Friday, January 11, 2013

A Little about Django, A Lot about Race Relations

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This blog is about all facets of my life. Yeah, I write about things like my dog and my wedding, but to truly give you a sense of who I am, I have to talk about the things that stay on my mind - tough stuff like education inequality and issues of race. Yeah, it's a social construct, and biologically we're more alike than different, but race permeates our lives in all sorts of ways.

I think a lot about issues of access and equity in education, which ultimately leads to me thinking a lot about race. After seeing Django, I was left with lots of mixed emotions. Django was typical Tarantino. Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. I left the theater with lots of mixed emotions. I wasn't really bothered by the use of ni**er; it fit the time in which the film was set (though other things really didn't). I was really annoyed by the people who laughed every time ni**er was said in the film. I mean, like, EVERY time it was uttered (**insert eye roll >here<**). I've been more irritated by Tarantino's use of ni**er and other hurtful lines about Black people in films where it wasn't necessary (e.g., Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction).

What really set me off was the laughing during parts that I thought were totally inappropriate for laughter, but that's what makes it art, right? It's open for interpretation, so folks have the right to laugh whether I like it or not. I don't know what's funny about an enslaved woman on the verge of having her head bashed in with a hammer or an enslaved man in a metal mask hanging upside down by his feet, but to each his own. More than anything, I found myself more frustrated with the audience than the film. We have a loooong way to go with this race relations thing.

After the film, I thought a lot about race, and my husband and I had numerous conversations with each other, our friends, and folks via Facebook. The opinions about the move ran the gamut. I thought about how we minimize the sacrifices made by those who came before us. I felt like I needed to go read narratives of men and women who were enslaved or Howard Zinn's A History of the People's United States. Yeah, the movie was meant for entertainment, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to be entertained by a movie with the harsh brutality of slavery as its backdrop. 

One major concern I had after watching Django is how young people would receive the movie.  After years of teaching high school, I think it's safe to say (and generalize) that many young people just don't see race the way we adults do. I think this has its pros and cons. One con being that students gloss over injustices like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. They see them as things "back then" without considering how we still feel the effects of these points in history. I am blessed to have parents who grew up during the Civil Rights movement, so my mother tells me stories about integrating her high school. My father tells me stories about how his all-Black town banded together with the Polish citizens in the neighboring town to fight injustice and prejudice. So maybe today's kids don't have parents or even grandparents closely connected to Civil Rights, but there's still plenty happening in our world today to give pause and bring issues of race to the forefront. There's Trayvon. They were alive during Katrina.  And the list goes on. I've met some amazing students on my teaching journey. Many of them were thinking critically about issues of race, and I know as the move into their futures, many more of them will. 

With the news surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation on display, seeing Django, and just thinking about race quite a bit as I write my dissertation, I want to leave you all with a few links that stimulated my thinking about the messy and complex topic of race. 
  • The first link takes on the issue of calling enslaved Africans "slaves." It's so common to us. We underestimate the power of words. Valentina makes her case so clearly and concisely that I had to share. 
  • The second link breaks down the economic impact of the system of chattel slavery and how we still feel its influence today. I think this was a point Tarantino was trying to make in the movie; it just got lost.  
Now that's 2 to grow on! The old heads will get that reference. :) 

Until next time! 


  1. I stumbled across your blog, looking for walking dead pictures . :-D I've been clicking through your posts and am enjoying them. Jury's out on how I feel about Django. I started watching it, but did not see it through to the end. I know there was a lot of talk about it in the media, because Spike Lee was not amused and thought Tarantino was being disrespectful in making such a film. From the things you've said in this post, I see what Lee may have been trying to say. It's funny though, all of the people who have come out in defence of Tarantino, and have called Lee everything under the sun, especially a hater, have been black, so go figure. Thank you for the thought provoking post.

  2. Wow! Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm relatively new to this, so each comment means a lot.

    I think folks gave Spike Lee more grief than necessary. We all do what he did. We've all seen a movie preview or heard a few songs from an album and decided that we didn't want to see or hear it. He exercised his right.

    Again, thanks for reading! The Walking Dead is almost here! Yay!!!