Django: Unchained is finally here. Django, pronounced jayn-go (where the “D” is silent) has kicked quite the hornet’s nest in it’s timely Christmas, post-Newtown, pre-gun debate release. It’s being seen by the masses and being perceived as mocking all that African American’s ancestors went through as non-willing participants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And while it’s a play on its 1966 predecessor Django, it’s taking ALL the heat for being its own brand of offensive.

Django: Unchained - Trailer

Django: Unchained – Trailer

When the assertion was recently made that it merely mocked slavery I had to ask myself, “Does it merely DEPICT what our ancestors went through or does it go as far as to MOCK what our ancestors went through.”

I actually thought it was pretty accurate from what I’ve read of slavery up to this point. The profuse and frequent use of nigger and nigga, the whippings, the demoralizing depiction of slaves – all hallmarks not of slave films but of slave life. In fact, the only thing obviously missing was an actual hanging which I (ironically) didn’t see. Even I wouldn’t expect the movie to be any less absurd as the real thing.

In fact, and sadly, the only unrealistic thing about the film was the main slave character actually being freed specifically to exact retribution on his former oppressors. That never happened in real life o_O.

Spike Lee on 'Django Unchained': 'Slavery was not a Spaghetti Western'

Spike Lee on ‘Django Unchained’: ‘Slavery was not a Spaghetti Western’

For the film’s many critics, one has certainly stood out as the most lambasting – that of cinema legend Spike Lee (who I adore). Spike Lee blasts Tarantino’s resurrection of the franchise saying, “Slavery was not a Spaghetti Western”.

In his summary of the film, that he has conveniently not seen yet) the line “Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western” practically shouted at me. I thought “maybe not Sergio Leone but the original was directed by Sergio Corbucci.” Ironic to say the least but I get his point. To satirize in any way a subject like slavery is far from digestible. However, considering the triumph and war waged against the oppressors in the 2012 film, I would consider the thorn in Spike’s butt collateral damage.

So Spike, is it the violence? Is it the slavery? Is it the n-word? Is it Tarantino’s draw of non African American viewers that has you all bent out of shape? I’m just not sure why my seeing it disrespects our ancestors?

“I’m not gonna see it” – Lee

Although I’m sure he’s read the script I’m a bit confused as to why Spike would utter a word on a film about slavery without actually having EVER released a movie on the topic. Say it witcha chest Spike! Or put it on wax as my hip-hop brethren would say.

[humming] He’s made a movie dealing with the holocaust thooough…

Calvin Candie sippin' a Malibu in the 1858 pre-Civil War South...?

Calvin Candie sippin’ a Malibu in the 1858 pre-Civil War South…?

Do humor and slavery mix? They are certainly not good company. No doubt. Although there is comedy in most “film” films so I would assume a modicum of humor in a slavery film. But only in as much as there is comedy in life. Where I concur with criticism of the film is whenever it feels like slavery is not taken seriously… eg: Steven, the blue suit, the obvious blood baths,etc.

Were it not for those over-the-top parts it felt like any other “slave” movie – disgusting, upsetting & outrageous…

As for the repeated use of nigger & nigga… Oh, I see “slaves” were never actually called niggers in real life. That was just THIS movie. Got it. I’m being sarcastic.

On the whole, (not to split hairs) but “slavery” did not appear to be made fun of in this film. Oppressors seem to bare the brunt of most of the satire. ALL those who condoned “slavery” were satirized. It was them that were “victims” of this film in my eyes. I actually left feeling sorry for the foolishness and ignorance of the poor slave owners … and Steven.

You say “slavery” wasn’t made fun of in this film…? Do you remember the part when…

Again most of the humor was reserved for anyone who thought any less than ridiculous the thought of slavery. And pound for pound tit for tat the context wrapped around each facetious scene was the buffoonery and inept nature of a pre-Civil War slave mentality. As a modern-day fly on a 1858 wall, there would be only 1 person in the room that would be looked down on – and it wasn’t the help.

