Django Unchained: How Black Power Won the American West, and Why Tarantino Doesn’t Get It

Is he unaware that when it comes to Black Americans, in particular, and our right and responsibility to be either “the law” (as buffalo soldiers, American militia, the sheriff or President Obama as Commander-in-Chief) or “outlaws” of American injustice (as practitioners of civil disobedience from Martin Luther King Jr. to Fannie Lou Hamer, Deacons of Defense or the Black Panther Party), we have more often been what Walter Mosley calls, “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.” Has he never heard of the Houston Race Riot of 1917? Or Tulsa, 1921?

“Negroes with Guns” has always scared a particular set of Americans committed to maintaining the structural inequality from slavery. It’s natural, then, that Hollywood would find it hard to promote a Black outlaw with his/her “own set of rules.” Indeed, Black, radical political groups embracing Second Amendment rights to bear arms caused the U.S. government and then-governor Ronald Reagan (and Western movie star) to consider them America’s “public enemy number one.” Enter gun control laws, not Django.

But at least we are entertained. I love that Hollywood’s vast historical inaccuracies are all being highlighted, simultaneously. The CIA is pissed at Zero Dark Thirty, American historian Eric Foner, has frowned upon the lack of facts inLincoln (but still told people to “enjoy the movie, then read a book”) and now we get Django, living as the only African in America who wanted to be free from chattel slavery and did something about it.

I was certainly entertained. But an alternate history? Child, please. Hollywood isn’t ready; but maybe Tarantino’s efforts (and huge box office sales) will pave the way for something entirely new: a Black hero with ancestral memory and community accountability who can be accepted by the mainstream. Now, that would be something. Yippie ki-yay.

 

By; Kimberly Ellis