I and apparently thousands of other Americans went to watch Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchanged over the Christmas holiday. This post is not about that film … really. It is about why the film, like it or not, is an important move forward in the discussion of who tells the stories of blacks in America and at what cost. Hollywood (film and television) for better or worse is how many people globally are exposed to African Americans and/or African American culture. If one keeps in mind the images of African Americans that are put out through these vehicles it is no surprise that we are highly misunderstood by the much of world at large. The fact is the “African American Experience” is as broad and diverse as the people who live it. This is a fact that is often over looked or blatantly disregarded to the detriment of Blacks in America.
Our story is this country’s dirty laundry, shoved aside, hid under humor, rage, and stock characters but never fully exposed or wholly understood. Whose responsibility is it to tell the story of blacks in America? The most logical answer would seem to be the people that have walked through it. The next questions could then be: “which” people? Black people, white people, hell the entire country for that matter has some level of interest/perspective in African American history. There are as many “truths” as there are people, but what I feel cannot and should not be discounted or disrespected in the telling of any story of Blacks in America is the ugliness of the past and it’s legacy that bleeds into the Black American existence to this day.
Even then the question of what counts as “disrespect” lingers. It’s all too sordid and was the main reason I left Django Unchained mildly enraged and only vaguely entertained. For me it just leaves the flood gates open for random violation of a history that has already been looted and pillaged beyond recognition. (See shit like this:
I wanted lay into their asses something awful, but what would be the point? There is no united front of black folks that are prepared to shut down the Hollywood machine on the strength of disrespect of our culture. (see: Jews vs. Mel Gibson‘s career)
What is there to do if anything about protecting, preserving, and presenting a diverse view of what it is to be Black in America? Well from where I sit there are a few options:
1. Tell my own Black story as open and honestly as I can and do my best to ensure it reaches somebody then somebody else then somebody else …
2. Stop depending on/expecting Hollywood to tell your, my, our “truth” (see: Awkward Black Girl) They don’t give a shit bout nothing but a dollar, period. If they think it’ll put asses in seats … it’ll get made.
3. Stop feeling like it is our responsibility to make people out side our race and culture understand us. Fuck that. We have no control over how people are going think or feel about us. If they really want to understand “the black community”* then they better damn well get off their asses and do the research.
Okay, I think I got it all out. At least for now … until the next bit of unintentional bigotry surfaces … which is probably goin’ down right now at some hipster drinking establishment in Williamsburg. (ugggh!)
Rosie.* this term should be outlawed and those insisting on using it systematically tortured … but that’s another post all together. http://youtu.be/aAthMi5Kz5g