But why was this one of the few moments to take an inaccuracy break to present accuracy (the over fascination for castration)? Curiously, I cannot answer. If I were intended to be a gazer then there would be a far more robust history of representation in Hollywood among those who are “gate-keepers” for green lighting films. Heads of studios would have long been diversified, and a certain undercurrent of themes appearing in movies about race would have been eliminated decades ago. Least we forget that one of the earliest successful movies was on slavery or post slavery, A Birth of a Nation, and that movie was definitely not made for people who look like me. It is a shame that the commentary that has praised Django has been laced with people partially too lazy to do any significant research (not just a Google search and a Wikipedia read) as they miss this seminal film in their assessment of the movie and Hollywood as a machine. Within the 1915 film (which was praised by the President) displayed the justification of the KKK (protection of White women), the ignorance of “Negro” politicians (cutting toe nails on the Senate floor), and the dangerous savagery of the “Negro” race. The movie was a financial success and is still ranked in the top 100 films of all time. However, many chose to protest the film. Oscar Micheaux brilliantly challenged it and World War I with the production of Within Our Gates, a rarity for a Black director then (much less now) but the film was banned for years. Prior to and after A Birth of a Nation, Uncle Tom’s Cabin through many film versions (1903, two in 1910, two in 1913, 1914, 1918, 1927, 1965, and 1987) perpetuated a perception of Black people (the de-sexed mother figure – Mammy, the pickaninny – Topsy, the confused mixed race jezebel – Eliza, the happy “darky” – Sam, and the ultimate pleaser – Uncle Tom) while arguing against Slavery (in fact, it was created as an Abolitionist novel and series of plays). Then the ultimate romantic movie, 1930s Gone With the Wind, displayed Southern (Confederate) lovers found their way to each other in the midst of the Civil War and the large amounts of enslaved people working on their lawn. Side note: Remember Hattie McDaniels did win an Oscar for her portrayal of a “mammy.” Then we jump from the 1930s to the 1970s where Mandingo and the sequel Drum, were by no means theatrical masterpieces (or great examples of positivity). But it did depict a social system related to slavery rather than just bad business practices by some bad people. A system that sent young Black girls to auctions named cotillions and that punishment was never a private matter (unlike Django hanging upside down in a room by himself rather than in front of all of the enslaved people on the plantation to see and be warned). The acting is dreadful (so be warned).

Then we proceed to 1989 with Glory that depicts the Civil War and the northern response to slavery in the South, forming an all-Black regiment.  Disclaimer, I worked at the Hyde Park Theater in Chicago and saw this movie at least 20 times and the two images that I still have in my head was 1) Denzel Washington’s Trip unmercifully being flogged despite showing signs of being flogged often as a slave, and, 2) they all died in battle yet none of their bullets ever seemed to hit one Confederate troop. While nearly 10 years later Amistad delivered a portrayal that Spielberg will return to in Lincoln, the unrepentant morality of men fighting against the wrongs of the institution of slavery despite not referencing the fear of violating an International Treaty on slave trading as a strong basis for the need to win the case while simultaneously not discussing the millions of enslaved people that were present in the country. Another movie set directly after the Civil War but sill retaining strong connotations to slavery specifically the rape of Black women was 1998’s Beloved. In all honesty the film was ahead of its time as the discussions of many of the themes in the film have become commonplace in 2013. Further, the film was released at the same time (and was pounced at the box office) as the Bride of Chucky and Waterboy (the Adam Sandler movie) that reinforces to me that when something is a product of other people (Oprah Winfrey and Toni Morrison) it will be countered (similar to Micheaux’s Within Our Gates).  While in a roundabout way, the various cinematic versions of Huckleberry Finn (1920, 1931, 1939, 1960, 1974, and 1993) set during slavery only presents us with a Jim (or as my grade school teachers had no problem making us say, “Ni@@a Jim”) that is as inarticulate of a man as the portrayal of Michael Oher in the emotional racial tear-jerk story, the Blind Side.  Which we then come to 2012’s Lincoln that centered on one of the most important civil rights periods in American history minus any depictions, mentions, or illusions of Frederick Douglass and actually slavery. This absence kept me from viewing the movie for weeks and honestly deserves far more critical outrage than Django Unchained.

These movies comprise what Hollywood has produced on slavery in totality. The small number of films highlights how important the period of history is (really, not at all). The subject matter of all films (save Within Our Gates and Beloved, maybe Mandingo) exemplifies how limited in their discussions of slavery that directors, producers, or screenwriters have been. But once again, the focus of each film has been crafted to cater to a different moviegoer other than myself.  You could only surmise this as the films highlight the unintelligent and inarticulate Black person, the shining White champion who fought against slavery on behalf of those unintelligent people, the Black person who died or suffered immeasurably if they stood next to that White champion, and those other White individuals who bask in the wonders of life with little knowledge that slavery was wrong and that a White champion was coming to get them.

