Some manifestations of white privilege are so self-indulgent that black America finds itself struggling to understand their implications long after they sink into our collective psyche. This may prove to be the case with director Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained – even for those people who have not — or will not — view the film.
It’s already haunting Tavis Smiley and Spike Lee, two respected black thinkers and cultural contributors who famously refuse to partake in the current Djangofascination. These two men, staunch and fearless advocates of justice and progress in black America, are not unjustified in their assessments of Hollywood and Quentin Tarantino; however, neither man can be taken seriously if their analyses of Django Unchained are defined only by bias and presumptions.
Let’s take Lee. “It’d be disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That’s the only thing I’m going to say. I can’t disrespect my ancestors,” the legendary director said in a Vibe interview approximately one week prior to the film’s Christmas Day release. But, of course this is just one blip in a long-standing beef between the auteurs.
Lee has been extremely vocal in critiquing Tarantino’s fascination with the word ni**er. “I’m not against the word, (though I am) and I use it, but not excessively,” said Lee in a 1997 interview with Variety. “And some people speak that way. But, Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made — an honorary black man?” It can’t help that Django uses the word over 100 times.
Tavis Smiley, one of the films most recent and vocal detractors, also said in an interview with The Daily Beast that he didn’t have to see the film to form a valid opinion.