I haven’t decided if I’m going to see ‘Django Unchained’ or not. This isn’t a pro-Spike Lee boycott (in fact I haven’t seen one of his “joints” since ‘He Got Game’). I’m just well and truly legitimately torn.
I am an enormous fan and admirer of Quentin Tarantino’s storytelling. He always brings out the best in actors and actresses by forcing them to exude a measure of realism and emotion to the caricatures they portray. He weaves these characters into a storyline that gets more absurd by the scene. Yet your attention and imagination is captured: whether through pure shock of what you’re witnessing (bring out the gimp) or through questioning why you laughed at something so insanely morbid (“Aw man I just shot Marvin in the face!”).
My one and only hesitation exists in the grotesque overuse of the N word. No, Samuel L. Jackson, even I won’t say it.
Good movies cause us to ask questions of ourselves as they are really just an image of our society in funhouse mirrors. I get that. However, the only reason this country is now having the N word discussion is because we as black people refuse to let it die.
We claim we’ve embraced the word by altering its meaning and now, somehow, it’s OK to use (but only by “us”). No other group of once oppressed people have embraced their most racist and demeaning moniker like we have. We’re like the fat kid in school who gets teased so much he accepts it and becomes the funniest kid in class by making fun of himself while sleeping with tears in his eyes every night. It’s just sad.
Django Unchained can’t be classified as a historical piece no more than any of 2 Chainz’s lyrics can be categorized as African proverbs. The time period and costume design are the only historical things about the film. However, this gave Tarantino the perfect vehicle to force a dialogue by doing what he does best: making us laugh uncomfortably then asking ourselves “Why?”. What’s allowed Tarantino to capitalize off of this popularity is the mainstream use and acceptance of the N word by the black community. It’s legitimately perplexing.
Verbal abuse is a psychological means of control. During the dark times of slavery in this country the N word was created as a derogatory term to describe black people as ignorant, inferior and in need of assistance. Merriam-Webster defines the word as being used to describe a member of a socially disadvantaged class of persons. In other words: a helpless victim. The goal of The Civil Rights Movement was to break away from oppression by obtaining equal rights which would afford black people the benefit of freeing themselves from victimization.
Yet in nearly all aspects of what is deemed to be ‘black culture’ the N word has spread like the bubonic plague. The thought that the meaning of the word has changed so much that now it doesn’t have the same meaning is dangerous. The psychological effect of the N word still separates black from white. This is evident in who can and can’t say it. The utilization of the N word as a means to segregate and victimize is still serving that exact purpose; the only difference being we’re now doing it to ourselves.
Desensitization makes us numb but it doesn’t change meaning. We can continue to inundate society with the word until everyone is comfortable with it but what will that prove? That we’re that fat kid who’s finding it harder each day to convince himself that everyone’s laughing with him? I’m not sure what’s more silent, the ‘D’ in Django or our aversion to the N word.
Equality is a responsibility equally shared. There is no external help or legislation for self-victimization. It is a condition that must be fixed from within. Therefore, the question isn’t ‘Why does the N word make us uncomfortable?’, rather, it’s ‘Why are we still using it?’.