In the same way Inglourious Basterds was an overplayed fantasy look at the desired assassination of Hitler, Django: Unchained took a similar approach to slavery. Quentin Tarantino’s only married the 1966 original antagonist, the KKK, with the KKK’s actual enemy rather than using Mexicans as Sergio did – even though I understand Sergio’s reasoning.

Ponder this: What if everything every slave wanted to happen to slave owners actually happened…? Think Nat Turner… but on a smaller scale… and with a attempt at humor to boot… That’s what this movie was about.

In Inglorious Basterds, also directed by Quentin Tarantino, Shoshanna after having her family slaughtered exacted revenge on an entire theater of Nazi Germans. Her family having been hunted like rats and their bodies pelted with bullets through a floorboard wasn’t funny, was totally outrageous and not at all pleasurable. But it laid the foundation for her revenge. I’m sure advocates took no pleasure in watching the beginning of the film or hearing Goebbels rhetoric but it certainly set the stage for a gruesome retribution. Who paid the price in that film: Nazi Germans.

If there was a victim in Django – it was oppressors.

I consider the slave era a FAR cry from the likes of the holocaust. And while both are evil, they live on separate ends of that spectrum. One born of one man’s disgusting hate for himself and the other born of an entire region’s filth and greed.

“Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.”~ Euclid

In this regard, I can see how the film’s critics conflate the nature of the film with that of “lampooning” our nation’s greatest atrocity. This subject is not light nor should it be taken lightly. Again I feel Spike’s pain in that we may never see the holocaust satirized in this way… Well actually we just did… by the same director.

This film and most other “slave” films (none of which you’ve ever seen directed by Spike Lee but that’s a different thread) depict slave owners as heartless, participants in slavery depicted as weak.

But it is the system of slavery that comes out on top in most films. That was not the case here. Everyone complicit in slavery in this film had revenge exacted upon them. This did NOT happen in real life. In real life there was no Django (sans Nat Turner). There was no revenge per se. Slavery just won in real life.

In the same way that I would encourage any of my brothers & sisters to read Hitler’s book or Atlas Shrugged I would encourage reviewing this film – to add to your own narrative. To continue to shape, in your own mind, what our history is and how it’s perceived by others.

Do I applaud slavery? H*ll naw. Does this film defend slavery – no. Is there comedy in this film – yes.

I am cursed with enjoying nearly ALL movies I watch. Maybe it’s my impeccable taste in trailers or maybe its that I don’t actually have taste buds. But I typically end up measuring a film’s dopeness by whether or not I’d see it again.

Django was a highly unconventional love/revenge story set in the pre-Civil War South. Tarantino was definitely Tarantino with a very sensitive subject matter: slavery. Can’t say it went down smooth but it was interesting to see at least 2 freed slaves finally win in the end… Well 3 if you count obviously affected slave as Django rode off for his last hoorah.

No bravos from me just yet… I think I’ll just have to watch it again.

The Art of The Deal

Barack Obama, pushover

Barack Obama, pushover

Have you read Yvette Carnell’s “Hate to Say It (Not Really), But I Told You So”? Me too. The article is all “shoot first, ask questions later”. The negotiations are not complete. The long-tail (but still 2013) effect of not getting a deal means at least a couple more percent increase in AA unemployment.

The ugly truth about the “Millionaires & Billionaires” not getting the tax is it won’t really help with spending much. But with the deal that’s on the table flooring at what looks like $250K the President held strong.

On social security, if we’re just talking about cost-of-living adjustments so be it. We’re talking less than 4% over 5 years worth inflation adjustments. Participants will just have to cope with their cost of medicine reductions… o_O (That was sarcasm)

There are so many considerations when negotiating these types of broad pieces of legislation that I’m certainly willing to make the few concessions I’ve seen so far. Obamacare has been ardently removed from these negotiations. There’s a reason for that. Dude ain’t lettin’ anyone touch what matters most to him so far. As a sticking for negotiations I’m surprised it hadn’t been raised more than not-so-much as a headline has been raised about the 1 grandest entitlement of them all. Because dude said no – the Republicans haven’t seriously countered either.