It is with independent and international films that we begin to see a broader, nuanced, and well-researched offering of films on slavery. Films such as: the Brazilian Quilombo in 1984, Daughters of the Dust in 1991, the Burkinabe Sankofa in 1993, Ill Gotten Gains in 1997, the Martinican The Middle Passage in 2000, the Ivorian Adanggaman in 2001, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America in 2004 represent only a handful of films produced in other countries that present insurrections, slave caste systems, and the potential impact of slavery on Black communities. While German films such as Werner Herzog’s Cobra Verde only perpetuated certain slave myths (which I will get to below) while also showing the ignorance of slavery is not solely an American phenomenon.

Each of these films presents the lineage of the birth of Django Unchained whether they are directly noted by the director (such as Mandingo) or they present our failure in discussing the movie within a continuum of slavery depictions in our quick praise of the film. This is especially important, as 2013 will usher in a factual slave account in Twelve Years a Slave with Chiwetel Etjiofor in the lead role.

“Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.” – Frank Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Myth Making: Unlike the school systems in our communities, movies become tools of education. Both teachers and professors carelessly select these films to show slavery, as if they could. Or, they become our reference point in our understanding of slavery. See the scary thing about movies is that this form of entertainment educates us far more than any books are capable of doing (which most people do not read). We say we know that what is depicted is not real but when we become emotionally invested because we see ourselves in a character, we forget to always be in a mode of questioning and careful of the gaze that Fanon informed us is taking place.

Hollywood is a story telling or myth-making machine. Hollywood is a location that this country rests it aspirations and presents them back to us in order to fortify our beliefs. Besides producing these movies for another type of viewer, Hollywood perpetuates overtly or subtly certain myths in all films. But specifically in movies about slavery, including Django Unchained, myths of slavery, the myth of the special “Negro”, and myths of Black militancy are perpetuated. The enslaved Africans desired to be in slavery is a constant myth as all depictions of slavery consistently fail to depict insurrections or even mention them in a backdrop. Django Unchained is no exception. If he truly did shoot the Brittle Brothers on Big Daddy’s plantation, news would have traveled so fast from one plantation to another that it would have been difficult for he and Dr. King Schultz to have “conned” their way into Candieland. Insurrection suppression was constant and not just dinnertime discussions of the possibility of more enslaved Africans becoming like Django, a special “Negro”. They controlled information about insurrections like China does Google usage. Most people know next to nothing of Slavery and yet “front” like they know. I repeat, most people (including Black people who were descended from enslaved people) know AM thing about slavery. People know slavery because they watched Roots in their childhood or the marathon special on BET during the month of December. Thus, what we get is another depiction of slavery = picking cotton by a lot of Black people. While any depicted attempt to rise up is only taken up by the special one, the myth of the special “Negro.”  History in Western traditions always focus on special figures while non-Western traditions, especially in many of the African traditions, utilize a person as a vehicle to talk about many other people. Anyone who has read Mazisi Kunene’s Emperor Shaka the Great knows that you do not get to Shaka until the midway point in the book. You cannot talk about one without talking about many. If the movie was truly in the era of slavery, Django would not only have wanted revenge but he would have had some reference point for the possibility of revenge (Haitian Revolution, Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, etc.) once he was empowered to do so. But since Django was “special”, there was no other “special one” in the history of slavery in the universe of Django. He is special because he is the only one that stands upright. Which then leads to the myth of Black militancy (which is a misnomer), Django could not conceive of the strategy to free his wife Brumhilda but had to be given one by his accomplice Dr. King Schultz.  Without the intelligence to conceive of a strategy, he then magically becomes a force of resolute unwavering violence. Thus militancy has little to do with intelligence, but more importantly militancy has little to do with a greater cause or moral right. If we truly believe slavery was wrong why then are we all taught absolutely nothing about the scores of insurrections or we think of them as being the work of mindlessly savage “slaves”? What was so bold or heroic in the scheme of “militancy” about going to a plantation and killing everybody for just the love of his life?

“Violence is man re-creating himself. ” – Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Django Unchained:

