Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hustling, Flowing and Repairing Our Minds

A few weeks ago, I saw a sneak preview of Hustle and Flow and left the preview feeling the same way I did after seeing Denzel Washington's Oscar winning performance in Training Day: raving about the acting and sick to the stomach about its theme.

In case you haven't been on earth for the past two weeks, Hustle and Flow is a film that won accolades at the Sundance Film Festival about pimping in Memphis. Terence Howard, the lead actor gives an awesome performance as a Black Memphis pimp with the always good Taraji Henson in a mesmerizing performance as well. But this isn't a movie review. It is a partial deconstruction of how, as psychologist Wade Nobles says "Afrikans have been taught to drink generously of the vomit of white supremacy."

It is interesting to note that in a quick review of the reviews of the film, white critics are informally retitling the film "Craig Brewer's 'Hustle and Flow'". Craig Brewer is the film's director and is white. He is the deux ex machina of the film, the raison d'etre the hustler if you please, who sold the film for $9 million at Sundance and got it made. White critics are not calling this "John Singleton's 'Hustle and Flow'". John Singleton is the film's producer and is Black and received support for the film by Spike Lee as well. Stanley Crouch, whom I usually disagree with said that he was troubled by this fact alone, since Singleton and Lee are arguably the most influential Black directors in Hollywood.

In my book, Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2003) I write that reparations are not only about repairing the economic damage wrought by the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, but also attempting to heal the "Post-traumatic Slave Syndrome" that affects (infects?) most Afrikans in the Maafa. "Hustle and Flow" is an example of how white supremacy mixed with willing Black participants can create a witches brew that is toxic in Ourcommunities.

It is interesting that some of the most virulent criticism of the film has come from Afrikan women and directed toward Terence Howard (the lead actor and pimp in the film) because of his being married to a white woman in real life. Howard's main money maker ("investor" as he calls her in the film) is a trailer trash white girl who ultimately is responsible for his getting the necessary air play for the music he creates. In a white supremacist world that sees white women being its most valuable commodity, this is an appropriate ending for a film about "Black life" by a white director.

Like Monster's Ball, Hustle and Flow is a white man's fantasy of how the Afrikan world works. It demeans Blackwomen, laughs at Blackmen and once again elevates white trailer trash women as the key to a Blackman's success.

Perhaps all of us, especially artists, entertainers and athletes need to reread Langston Hughes' classic essay on the the obligation of the Afrikan artist to his/her community. Repairing our minds and understanding how white supremacy works are important tasks in the struggle for reparations...


  1. Anonymous9:23 AM

    I had the opportunity to see this movie. At most, all I can say is that slavery is still very much alive. From my view, there are at least three types of slavery that continue to destruct and destroy our people on a daily basis.

    Spiritual Slavery is where most people cannot view life beyond the bible and therefore are locked into spiritual slavery through religion.
    Second is Mental enslavement where some of our people are stuck at a nowhere point in their lives with the belief that they cannot do anything else. For whatever their reasons may be, I believe this type of character trait stems from white supremacy, systematic mental enslavement and most people do not recognize it as that.
    Third and last, is in relation to the Hustle & Flow movie mentioned here and many other movies of this type. Entertainment enslavement through all the booty shakin', half nude, women-cursin' videos, movies & music. If this stuff was not available for our innocent viewers ears and eyes, alot would be different. It's easy for one to say don't let your children and/or adolescents watch that stuff, but it's everywhere!!! It's everywhere you turn because it's Entertainment enslavement. Destroying what should otherwise be God and Goddess like images for the minds of our children. Who said slavery was over???

  2. Anonymous12:04 PM

    I am curious to see your take on the movie Four Brothers.