Tarantino has a simple commentary about slavery embedded in this movie.  That message, spoken by Waltz’s character, a German dentist turned bounty hunter is “I know Americans.” Indeed. Americans won’t remember a story unless it is coated in violence and schmaltz.

Knowing that Waltz also played a “Jew Hunter” in Inglorious Basterds helps to ingratiate the viewer in the space that Tarantino inhabits — playing with history to deconstruct history and the oppressors. Dr. Schultz is the trickster-teacher in the movie, the person who wants to use Django, but also respects his humanity. Using a German as Django’s sidekick is a sly aside to reinforce a point — no white American could get past their prejudice to assist blacks — even in the face of making money.

What does the epic Django Unchained say? Even though it is a re-imagined history of slavery, one point remains true: slavery was an evil, violent business. Black bodies were maimed and destroyed. Life was cheap. Those who had money and power ruled over all, black and white alike. Violence was at time the only way to get out of it slavery, along with guile.

The relentless violence on the screen of Django may be “amoral” as The Nation‘s Ari Melber points out, but it is an amorality that is in the warp and woof of our nations history.

As a person who teaches about slavery on a regular basis, I can tell you that many of the scenes of violence and torture were real. The chains, neck irons, the hot-box and whippings were only a few of the physical tortures inflicted on slaves. Focusing in on the violence, and the use of the n- word misses the point of what Tarantino is doing — mocking everyone watching this movie, or to use his terminology, he’s f**king with you all.

Tarantino has a moral code in the movie, and by making the bounty hunter German, and the slave owners all caricatures (with names like “Big Daddy”and “Candie”) Tarantino is needling Americans by making the only white person in the entire movie slightly moral a European. Every other white person in the movie is either a hick, crazy, or evil.  He’s also not letting black people off easy with his portrayal of slaves that are not able to advocate for themselves, and turn away from the violence done to others.

To have a plantation named Candieland in Mississippi with Samuel L. Jackson playing an evil, self hating version of Uncle Ruckus in the 19th century is brilliant.

Spike Lee is right; slavery was not a spaghetti western. It was a holocaust. I disagree, however with his assessment of Tarantino’s film.

When the nation cannot talk about the holocaust of slavery productively, recasting the story in our epic movie language can play a positive role.

I also do not presume to speak for my ancestors. That would be disrespectful. I do, however, want to at least remember their struggles.

Django Unchained may be a flawed, violent story of America’s history of slavery, but it is a movie that perhaps will spur curious moviegoers to examine their position to the reality of the violent history of slavery in our nation.