Movies and the Printed Word

Someday we may try explain why a white couple from almost lily-white Iowa began specializing in African American material 43 years ago. In the meantime, we mention Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. That movie unfolds a series of adventures of Django, an African American slave, and King Schultz, his unusual, white, German-American, bounty-hunting savior/owner.

The strong, violence-drenched images in Django shows how helpless slaves were to resist a ruthless white society which uniformly treated them as sub-human creatures to be physically and sexually exploited, degraded and casually beaten, dismembered, sold, discarded or killed. Can one really watch the powerful images in a movie like this and fail to root for Django and Schultz as they improbably slaughter slave-owners and other whites?

Movie imagery has often promoted other agendas. White movie goers almost a century ago, inspired perhaps more powerfully in the nascent days of film making, turned. D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, into a financial bonanza as they cheered for the KKK for using terrorist tactics to defend white civilization and, more especially white women, from dangerous, out-of-control, sub-human creatures (otherwise known as African American men).

This is why the historical record is so important. Booksellers are not purveyors of the truth. We, for instance, willingly sell books, pamphlets, etc. representing a wide range of view points on race and racial matters even when we reject the truth that an item promotes. Item 735, for instance, supports African American inferiority partly by arguing that God created three races (Whites, Jews and Blacks) after Noah and the Flood. At the same time, we firmly believe that a free marketplace of ideas provides the best chance that truth will survive and perhaps even prevail. Of course, as booksellers who love the chase, we are always intrigued by something we've not seen before even when full of odious thinking.

In regard to the search for truth, we note Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Alexander's analysis may simplify or ignore economic and other causes besides racism for the explosion in the prison population, but she focuses attention on a disaster that is destroying the lives of millions of African Americans in ways paralleling parts of the old Jim Crow system. If you haven't read it, you should.

Phil and Sharon McBlain