sam jackson django

The word nigger has power.

It throbs with so much hatred and history, that modern society subdues it with quotation marks, abbreviates it in a pathetic attempt to dilute it’s meaning or utters the completely ridiculous “n-word” just to make it palatable for the masses.

Conservative politicians will vilify poor, black Americans as welfare scavengers, but they won’t call them niggers — at least not in public.

We have a Prison Industrial Complex that feeds on Black bodies and is sustained by their labor, but the word nigger is off-limits.

We are a nation that allows young, black boys to be murdered in cold blood by protecting such laws such as ‘Stand Your Ground,’ but the word nigger manages to remain taboo.

It is the “Word That Must Not Be Said,” and when Samuel L. Jackson sat down with film critic, Jake Hamilton, to discuss its usage in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, it quickly became evident that it holds just as much power over white people as it does over the black descendants of slaves who involuntarily clinch when the word sizzles like a hot poker over their consciousness.

Hamilton had a “great” question that he wanted to ask Jackson, but the legendary actor, who plays a Sambo prototype in the film, refused to answer the question unless the stunned Hamilton actually said nigger and not the “n-word,” immediately creating a moment about so much more than a film.

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HAMILTON: “There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the usage of, uh, the n-word, in this movie.”

JACKSON: “No? Nobody? None … the word would be…?”

HAMILTON: “I don’t want to say it.”

JACKSON: “Why not?”

HAMILTON: “I don’t like to say it.”

JACKSON: “Have you ever said it?’

HAMILTON: “No, sir.”

JACKSON: “Try it.”

HAMILTON: “I don’t like to say it.”

JACKSON: “TRY IT!”

HAMILTON: “Really, seriously…”

JACKSON: “We’re not going to have this conversation unless you say it.”

[Uncomfortable pause as Hamilton weighs the risk of saying the N-word]

JACKSON: “You want to move on to another question?”

HAMILTON: “OK, awesome!”

[When Jackson laughs at his nervousness, Hamilton reiterates that he doesn’t like saying it — even though he claims to have never said it before.]

HAMILTON: “I don’t like… I don’t want to say it.”

JACKSON: “Oh, come on!”

HAMILTON: “Will you say it?”

JACKSON: “No, f*ck no. That’s not the same thing.”

###

See entire video below [Samuel L. Jackson segment begins at 13:55]:

Hamilton’s nervousness is striking. In those few minutes, a black man is holding a white man hostage, using his own innate racial insecurities and guilt to back him into a corner and lose control of the interview.

Hamilton claims to not “like” saying the word, but when Jackson asks him has he ever said it, he says “No sir” in a way that calls his honesty into question. It is beyond difficult to imagine that this young man, a Tarantino fan since he was 8-years-old, has never once uttered the word. It would be the same as asking some white, suburbanite kid who is Lil Wayne’s biggest fan, has he ever said the word nigga.

Of course he has — and so has Hamilton.

While he is being applauded for sticking to his principles and not saying the word, I see things a bit differently. He didn’t not say it because of principle, he calculated Jackson’s sincerity before he made a false move that would draw his ire. He looked around, silently asking permission, he even asked him to say it with him, as if all he needed was reassurance that it was acceptable.

His principles did not stop him from saying the word nigger, society did — and that is what Sam Jackson exposed. This nation’s hypocrisy in banning a word, while not banning the hate that produced it.

Quentin Tarantino’s gratuitous use of violence and racist language in his art gives hipster, white America a “pass,” if only for a few hours, to be as ugly and profane as the word nigger.

I have reached out to Hamilton several times to find out what exactly was this “great” question that he had to ask, but he has not responded. Being the thoughtful, intelligent man who I’ve known him to be in other interviews, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it was probably an amazing question, one that would have provided clarity and perspective into Tarantino’s twisted fantasies that are manifested on-screen.

But it wasn’t coming from an authentic place.

As Jackson said, “It wasn’t that great of a question if you can’t say the word.” By containing the word nigger, it gives America permission to ignore the hate that still exists in this country. Yes, it is a violent word for a violent movie, but it is also a trigger that has the potential to murder a long festering hate that would otherwise continue to poison race relations from the inside out.

