by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
For the record, yes that was me discussing the movie ‘Django’ with conservative radio talk show host James T. Harris on WTMJ radio last Friday.
And yeah, I did challenge him on the authenticity of various aspects of the Quentin Tarantino epic slave drama starring Jamie Foxx. Those inconsistencies aside, the basic premise of the movie was correct: The movie accurately displayed slavery in America as the cruelest, most inhumane, and sadistic form of bondage known to human kind.
Despite its flaws, ‘Django’ did an adequate job of allowing the world to see bigotry at its worst. Whether the slave owners and other proponents of that ‘peculiar institution’ justified their actions on false biblical principles, or falsely claimed racial superiority, or just plain old devil induced evil is irrelevant. They were the lowest form of scum—including presidents and so-called founding fathers of this country—and deserved to be subjected to the same punishments (castration, mutilation and rape) that they inflicted on an innocent people whose only crime was their being born Black.
That statement off my chest…yes, yes, yes, I did acknowledge to James T. that I repeatedly scanned the audience throughout the movie to observe up close and personal the reactions of White folks every time the word ‘nigger’ was uttered, and then again when Foxx would shoot a White bigot en route to rescuing his wife. (Left behind, his wife was first seen butt naked in a torture box, being punished for not willingly accepted being raped.)
And oh yeah, early in our discussion last Friday, I made note to James T. (who was substituting for a vacationing Charlie Sykes) that I took my 22-year-old son, and 17-year-old grandson (both of whom are college sophomores) to see the movie.
I told them before hand that the movie would provide many ‘teaching’ moments. And it did, beyond the reaction of the audience to various scenes.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, James T. didn’t want to focus on ‘that’ aspect of our conversation, even though I tried to explain my problems with the movie and how I used scenes to instruct my ‘boys’ on being better human beings, and brothers in the on-going struggle. In other words, proud Black men who stand under the shadow of African culture versus the cloud of slavery.
But instead, James T. kept harping back to a statement made by Foxx prior to the movie’s release. Apparently (I never saw the telecast) while accepting an award for something, Foxx thanked the fans and his ‘Lord and Savior…Barack Obama.’
I don’t know the full circumstance beyond that idiotic statement, and can only assume that like to many Colored folks, Obama is considered a modern day ‘savior’ of sorts—not politically and culturally, if not spiritually. Either way, Foxx’s statement was blasphemous, ill timed and irrelevant. Just like James T’s references to Obama as the ‘Black Jesus or Messiah,’ some time ago.
“So let’s drop that aspect and get back to the movie James,” I said.
No, I didn’t fully understand the “political” controversy surrounding the movie and the idiotic assumption that Black folks vicariously applauded the killing of Whites in the movie as some form of retribution for evil deeds past and present. And that Foxx’s character symbolically represented Black America’s long held rage and hatred of Whites who represent satanic forces. Some conservatives even theorize that “Django” is the match that’s going to ignite a racial war of retribution (which explains why guns sales are at an all time high in America.)
Before you totally dismiss that theory as far-fetched, there’s a scene in the movie where the lead slave owner character (played admirably by Leonardo DiCaprio) questions why, given the cruelties and inhumane treatment inflicted on the Black slaves, they don’t revolt? How many whippings would you tolerate? Rapes? Disfigurements? He implied. A real man would rather be killed fighting for his freedom than slowly tortured to death.
The answer, DiCaprio posited, was that Black people are intellectually and emotionally inferior. They are submissive and accepting of their role.
DiCaprio even uses the skull of a former slave to illuminate his point, pointing out that the area of the brain that regulated creative thought versus submissiveness was smaller than in Whites.
Hum…sounds a lot like the book “The Bell Curve” doesn’t it?
Now, for the record, many in the audience applauded, clapped or otherwise expressed satisfaction every time a White villain was killed. And that included White folks, who I observed as part of my research.
Most of us felt no sympathy for those killed; obviously, some of us rejoiced in it. But I also assumed most of us (them) looked at the movie in the same vein as Inglorious Bastards, another Tarantino movie where the villains were Nazis. Or one of those televisions shows where the villains are vampires or the walking dead.
Having studied history (versus the lies taught in schools today), I recognize the Civil War was fought to force America to follow the path of the New Covenant versus the Old Testament, although that amendment never passed legislative scrutiny. Slavery ended, but racism didn’t. There are still Whites in America we believe we are inferior, and that slavery, or at least second-class citizenship, is our rightful place.
But what the movie did—to a small degree—was force even the bigots to acknowledge that America’s brand of slavery was the most inhumane system of bondage in world history, and not the make believe world represented in Shirley Temple movies. Black folks died for talking back, for staring a white in the eye. They were cattle, our sisters and mothers raped at a whim, our brothers mutilated for trivial offenses. The devil controlled the South; there’s no other way to look at it.
So yes, when I scanned the audience, I felt a little better when the Whites understood those realities and cheered on the killing of the slave master and his subordinates.
But that wasn’t the teaching moment I spoke of.
My classroom opened up after the movie, when I explained to my boys why they should never use the adjective “nigger.” Its sting wasn’t any less painful when uttered by an Uncle Tom butler, or the slave overseer as he prepared to cut off Django’s testicles.
The movie does a fair job of showing how the handful of Black slaves with power (or freed coloreds) imitated the Whites by referring to their less fortunate brethren slaves as nigger. It apparently gave them a sense of power, but also ingrained in them a subconscious belief that they were somehow superior. That seed has been nurtured over the centuries. And today, without realizing it, those of us who refer to each other as niggers (spelled nigger, or negras, or nigga) believe ourselves to be those “superior” creatures without realizing the joke is on us. In essence, the shadow of slavery still hovers over all of us. We are those simple minded, inferior, uncivilized beings who were bred to work the fields and serve the master. As long as we refer to each other as “niggers,” we are all slaves.
That indeed was the most powerful image I left the theater with.
“Django” is a movie; a fantasy. It is make believe based on sensationalized historical facts and cartoon dramatization. And Jamie Fox—aka Django—was not Nate Turner. His motives in the movie were not rooted in the liberation of Black slaves. In fact, to perpetrate his character in the movie he actually promoted the murder of a ‘disobedient slave, who was in turn savagely eaten by a pack of dogs as the slave chasers looked gleefully on.
I would encourage folks to go see the movie, but more so to provide an opportunity for discussion than to cheer on a 19th century version of John Shaft or Slaughter. Think of the movie as a tainted history lesson and take heed to the words of Samuel L. Jackson (said in an interview before the movie’s premier), who played a classic Uncle Tom in the movie. “If Black folks aren’t mad at my character, then there’s something wrong with our race.”