I’m going to keep up with Kulture Kritic, and more importantly Yvette Carnell because I love this type of commentary. Frankly, we need more of it. If the thought is that “this” makes him a hypocrite let’s have a conversation about how in 2010 the Kulture Kritic readers and countless others probably didn’t think twice about voting. I hope I’m wrong but . That meant a loss in the Super Majority which meant a whole h*ll of a lot of legislation that DIDN’T happen because WE didn’t get out the vote during midterms.

I’m not an Obama apologist. The President’s received more than $0.02 from me. But that last thing I want to hear from my brothers and sisters is the anyone ELSE is a hypocrite.

Is There Any Hope Left for the Trajectory of Young African Americans in America?

This question was recently posed and I thought I’d take a closer look. The data might look bleak but do you think the future looks bright for our great nation’s youth? The answer is yes. We are the newest, racial experiment in existence… These are growing pains. It is true there is a statistical “cleansing period” taking place but I see a resurgence on the way. Our grand kids are who will reap the benefits.

Educational attainment of blacks or African Americans in the labor force, 25 to 64 years, March 1970 and March 2008

Educational attainment of blacks or African Americans in the labor force, 25 to 64 years, March 1970 and March 2008

The African Americans of the 60s were taught by a generation of people grew up with education being unattainable… Resolve is important. The Civil Rights generation blew their load and either rested on their generation’s laurels or faded under fatigue. They were our grandparents.

What we’re seeing now is a product of the cancer of “free-doom” that America provides and the freedom to be mediocre. There was at one point no option to be mediocre – we rose to that challenge. All we need now is a clean example of a generation of mediocrity and exceptionalism for the next generation to see and attempt to duplicate. That’s a couple of generations away.

So Adolphus, right now is the cleansing, but you see hope in a couple generations? Like darkness before the dawn, kinda? I just want to make sure I understand it right.

Mine is an aggregated, macro assertion… But since “blacks” are so new and unique it’s a bit difficult to trend off of data alone. Ours is a very strange experiment (without a hypothesis) unlike any I’ve ever seen:

Brought from a country that was rich in culture and achievement…
to a country that hated us…
that we were forced to build…
that we couldn’t escape from…
that still hated us until like yesterday…

I would say there is room for assertions in a scenario that skewed. And while not bright in terms of ‘easy’ – certainly bright in terms of opportunity for improvement.

As far a trajectory… our short-run trend appears bleak but we could either continue to decline and dissolve into an ape-ish mongoloid culture which I’m sure some would not surprise some… OR we could hit a floor of intolerance right around the time the term “Minority” is swapped with “Majority” and bounce out of this slump. That is my hope anyway.

If you’re looking at a downward trend, it’s lowest point would be considered a floor. You knew that. However, if there was no lowest point and a decline continued forever, that would essentially make us ineligible for recovery.

I’m saying that the floor would occur around 2025 or so… So then does it level out or does it reverse exponentially? I think exponentially IF the trend of minority prejudice & discrimination is reduced dramatically. Which would probably only happen when the number of minorities and majorities neutralize… causing a rubberband snap.

A floor of intolerance.

I think 2050 was the latest census data for when the minority literally becomes majority. Between now and then there are many political and social provisions to be considered. Injecting politics for a second… The GOP has to either change it’s tune or continue to lose presidencies… 2016 will be a different type of election. Either Hillary wins or a centrist Conservative wins.

Either way that means more minority programs – education reform being the easiest to shake a stick at. That means more attention to these issues and over the next 2 terms more progress demanded. That takes us into the mid-2020s.

I often think “Where is the new CRM?”. With yesterday’s CRM we knew who the enemy was. Our opponent was clear.

How responsible and mature a culture do we have to be to recognize that the NEW opponent is ourselves?

