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.

###

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.

 

 

109 Comments

  1. People may say that we give the word too much power but please consider that no other racial group in America has endured as many racist epithets as Black Americans. From sambo to coon to jiggaboo to nigger, we are the only racial group that now answers and uses the epithets that were hurled at us by our oppressors.

    There is a terrible history behind the N-word. And while people may argue that we need to take away the word’s power, please consider that out of all racial groups (aside from Native Americans) we are the least empowered academically, economically and politically. These attempts to desensitize the word and ignore our history, also encourages America and the world’s desensitivity to the needs of our people in the inner cities and ghettos across the globe. That’s exactly why the crime rates in urban areas like Chicago’s South Side are on the rise, our children are failing in schools, we see less policies aimed to improve our communities and countries idly stand by and fail to intervene in the genocides and civil wars occurring through Africa. It is also why we are allowing others to make historical action-jammed fantasies disguised as entertainment about our holocaust that no other racial group would ever allow to be made.

    0
    • That was well said and I hope people who read this article reads your comment as an appropriate accompanying piece to it. For this I will upgrade you from nigger to nigga, you should be honored.

      0
    • The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will, develop an emotional attachment, a bond of interdependence with their captors. This is enhanced when the captive is placed in a life-threatening situation and is then spared. The relief that results from the removal of the threat generates intense feelings of gratitude which, combined with the fear, makes the victim reluctant subsequently to cooperate with those seeking to prosecute the oppressor.

      The defining characteristic of Stockholm syndrome is the tendency to react to threatening circumstances not with the usual fight-or-flight response, but by “freezing,” as some animals do by playing dead in order to fool predators. Stockholm syndrome is a position of passivity and acquiescence that works in a similar way as a strategy for survival……

      0
    • black people have become masochistic…

      0
    • @Ashe

      Your comment was very eloquently stated. I am nodding my head as if I am in church. I’m glad I had taken the time to read it.

      0
    • MuffyCrosswire

      Yeah that was a good comment.

      0
    • Boom, this comment said everything. Personally If roles was reversed and I was in Hamilton’s shoes interviewing Jackson I would have given him an epic side eye.

      0
    • Keepitreal

      And there you have it folks, awesome post.

      0
    • GlowBelle

      GREAT comment! Couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s all about stopping the blame game and looking at ourselves in the mirror…

      0
    • MommieDearest

      *applause*

      This is one of the most sensible comments I’ve read on this site in a long time.

      Thank you.

      0
  2. apple

    wish the word didn’t exist

    0
  3. Cocochanel31

    Nah I’m good on what the author said. We do not need Caucasians especially in the media, just saying the word willy nilly , interview or not. I respect Hamilton’s decision not to use it publicly..I don’t care what he says at home in the privacy. Coming from a white person its utterly disrespectful and they have gotten away with it for hundreds of years, enough with the madness!

    0
  4. Cocochanel31

    To answer Mademoiselle’s question..Sam Jackson’s character was purely satirical , as many characters are in Tarantino’s movie. Tarantion knew exactly what he was doing when he had him “shukcin and jivin” he was playing the stereotypical Uncle Tom “house nigga” ..he just took it to another level as he always does.

    Did you notice how he depicted the Klan members as a bunch of derelict, ignorant, hillbillies?

    0
  5. Cocochanel31

    I disagree with the author on the reporter having to use the word. No he didn’t and I was glad he stood his ground. Whether he says it at home or not is irrelevant, we don’t need him saying it on National television for any reason. Still burns me when white interviewers use it to be PC.

    0
    • Bing! And, Jackson’s non answer was not brilliant either.

      0
    • Sapphire

      I think the author was taking issue with the fact that he was no resolute in his decision to not use the word. Had he stood his ground and defiantly declared, “NO. I will not use that word. It is in poor taste. But that does not mean that we can not have a valid discussion concerning its use in the film…” that would have been an entirely different scenario.

      If someone told you to rape and kill a child standing in front of you, would you hesitate? Think it over? Look around hesitantly? Ask them if they’ll do it and then decide not to?

      I’d hope that you’d quickly and resolutely decide NOT to murder and molest a child because it is wrong and goes against your beliefs etc. Not that you’d decide not to because you’re on television.

      So the author is asking, does the fact that he chose not to say the word on TV really change the fact that he would use it when not in ear-shot? No. So if people are comfortable, as a whole, using the word in familiar settings, then why such an uproar when its put on a large screen? Shouldn’t the issue be that they’re using the word in the first place?–not that its on a screen?

      0
Comments are moderated, please be respectful. View our policy.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

More in race
Close