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Are You Django or Stephen?


African American news from Pasadena - Arts - DJango Unchained movie reviewSomewhat reluctantly, I went to see this movie last week. I have seen other movies that were made by Quentin Tarantino, and his body count is usually more than I can take. I feared that they would be a lot of shooting, and my concern was more than justified.

However, the appearance of Samuel L Jackson in the latter part of this film, made it thought provoking and intriguing to me. It made me realize how African-Americans have been made to think and behave, since we became a part of this country.

Mr. Jackson plays the part of Stephen, a highly respected Slave on a large plantation in Mississippi in the year 1862. He is well aware that he lives on perilous ground, and that his very existence depends upon the whims of his boss, who is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. His goal in life is to retain his position as the Head Slave. He would be unable to prevent any other Slave from being tortured, killed, or traded. He knows that, so his only concern is self-preservation, no matter what the cost to others might be.

Then Django, in the person of Jamie Foxx, is brought into his world. He does not fully understand who Django is, and he feels seriously threatened by his presence. Then when his Boss orders him to allow DJango to enter the large White House, Stephen is mortified. It is his feeling that no Black Man, other than a Servant or himself, should have entry into this exclusive building. He respectfully mentions his feelings to the Boss, but he is overruled.

Above all else, Stephen wants to maintain his position as the Head Slave. He is 71 years old, and in his lifetime he has witnessed lynching's, tortures, mutilations and other acts that most people would find unbearable. He has made his choice to always look out for number one, and he knows how to do that.

To that end, he sets out to destroy DJango. What happens next is left to those who plan to see the movie. I felt that this film raised interesting questions for all African Americans. Are we more like Stephen than we realize? Every day, for centuries, we have been taught in ways both small and large; to disrespect each other. How effective has this been? I think that the natural tendency for most of us to say or feel that we have successfully resisted any such attempts to brainwash us. It is what we say, but is it what we actually do?

Is one of the goals of many African-Americans to earn enough money to live in an area where few, if any other, African-Americans live? Do we feel especially honored, if we are the first, or the only, African American to achieve a certain position in society or business? A very large percentage of prominent African Americans will not hire others of their race to work for them as Attorneys, Accountants, Agents, and the like. Why is that, and are you one of those?

Can you think of any ordinary or prominent African-Americans who behave today has Stephen did back in 1962? I can think of one of the world's most prominent African American personalities, who publicly stated that he would do something like cut President Obama off at the knees. He did not realize it at the time, but he was speaking into a live microphone, and his remarks were heard all over the country. Oops!

A different approach is like the one that was used on the 12 year old Young Chef. He was a precocious and entrepreneurial young man who cooked and sold his wares at various social functions, including Hopkins Village. Everyone predicted that he would have a bright future, and I suspect and hope that is already true. He received enough compliments to come to the understanding that he was indeed a special young man. So, from time to time, he would say, "I am going to be the first African American President."

If my memory serves me correctly, that was about 15 years ago. At that time, I spoke to Ms. Hopkins, the Editor of the Journal, and I asked her if she thought that the Young Chef, would want that possibility reserved only for him, for at least the next 23 years.

My take away from this movie is that we are a remarkably resilient people, or we would not have even survived. Having said that, we now need to intensify our efforts to acquire equity in all American enterprises, and especially in those areas where our unique talents cause the generation of enormous wealth. A few years ago, these opportunities were not legally available to us. A few years earlier than that, any African American who tried to become successful at anything was likely to be legally robbed, or just plain killed. So, as a result of our history, we have become more passive than we ought to be in pursuing our natural ambitions. In doing that, we have to be aware that we must not treat each other the way that Stephen would have done.

However, when we watch African-Americans interact with each other, we can see that many of us behave now, the way that Stephen did then. Since this may be all that we know, our behavior may not be apparent to us, although it may be observed and understood by others.

This movie reminded us that all Slaves were not treated equally. The ones who works in the houses were treated better than those who worked in the fields, and because of that, they felt superior to them. They may have also felt sorry for those who were less fortunate than they, but their main goal was to survive at all costs. They were also taught that they could not trust each other, or work together, since at any time, any one of them could profit by becoming an informer. Regrettably, for us, those lessons were learned all too well and passed from generation to generation, like an incurable disease.

All of us probably have more Stephen in us than we realize. It may be time well spent if we reflect upon who we are, and what we do. We fight with each other more than any other ethnic group in the world, because we were taught to do so. The initial lessons were so long ago that they have become a part of us, without our realization. Stephen is a part of all of us, or he is trying to be. Let us stand together and get rid of him, and it will be better for all of us. Thank you Mr. Jackson for the History Lesson.



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