21st Century Education in Florida: A Plan Without A Plan

It never ceases to amaze me of the strategic use of propaganda used by various governmental agencies to avoid the real issues hidden within their policies and statutes. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) has released its Educational Strategic Plan for 2012-2018. The FLDOE website page (FLDOE.org) containing information pertaining to its Strategic Plan gives viewers a link to an article posted on cavalierdaily.com entitled “A race towards better education: There is nothing discriminatory about Florida’s new educational reform program.”

Florida Sets Race Based Achievement Goals

Florida Sets Race Based Achievement Goals

The title alone begs this question, “Why is the FLDOE having to state the fact that their educational reform plan is NOT discriminatory and using an opinion post from an editor at the University of Virginia to support that ‘fact’?” The controversy stems from a recent Florida Board of Education change making the benchmarks for student achievement different based on race. Here’s an excerpt from the article the FLDOE posted on its site to defend their plan:

The program has received much criticism by those who say that expecting different levels of performance from students of different races is sending a poor message. Yet the negative responses and press that the program has received has slightly detracted from its long term goals. Granted, at a superficial first glance the program may seem condescending toward some minorities. Looking at its ultimate plans, though, one can see that the program does not necessarily deserve such disapproving reactions.



People who do not fully understand the program may be upset by it. And such people would have valid points if only the program’s short term goals are considered. According to the program, 90 percent of Asian students will hopefully be reading at grade level by 2018. On the other hand, only 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students are expected to be reading at grade level by then. If those statistics were the extent of the program, critics would be much more vindicated. Their current assertion that all students should be held to the same standards is completely appropriate. Expecting less from blacks or Hispanics than from Asians would indeed be demeaning to those races, as it implies that they have a lower capacity for intellectual success. But paying attention to solely the 2018 goals would be realizing only half of the state’s agenda.

What are the long term goals of this plan you ask? Let me reference the opinion article used by the FLDOE. “If this new educational reform is successful, all students will have grade-level reading and math skills by 2023.”

That’s the big goal?! You simply pushed back the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) goal of 100% proficiency by all students in reading and math from 2014 to 2023. In essence, the NCLB goal was extended 9 years. Where’s the strategy for this strategic plan? It appears that the Florida Board of Education decided to focus on the racial demographic subgroup data. The FLDOE defends this strategic use of data in the article stating, “Expecting students of every race to reach grade-level proficiency at an equal rate would be to ignore the current statistics regarding academic achievement by race.” The academic achievement statistics by race display a frightening gap in student learning. Current grade level reading percentages in Florida show Asian students at 76 percent, White students at 69 percent, Hispanic students at 53 percent, and Black students at 38 percent.

With this gap so pronounced and disturbing, the article used by the FLDOE follows up by proclaiming, “it would be unrealistic to expect each demographic to achieve reading proficiency at the same time.” I simply cannot ignore the elephant in the room here! If the state believes it is unrealistic to expect each demographic group to achieve reading proficiency at the same time, then how can the ultimate goal be that all students (includes all races) be at 100% reading and math proficiency by 2023?! Will the lower performing races magically catch up and close the gap because the deadline has been extended? That cannot be the plan. There must be a strategic plan; after all, this is the Strategic Plan! The opinion article used as propaganda by the FLDOE goes on to state, “Only by clearly pointing out the differences across races can a concrete plan be formulated.” Wait? Am I reading this correctly? There is no plan yet? Only by using racial data can a concrete plan be created? This next excerpt from the article, I must prepare you for… CONTRIDICTION COMING SOON!

True, it was perhaps not necessary to place students into groups by race. Florida could have instead grouped students together by levels of reading, math or test performances and focused on clusters that showed similarly low proficiency levels. The fact that they chose to group by race, though, does not mean that people should now look at particular races as being more inept at school.

In my best John Stewart voice, “Then why did they use race?” According to the article, “Using ethnicities to plan academic improvements is simply a way to group students while formulating a plan.” We know the 2023 goal of the Strategic Plan. We know the data used to show the need for the Strategic Plan. We know that there is not yet a specific plan. The shocker is that one of the closing statements of the article used by the FLDOE states, “Different approaches will not be taken for different races, and all students will receive the help that they individually need.” I am currently in my 10th year of public education in the state of Florida, and I know for a fact that differentiated data is used to help develop differentiated instruction.