But once again, this post is less another critique of Django Unchained or Quentin Tarantino as he did little more than reveal what others have chosen to see in this film (thanks Heru). The film is not a slavery film, it does depict an interpretation of slavery’s comings and goings but it is not about slavery. Is it a Western? Possibly but even that I am not so sure of. Westerns usually had heroes or even anti-heroes that we could discern some code of ethics alongside their singular focus (never killing a child, etc.). But getting back to a point I made long ago about the amount of shooting, the film depicted shooting not in the Western fashion but more so in the plethora of gang movies that came out in the 1990s (re: Boyz N The Hood, South Central, and Menace to Society). This lead me to think of the soundtrack for Django’s final shoot out scenes were accompanied by Rick Ross’ “100 Black Coffin.”  It was so jarring to hear hip-hop in a period movie that I recalled how much I hated to hear non-period music in other films (re: A Knight’s Tale). It just takes something away from the feel of a scene unless it somehow wanted to convey a feel an altogether different feel.  If so, is it that Westerns and Hip Hop are not synonymous? Thus Hip Hop is violent. Intentionally depicted? Definitely. Necessary? Absolutely not.  But further, why Rick Ross? Out of all the MC’s to place on a soundtrack for a film that depicts slavery, why him. Pharoahe Monch, Nas, Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli, dead prez, the Coup and KRS-One have all discussed slavery and merited consideration for inclusion. Not because they represent your usual suspects of “conscious” MCs. But if one is truly inspired by the 70s films, as Tarantino has noted, then he would know that soundtracks were intentional and often times far better than the films that they were made for, not just in quality but also the coherency in a message (re: Willie Hutch’s The Mack Soundtrack or Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly Soundtrack).  Check out the soundtrack when you get a chance, it is the only song that makes little sense why it even exists with the other tracks. There has to be something to why that track was used during those scenes.

Just as the expected overuse of the word ni@@a throughout the film. I know many people have decried foul for his script containing the word some 100 times. But honestly I was more disturbed when I was in 6th grade seeing the word ni@@a jump off the page when I had to read to Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer in school. I think those two books have Tarantino beat on the usage of the word. I cannot think of the name Jim without placing ni@@a in front it. But I do believe that Tarantino was probably a student in some Black Studies or Sociology course who developed (or was instructed to develop) the belief that ni@@a is just a word and somehow the reimagining of word can depower it. But sadly, the meaning of ni@@er or ni@@a is fundamentally tied to slavery, fundamentally. Because, the word is an identity that was given for something that was created during slavery (just like David Chappelle’s legendary stand up routine on an episode of Def Comedy Jam). What do you call an enslaved African from Mandika, Akan, Ashanti, Igbo, Yoruba, Bakuba, and other nations who has been captured, forced into rooms unable to speak your language for months, carried over in ships while being kept in cramp quarters with others from other areas of the continent, and taken to ports and systematically punished if they so much as played a drum? What do you call the offspring of these people who were taken from their parents who knew anything about from whence they came? You could no longer call them Mandinka, etc. You would give them a new name, ni@@as. Something that has no connection to a land and past. And no overuse will magically take away this relationship with this reality.

Just as the use of that word was deliberate, the deliberate nature of Dr. King Schultz is something that merits closer examination. Nothing in filming is by accident, everything the lens captures is intentional, which is why there was a close up of how he served Django a beer earlier in the film which connected to his deliberate and unnerving stance on not accepting slavery that led to his death. Why would he be so against slavery while the very person that has been enslaved, Django, is not? Further, we know of why Brumhilda had her name (German plantation owner) but where and how did Django receive his name. Django seemed so peculiar that it would probably been better if he was a time traveler who was captured and sold into slavery rather someone who was enslaved like everyone else that looked like him. He had virtually no emotion, no kind words, and no head nod of common understanding to another enslaved person outside of Brumhilda. He received keys to chains and simply throws them at other Black people as opposed to feeling the least bit emphatic to personally unchain. As one of my old friends mentioned to me (Heru), he never once seemed to reconcile witnessing of the death of D’Artagnon by dogs (although there was the subtle shot of him clumsily placing his shades back over his steely eyes). There was no private moment that he broke down in tears during one of his campfires with Dr. King Schultz. He even unleashed his final wrath on Samuel Jackson’s character Stephen and not Billy Crash or Lara Lee Candie-Fitzwilly as the last remnants of Candie’s plantation rule. See Stephen was the final “boss” in this video game we thought was about slavery. Is Stephen really responsible for slavery? This is just a further reason why I do not believe the movie was about slavery but we wanted to make it about slavery. Regardless of Tarantino was quote in the Daily Telegraph in 2007 as saying that he wanted to do a movie about America’s horrible past with slavery “but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies.” Curious, I did not know that slavery was not a big issue. This movie was not about slavery.