Saying the “n-word” when speaking candidly about race in America is a cop-out. It happened. Slavery happened. Jim Crow happened. White privilege still exists and erasing the word nigger won’t make that go away. That tug-of-war between Jackson and Hamilton spoke volumes on society’s willingness, in fact, its need to believe that entertainment is an alternate existence where anything goes, instead of an extension or reflection of reality. By Jackson pushing Hamilton to break through society’s self-imposed rule — and Hamilton’s subsequent struggle with propriety — he was answering the question “Why use the word so much in the movie?”

Because it hurts, and it’s uncomfortable, and it’s painful, and it’s real, and it has the power to silence a grown man for fear that he will be thought racist if he says the most dreaded two syllables in America — even if only to discuss a film. And that makes it necessary.

If the word nigger is woven so tightly throughout Django Unchained for historical authenticity, then it should be equally relevant in post-dialogue as the film is deconstructed.

And if we are ever to diminish the stranglehold that the word has over this nation’s psyche, then Jackson’s order to Hamilton is the first step to making that happen.

Say it.

 

 

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  • Bump Mediocrity

    Whether you say the word, think the word or act the word it’s all about your own personal morals and standards. I say the word when I need to and could care less about those who play the self-righteous holier than thou card about whether it should be used or not. Yes the word has a ugly history but it don’t make sense to shame others into not using it. That’s wasted energy. Let’s not deny that the word now has many branches; not just one meaning.

    There are white niggers (typically called trash, scum, bottom of the barrel) and there are black niggers (called niggas, thugs, low life’s, ) And its a fact that both can be tasteless and classless.

  • Stacy

    I say it all the time.. i use it for everyone. What up my Nigs? :)

  • steve

    I hope all the people who are crying about Quentin saying the N-word in his movies are not the same ones who swear up and down how much they love the chappelle show or the boondocks . shows which were on network TV , produced and made by black people which also mad it cool for white hipster to say or laugh at the word in their homes

    • I got sense!

      And boy do white guys LOVE those two shows. I was very surprised!

  • Alaina L Lewis

    Hmmmm. I like how Hamilton first says that he’s never “SAID” the word, and then in the next statement he changes it to say he doesn’t like to “SAY” the word.

    How can you not like saying something you’ve allegedly never said?

    Reminds me of people who profess to not liking oral sex (sorry, best example I’ve got) If you’ve never tried it, how can you not like it? Further more, if you’ve never tried it, you would never form your lips (literally) to tell your partner, “I don’t like doing it,” the statement should in fact be “I don’t do it.”

    Hamilton isn’t a virgin to saying the N Word. He’s used it a multitude of times, thus why he giggled like a shy Catholic school girl whose ready to confess that they’ve given more oral exams than a lollipop factory. Who are you fooling?

    • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

      So what nigger? If he used it before or not is irrelevant to the bigger issue that could have been discussed instead. Instead you niggers want to talk about his sincerity in the use of the word. Typical of you niggers.

    • Amanda

      A fool and his soapbox. You being the fool Tonton. Typical of fools, I suppose.

    • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

      Are you suggesting that a person can’t know that they don’t like something if they have never tried it? Ever shoot yourself in the leg? What, you don’t like getting shot in the leg? How do you know if you never tried it?

    • Sapphire

      But when asked why, would you say, “I don’t like to shoot myself in the leg” or “I refuse to shoot myself in the leg because…[it is stupid, it is in poor taste, etc”?

    • http://gravatar.com/ravsmith78 Ravi

      Sapphire

      If someone were to ask me why I didn’t want to shoot myself in the leg I don’t like getting shot in the leg. I wouldn’t get into it being in poor taste. Poor taste would be the least of my concerns when it comes to getting shot.

      Not sure what your point was, but my point remains that you don’t need to do something to know you don’t like it. It doesn’t follow that he must have tried it out because he said he didn’t like it. Most everyone can determine they don’t like stuff without actually doing it first.

  • Pingback: Nigger is a powerful word … | Reading is the New Black()

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