Every Ni**** is a Star

The Black power movement from the sixties and seventies was all about embracing America’s past but also moving forward with the future, particularly with vocabulary. Terminology became a very important aspect to the Black power/empowerment movement because it was a grasp at identity formation– no longer settling for an identity given by a White “superior.” The evolution of word choice from nigger, to negro, to Black, to African American encompass that Blacks were working on embracing their skin color but not at the expense of a derogatory epithet.  With this, the n-word in the mid twentieth century became readapted by blacks but as a source self-determination. An embracing the n-word as a source of power and no longer degradation.

In Bamboozled when Delacroix is holding auditions for his minstrel show one of his auditionees gives a performance where the he ends his audition with singing “Niggers is a beautiful thing.” While this song is in many ways blatantly ridiculous and perhaps crass in nature, it also depending on the light you look at it, can be taken as a positive affirmation of black people. The man who is giving this audition looks to be in his late fifties, early sixties and most likely was young in a time when the n-word was being readopted by black to be used by black people as a positive word. Evidence of this seventies movement for blacks endorsing the n-word can been seen in Boris Gardiner’s 1973 song Every Nigger is a Star. Here Gardiner sings that black is beautiful, just with a word that many people take issue with depending on whose mouth it’s in. Lee’s use of this particular audition is meant to show the complexity of the word nigger and what it means to different people. When Dunwitty says it the audience of the film knows it is racist. When the old black man says it the audience is forced to question how bad of a word it really is. The n-word dilemma metaphorically speaks to the issue of a minstrel on TV because the show stars two black actors and is being produced by a black man.   Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.10.16 AM

The shots used in this scene are a back and forth between the old man and Delacroix and his assistants. Whenever the camera is on the old man though the New York Times Square-esq back drop is never shown. The shot is just the old man in his ill-fitting suit and purple hat. I think the purpose of eliminating the back drop from this scene is meant to show that what the old man is saying is applicable not just for the show but in general. Niggers is a beautiful thing is something that is true regardless if it used in the show or not– so it should not be taken in context of the show. The reason for the purple hat is to illustrate wisdom. While his performance at first may seem absurd, he in many ways has a large knowledge of theater and black people both with his affirmation song and his quoting of Shakespeare. The color purple is typically associated with wisdom and in this scene the old man might be the smartest/wisest person in the room.