This quote aside, Django Unchained was a love story and not a slavery and slave liberation story. Many of us wanted to place it within a slave liberation context, maybe because we have a romantic sense of what liberation is: Guns blazing, mean stares, cool stances, sharp clothes, and walking with theme music everywhere.  As opposed to thinking of liberation as: shopping bags full of food, a cafeteria with hundreds of screaming children, reading prescriptions for seniors who never learned how to read, or standing in the street “screaming revolution, revolution so that one’s grandmother could die free” (I always loved that line from the Last Poets’ “Black Is”).  Harriet Tubman did not repeatedly risk her life for her personal family but for hundreds of strangers because the institution was wrong and a Philadelphia printing press churning out pamphlets was just not enough to combat it.  Yet, many of us have proclaimed Django a hero, not Tarantino. Some have been so inspired by the film that they have tried to scour the Internet for more history on somebody like Django.  People tried to link him to the real-life Dangerfield Newby, a lieutenant in John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry. But at no point did Tarantino relate or display any depth in historical research to indicate that Django was based on him. Further, Dangerfield Newby did have personal reasons for joining John Brown (his wife and children) but the raid was an armed slave revolt to free many more. The nameless others in Django Unchained were of no care or plan.  We romantically liken liberation to a personal exercise of will to take care of one’s self and people close to them rather than for a greater good. This greater good elevates one to being a hero, seeking to free total strangers. And how does this heroism we have heaped needlessly on to Django compare to Harriet Tubman who managed to free hundreds of enslaved Africans (not just her family) without ever losing one person and not leaving a blood bath at every plantation (although being armed to the teeth)? We are attempting, not Quentin Tarantino, to make slavery chic and this is the tragedy (not the making of this movie as Spike Lee has proclaimed).

“The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves.” – Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Slavery: As I mentioned early, slavery is incomprehensible. Scholars from all fields have discussed the institution and it is still unfathomable. Myth making only serves to avoid facing this incomprehension. The myth of slavery is tied to the propagation of the myth of race that is slavery came down personal interactions as opposed to institutional policies. But slavery should always remain in dialogues regardless of our inability to fathom the expanse of what it is. It was not about bad people behaving badly; it was good people not acting at all (sort of like our complicit nature on drone strikes). You know it is wrong but you go about your day. Slavery existed for so long and so expansive because of the complete condoning of it. It only became an issue with profits reaped by the South began to become an issue between regions. It became an issue as the Industrial Revolution began to propel England forward and the U.S. needed to look ahead. It became an issue as income disparities became increasingly stark and political domination was becoming apparent (the South would have garnered more seats in the house based on their larger population due to slavery). The utter and complete underdevelopment of the continent of Africa is based on slavery as entire empires (not small gatherings of huts) collapsed and led to the occupation of nations for the building of slave castles as port-a-calls for slave ships. The amount of deaths in the transit over the Atlantic (minus the Deaths in transit over the Red Sea in the Eastern Slave Trade) have yet to be accurately accounted for as some have attempted to give lower estimates at 10 million while others have given larger totals at over 100 million. But when one understands that the enslavement of Africans began in the early 13th Century and ended (at least on the West Coast) in 1860 then the numbers must fall on nearer to any higher estimate. The very development of most of the Caribbean and South America is based on slavery related corporations being sponsored by Spain, Portugal, France, and England. The profit from slavery led to the funding of the Industrial Revolution making the need to import future enslaved African pointless (and not an ethical standard). The US was more than willing to accept the end of the trans-Atlantic trade as importing enslaved Africans only increased the odds of insurrection so much so that the US forbid the importation of any Africans. Which gave rise to the forgotten plantation, not cotton, indigo, tea, or corn, but breeding plantations. Who needed to pay corporations to import potentially dangerous Africans when you could make your own with systematic breeding. Yes, breeding, like animals…as I mentioned slavery is incomprehensible. Slavery existed in a way that has never existed before. Even the absurdity of the Emancipation Proclamation that did little to actually free anyone that was enslaved was only matched in absurdity by the fact that many of those that were enslaved did not hear of the Proclamation until nearly three years later (Juneteenth).  But I suppose that fact we all fail to even make the attempt to comprehend slavery is more incomprehensible. The fact that we can entertain ourselves with a movie without ever really knowing the history is more incomprehensible. The fact that we can possibly deem it acceptable that there is now an action figure product based on our difficult past is more incomprehensible. The fact that we can play with slavery, both figuratively and literally, is more incomprehensible. This streak of incomprehension is only at our expense.

“Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.” – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

In toto, I am not saying to not go and see the movie with this post, but I am saying if you do you MUST talk about it. Words of, “it was straight” or “I liked it” should not suffice otherwise we could very well allow ourselves to believe something that should not believed. We will allow ourselves to think that we are being granted the opportunity to gaze. We will think that it is okay to be a part of the gazing collective. Looking at the wretched spectacle of enslaved Africans. Django Unchained should force us to return the gaze and make the slaver and slavery the spectacle. And maybe that is one clear good thing about the movie; it has generated some measure of conversation on slavery (thanks Aisha, E.P., and Rob). Slavery can never be a situation for it to not be discussed but just understand I am not going to allow you to control the conversation (and nor should you allow for someone else to casually discuss it). Slavery is not chic, comedic, entertaining, or action-packed. We should embark on greater understanding, for liberation is not a matter of vengeance. Liberation is love.


Rasul Mowatt aka black

DJ & Professor

“I wanted simply to be a man among men.” – Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks