Race: Django's Unchained But You're Not by Kyle Phoenix

I got a flurry of what do you think? and can you believe it? emails this past week while on vacation all around the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained starring Janie Foxx.  First it was about the film and then it was about the merchandising, specifically the action figures that came out.  First off the film is wild and fun and violent and hilarious and poignant, I've seen it twice.  There's the play on racial humor and horror and the righteousness of vengeance and retribution woven through the fable of Broomhilda (Brunhilde) the German opera/folktale/myth.

But it's not a film that Americans---Black, White, Puerto Rican---can deal with.  Americans aren't healthy enough nor self-reflectively honest enough to deal with it.  Django Unchained is the graduate level course and most of America is still mentally trudging through middle school trying to wrap its' collective head around     the perplexing conundrum of separating racial solidarity and genuine criticism towards the President.  What do I mean by this?  America has never dealt with slavery.  America moved through it, outlawed it, wagged it's finger at it and marshaled the moral strength to castigate the word nigger but has never dealt with slavery.  What do I mean by "dealt"?  South Africa dealt with apartheid and how to move beyond it with reconciliation councils that went from township to township and every citizen was obligated to attend to listen and express their pain, White and African, from the brutality and pain of apartheid.

It's made pointedly clear within the first 5 minutes of the movie, illustrated deftly with the casting off of a shroud that Django is no longer a slave.  Yet the criticisms of their being a Django action figure choke on there being "slave dolls".  He's not a slave.  No, really go watch the first 5 minutes of the film.  The character struggles to adjust to his internal freedom matching and not matching the varying degrees of slavery that exist around him in the 1850's South.  But he's not a slave.  He continues through the movie on a quest to free Broomhilda from slavery and throughout it though he has to get morally, socially and violently dirty even when captured and possibly on his way back to slavery he uses every weapon in his mind, pocket and environment to not return to slavery.  He's not a slave.

Yes, I know I've repeated that several times.  Why?  Because that's America psychic schism---whether you're pink or brown---once a nigger slave, always a nigger slave.  White people believe it.  Black folk believe it.  Latino folk believe it.  There might even be some Asian people who believe it.  And that's the fundamental problem of why we as human beings in America can't handle Django,  The film has a metaphor of the reaction of White and Black people to seeing Django riding a horse with shock, anger, virulent madness, disbelief, revulsion, sexual interest and confusion because that's how America has trained itself to see Black people, pointedly Black men, even more directly, Black men who make no qualms about whipping White men, shooting White men, outsmarting White men,  having bloody vengeance upon White men as outrageous.  As outrageous as say a billionaire donning a cowl ad deciding from his perch of the noblesse oblige what justice should and shouldn't look like in his fiefdom.

While I'm there, and this has been a thought for a while, maybe it has to do with mass shootings around America by children upon children (and those committed by adults everyday), but there is a madness in movies.  We go and sit in dark theaters to watch people kill each other.  In fact we cheer and celebrate celebrities for this aberration.   I was thinking while watching the previews for several movies that the casualness with which heroes and heroines kill in the movies is technically psychotic.  We're watching, studying, idolizing psychopaths armed to the teeth killing cops, armed security, unarmed security, innocent bystanders, the "enemy", the bad guys, monsters.  We're gorging ourselves on a diet of psychosis.

But back to the nigger slave dolls.  Yes, the word nigger is hurled back and forth like oxygen in the movie.  But then I live in New York City and teach everything from children to adults.  I've heard nigger so much that I have forsaken it as anything unless we're really talking about the origins and usages of that word.  Kind of like fuck.  America has a long memory but a short attention span.  We've launched into this fearful diatribe about eradicating nigger, removing nigger, abolishing the word nigger but why?  I would submit it's a way to make White people comfortable and for Black people to move past a label/categorization that's not supportive of evolving freedom.  Even the word itself has diametrically different, maybe not opposing, ends for White and Black people.  (The Latinos, Asians and Native Americans hurling nigger back and forth we'll just have to put in the category of children who pick up bad habits from the people around them.)

Honestly, White people, deeply infused with America'a long memory know that this slavery shit is like a rumbling cancer that has slowly infected the entire system of this land through the delivery system of racism.  Black people have always known it has and would and some, not all, some are trying to evolve into freedom.  Freedom isn't something you can just don and ride off triumphantly, it's a long process, perhaps even a 200 to 400 year process.  Chemo can often take longer to flush out a disease than the disease took to manifest.  Who knows.  Some would argue that having a half Black (African---which if you come to 125th Street in Harlem you'll quickly learn the difference between) President is the pinnacle of freedom evolution.  It's not.  When we have presidents and they happen to be female or Latino or Asian or half African or completely Black then we've made true progress   Until then I would submit that we've made incremental aberration change.  Change is only supported by consistency not merely appearance.  But I digress....

So I'll throw up another point.  Black is projected.  White people hundreds of years ago needed a way to classify the Other from them for social, financial and mental/emotional reasons which is why you have Black, Latino, mulatto (from mule), quadroon (a fourth Black blood), octoroon (an eighth blood), and so on.  Number one, that was really the dragon eating it's own tail.  The very classifications show a level of social insanity to keep isolating people by arbitrary measurements to explain away, justify and mitigate racial mixing.

And why was there racial mixing?  Because you can't put one group of people, with absolute power and no television, smack dab in the center of lots of beautiful brown people who have no rights but are buxom and robust and sinewy under the hot sun and not have forcible creeping, dalliances  fantasies entertained,  rapes, true love, distorted Sally Hemmings love, passionate embraces and just human rubber part curiosity.  So when you call yourself or others even "Black" we're perpetuating a negative racial designation that was created to identify and control not celebrate.  Black is the new nigger.  (Peep this there's only a few people, Africans who are really so dark as to fall under Black and yet because we must, African Americans hold onto Black.  Much like the rape victim holds onto the fact that they were on a date therefore it couldn't be rape.)

Now all this racial confusion, madness, history, drama, conflama and media violence psychosis goes into a dark theater and tries to reconcile itself against the Pollock-like whip-lashing strokes and artistic hurlings of Quentin Tarantino.

Baby, you can't even get out of slavery in your own head, how you gonna do it at the AMC theater?

Because of the interruption of freedom evolution African American people (and I include Latinos in this too.  When they know their history and genetic history they understand that they are just more diluted African Americans who got a new language imposed on them too in their slavery times.  It was sort of a racial/slave bonus round for our current Latinos from the French/Spanish.) weren't given free reign in art.  Bear with me.  This all ties together.   When you go see Batman you accept that a White man has the right to be a vigilante.  When you go see Jack Reacher, you accept it.  Even when you watch Terminator you accept it.  But the Blackened people of America don't have that right do they?  Because it's revolting IMPOSSIBLE.  I often muse on time travel films, when would I travel to as a Black man?  There is no time in American history when you were allowed to be Black and vengeful.  Say like a General Custer or General Lee or a John F. Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon to Carter to Reagan to Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama ALL ordering and engaging America in military actions spiraling from policy to politics to racism to vengeance.  No when.

But when was the last time outside of an S&M Dungeon have you seen a Black man take the lash to a White man?  Wait, wait, how many times have you seen a White man shoot a Black man?  Go even deeper, how many times have you seen a White man shoot a monster/alien that was brown?  Or even directly black?  Where does that leave a psyche to what is okay for White men and not for Black men?

There's a doll.
Yet there was no uprising at the Terminator doll and go back to the movie and see how many innocent police officers and innocent bystanders he killed in pursuit of the Connors.  What about Die Hard (and I happen to like Bruce Willis) did you protest those dolls?  What about Superman and Batman?  Of course not, because even in FICTION/ART niggers are still slave niggers ad should abide by plantation rules of narrow identity.  Narrow identity says you can't love so the concept of Django having a wife and being willing to turn the South upside down to liberate her is something that we've never seen in a movie before, a man rescuing the damsel in distress.
No, that's completely new.
Or a Western with gunslingers and bounty hunters killing the criminals with ready triggers and rifles.
Nah, that's never occurred in cinema before.
Nor has there been a man who has had to go undercover and be cruel towards those like him to liberate himself, his wife and even the slaves at the end---nah, not a single movie has used that theme before.
Okay, what about racial/misogynistic/foul/gruff language being hurled about by men and women in the history of cinema?
Nope, movies have been squeaky language clean for over 100 years.

Oh, wait, he's a nigger in America.
And by default if you're a nigger you must be a slave and by deeper default if you're a slave you must take care of, comfort, not oppose, pray for the cruel White people and hope that circumstance and dear sweet Lordy Lord brings vengeance upon them.  Because being a figure, a symbol, even in fictionalized art of bloody vengeance, punctilious power and manhood for a Black man is well----anathema to the American way.

See how that long memory and short attention span are America's unique way of keeping a nigger in a double-blind?

Only when you put him into the slave nigger category can you look at the art and say it can't commercalized, consumerize, action figurize itself.  What you're saying is that a nigger, fictional or real, doesn't have the right to be any part of the lily White psychotic milk you've been guzzling down from Casablanca to Indiana Jones to Star Wars to the Matrix to Batman to Spider-man to the Hobbit (chock full of minorities!).  You want your milk, cake and to consume it without anybody who doesn't match the table cloth to be part of irreproachable fury, indignation, anger, romantic hero tales back to the Ramayana or Tristan and Isolde or Coptic Christianity or Hannibal or Vesey or Toussaint or even to the first Western revolutionary, the imperial Anacoana.   People of color, colored folk, brown as the ground who were pushed, beaten, tested and tried to the point of being willing to wreck all kinds of natural havoc upon White people.  Because we all know niggers are not allowed the full range of human expression, right?  Right?

You might want a hero.  But box office receipts show who America believes its' heroes should look like and what they should be allowed to do.  Interestingly enough the question is in these wants are you White, Black, Latino, Asian or Native American (the 5 racial categories here in America.)  You want a nigger.  And when you realize how much, no matter what color you are, you want a nigger to remain a nigger, the racialized school system makes sense, Native people on tiny reservations, multi-colored ghettos  illiteracy and 60 million in poverty makes sense.  You want a nigger....even if you're technically one.

Now me, and perhaps some others, we're evolving towards freedom and we can separate fiction/art from reality---much as people are able to do when they see any of our delightful White action heroes and don't leave the theater screaming when they see a White man or doll.  (Well, maybe we all tense up a little bit in our heads and sphincters---I mean look at the statistics of who goes major ballistic and wants to take the whole neighborhood, household or school with them....I'm just saying....)  I will finally submit though that having been bred to be niggers who are slaves and slaves who are just niggers and being only a generation or two away from slavery, some Black folk get nervous.  They get nervous at what White people will think of them if they talk about race in a normal level voice (watch this amongst your brown friends---how they hush down the word White or say "them" as if we all don't know the racial truth with our eyes of who's a what) or avoid the thought of say a nigger being on a horse metaphorically speaking.  Or worse yet having a gun.  Or even more insanely shooting White people.

But I would throw in that White people don't worry about this because they know there's only one Django per 10,000 Black men so the majority will keep the minority down.  (Ironically enough, this is brought up by Monsieur Candie played by Leonardo DiCaprio though his villainous character goes at why Black people, who outnumbered White slaveholders a hundred to one, didn't lash out, rise up, go on a bloody rampage.  Of course there wasn't time to mention Haiti or the 39 other slave revolts that occurred in the United States as well as the dozen that occurred on the open sea.  Pssst.  We did not go into slavery easy.)

I bought a doll to play with and one for my son too and I have some other fun dolls:  I've got a Che, a Toussaint, a Malcolm, a Carmen, a Carver, I even have a Troi doll to remind me to have empathy.  But I also have an Anacoana to remind me of the duality of that your own people might be too dazzled to listen to good sense the moment before they're slaughtered.   I have a bullwhip and a righteous gleam in my eye and a non-hushed tone when I talk/teach about race because the White people know they're White and it's the perpetuation of being the comforting nigger when we hush tone for them.  They'll be fine if they're a little uncomfortable passing by me as I chatter along in public.  There are some of us who would would raze lands and people in bloody, righteous vengeance if provoked or for our loved ones.  I know of the vengeance I speak of.  Yeah, about 1 in 10,000 by my count too in agreement with the film.  The ways brown folk, especially men, seek to maintain niggerdom is legion and for another article.  I've sadly learned to watch my brown people, I've watched them whether they've come to help me or cheat me or criticize me for being simply being free in mind, body and spirit.  Because after all, as we learned on February 21, 1965,  it was a Black man who sent a Black man that shot Malcolm.

Thank you for reading,
Kyle Phoenix
Email: kylephoenixshow@aol.com
Website: http://kylephoenixsite.com/
Blog: http://kylephoenixshow.blogspot.com/2012
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