'Django,' the N-Word and Talking About Race in 2013


Grantland's Rembert Browne rounds up recent conversations in the media that shed light on what he predicts will be the decidedly non-postracial "new apocalypse" when it comes to racial discourse.

2013 is going to be incredible, if for no other reason than because this will undoubtedly be the year the cultural discourse shifts from simple discussions of "race" or "racism" to the majestic land of "how we talk about and react to race in mixed settings." While ideas of a "post-racial" society are but a single cute step below thinking the world was going to end on December 21 on the "awwww, that's cute" scale, what we are in 2013 is post-"race and things typically associated with a single race existing only within that racial silo." Finally …

As I left the theater after Django, it was interesting to see how diverse the crowd was, and, based on the conversations being had in the lobby, how they were all impacted in some way, whether it was by the violence or the language or the fact that it was simply a really good movie. I left the theaters feeling oddly proud of Tarantino for making such a thought-provoking film, while feeling the exact opposite way about Spike Lee for not giving Django a chance. I was slightly shocked at how numb I became to Leo's use of the N-word, to the point that I almost started to marvel at the bravado with which he uttered it. As for my "Django Moment," yes, there was the horrible foreign couple behind me that thought everything was hilarious, but mine came from a more unexpected place: the laughter that filled the room when Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx would say the N-word — less like we imagine blacks would have in the 1800s, and more like they were two of the four Kings of Comedy …

And in the world we live in today, where access to various modes of public expression is becoming increasingly accessible, the walls around "talking about race" are rapidly crumbling. Finally. And, just as a heads-up, if this makes you uncomfortable, if the idea of potentially offending someone is your greatest fear, or if you're content to discuss it like a simpleton, then 2013 might not be your year.

This, my friends, is the new apocalypse. Buckle up.

Read Rembert Browne's entire piece at Grantland.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.