As a practitioner in the Florida public education system, I have some pointed questions:

  1. Why did the FLDOE decide to use racial demographic data to show the learning gap when other demographic data is available?
  2. Why did the FLDOE choose to use an article on their Strategic Plan website in the Learn More section that clearly disfigures their Strategic Plan starting with the title?
  3. Why did the FLDOE release a Strategic Plan without actually having a plan?
  4. If what has been done so far has exhibited such a gap between the races in student achievement, why would the FLDOE not use a different approach for different races?

Let me be clear, my problem is not the use of racial data. My problem is the lack of a plan that will effectively attack the racial demographic statistics. I also take issue with the setting of differentiated goals based on race that must be reached by the same deadline without a different approach in place for the lower performing races. It is time for Florida to take a political step back and start using common sense when it comes to educating our young people. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have caused uproars throughout the state level educational systems all over the United States because of their panacea like approaches to educational reform. This FLDOE Strategic Plan attempts to use differentiated data; however, it lacks a differentiated plan of attack. My experience in school reform has been the common sense approach of asking these simple questions:

  1. Where does the data show that my students are not proficiently performing?
  2. What educational strategies will best fit to increase student achievement for my students?
  3. How can I make sure that all of my teachers become experts at those strategies?
  4. How will the use of those strategies be monitored with fidelity?

This system has not failed me yet. With the help of my team, we were able to increase the reading scores of our high school lower quartile students by 33% in one year. Increasing from 34% to 67% proficiency! We also increased the overall reading proficiency of 9th and 10th grade students by 19% in that same year. This was accomplished at a bottom 5% high school in the state of Florida. Common sense and a student centered approach will always work.

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Do the Bush Tax Cuts expiring mean anything to you?

It is clear in the tone of this interview that House Speaker Boehner is not as interested in solving our nation’s debt problems as he is in stroking his party’s ego. To an extent I get it, but we’re running out of time for this foolishness. $1 of revenue increases for every $2.5 in cuts works for me – why not Boehner?

 Boehner: 'Fiscal cliff' talks going 'nowhere'

Boehner: ‘Fiscal cliff’ talks going ‘nowhere’

We can’t afford extending ANY tax rates that have proven to not only be ineffective but continue to be a drag on the deficit.

It a much easier (and doper) proposition to decouple higher-income ($250,000+) tax cuts from the remaining 98% of Americans tax cuts who continue to show a motivation to spend.

The markets have already shown a tendency to respond negatively to the possibility of the proposed draconian cuts. Let’s sure up the financial markets by being mature about the approach and separate middle-class tax cuts from “Small Business Stimulus” (which is what the Bush Tax Cuts are). Once more, they are actually unrelated to one another in that small business owners don’t have the same tax concerns OR burdens as the common man. The tax considerations that actually do overlap are accounted for the existing middle-class cuts.

Do the Bush Tax Cuts expiring mean anything to you? Keep in mind payroll taxes WILL be increasing starting January 1. That means, unless you own your own business and aren’t paying employees your check WILL be decreased by like $50… or more.

But back to Boehner. I understood him to be quite the congressman prior to his new position. Quick on his feet, willing to play… strong voice with his base and could weild the G.O.P. sword like the best of them… But ever since the Tea Party and their “fiscal responibility/intolerance” has came into the picture he has become less and less effective.

I get it though, as his colleagues expand so must his considerations when working with them. Where you had a couple hundred congressmen that simply didn’t prefer liberal ideas you now have a solid 100 of those same seat with NO inclination to govern effectively. Their goal: obstruction. Which is the posture of adults who have no negotiating skills. Similar to a 5-year who is backed into a corner on being wrong on an issue simply opts to pout and resort to being a contrarian. No willingness to solve the problem. No willingness to be accountable. Just contrarianism.

Wait, and why are we talking about “Bush” anything? I thought we were done with that era. This is Obama’s economy, right?

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