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Django, Nigger, and America’s (White) History

December 30, 2012
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tarantinosplit-webIf you’re not familiar with Spike Lee’s recent comments about the movie Django Unchained, take a detour here to get caught up.

From there, I’m going to keep this short and to the point, because in my eyes, the issue isn’t that complicated.

For the record, this really doesn’t have anything to do with the movie genre the films’ writer(s) and director sought to tell this particular story through. So it’s a western. Big deal. This is Tarantino we’re talking about. See the movie or don’t. Whatever.

This is about, in Spike’s eyes, who has rights to telling stories about slavery, specifically, if it’s appropriate for White people to do so. This is an ongoing theme in Spike’s life, so it’s certainly not the first time this has come up. In many cases (hello, Amestad) he’s on point. But here, he misses the mark completely.

To criticize a film maker for making a movie about slavery, and for his use of the “the n-word” therein, perpetuates the divide that is racism in America today. It’s ironic. When we can’t get “our” stories told in the media, or when Hollywood is white-washing characters of color out of films and tv, we cry foul. We say our stories are American stories too, and should be told (and we’re right, of course). But then on the flip side, when a White person decides to make a movie about slavery, we say ‘no, you can’t do that, that’s ours!’

We’ve been swimming in this for hundreds of years, people, so let’s move from the shallow end of the pool already: There is no one race in America that owns slave history, or the word “nigger.” Black people have exclusive rights to neither.

By saying Tarantino shouldn’t use the word nigger in his movie, because he is White, is suggesting that only Black people have license to do so, and when you think about it, that suggests that everything that is associated with nigger, is exclusive to Black people, like slavery (or institutionalized racism).

No single race can or should claim its legacy as solely their own. Slavery is not exclusively a “Black history.” Slavery is American history, and we have all inherited its residue in one form or another, whether we like it or not.

The End.

 

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