I wanted the full experience, so I went to go see The Birth of a Nation (2016) in a black neighborhood. That in and of itself was actually pretty entertaining. For starters, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people browsing their sailfoams during a movie. There was always extra light emanating from somewhere in the theater. Black people are also extremely loud, so loud in fact that an employee, also black, had to come in and tell people to be quiet during the movie. Several times. She had to argue with them to get their compliance, and they always made sure to get the last word in. But to be fair, silence must have really been challenging for them. There were so many scenes that the director deliberately set up to provoke a reaction that the dindus couldn’t help but ook and eek every time a slave was mistreated or a White person got a hatchet to the face.
While Django Unchained (2012) was pure revenge gorn and 12 Years a Slave (2013) was more interested in depicting the injustices of slavery, this year’s episode of Sambo Wars was decisively more inflammatory and ideologically angry. Which makes sense given 1.) the film’s black director is an interracial rapist, 2.) the march of progress in the current year means 2016 will always be more left than 2013, 3.) the subject material was a race war.
I don’t want to get too bogged down into writing about historical accuracy or looking for a deeper meaning to the movie, because the former matters little to the audience and the latter doesn’t really exist for a movie this telegraphed. I’m going to focus on the movie itself here—not so much the context around it—and what it means for White nationalists. I’m also going to talk about some stuff I found hilarious that was of course not meant to be.
So for starters, the movie implies Nat was born in Africa and shows him as a young child participating in an ooga booga ritual where a bunch of obese black women covered in white powder are sitting in a circle around him and chanting. A shaman speaks an African language to young Nat, telling him that because of his birthmarks, he is destined to become a courageous leader or something. Nat was always destined to be kangz.
Cut to the antebellum South. Young Nat is a slave on a picturesque plantation and lives with both parents and his grandmother in a shack. He steals a book off the manor porch when the master’s wife and son go back inside one day, and teaches himself to read.
After meeting Nat’s family we get a scene that, while I disagree with its message, does an excellent job of anachronistically transposing the Black Lives Matter myth of arbitrary White policing of black bodies to antebellum South. Nat’s father is walking along a road at night by himself when he is stopped by three armed White men on horseback—a slave patrol, but in the context of the current year, a stand-in for the police. Stop me if you’ve heard this one already. One of them dismounts and demands to see his pass, because slaves are not allowed off plantations without them. Nat’s father produces a scrap of paper—unclear if it is valid or not—and one of the men takes it but rejects it. They tell him to get on his knees and one of them points a gun at dindu nuffins, because obviously you kill expensive property execution style for being caught without a pass as opposed to returning it to its owners.
But then Nat’s father goes full groid, taking the patrolman’s gun and shooting one of the mounted ones in the head. He then flees into the woods and back to his family’s shack on the plantation, with just enough time to give them food he has stolen from somewhere—which they stow under the floorboards—before he flees the shack never to return. Truly father of the year. Immediately afterward, the surviving patrolmen reach the shack and demand answers from his family, who insist that they know nuffin ’bout where he at. Criminal activity is fine because we wuz slaves, and the police have always been out to get us.
I won’t go through the entire movie scene by scene, but the beginning really does set the tone. White slaveholders are the obvious villains, and Nat is the hero who will resist them, born to a line of kangz and fighters. The rest of the film shifts from anachronistic dogwhistles about kangz and cops to presenting a postcolonialism-critical theory narrative of Nat Turner as the colonized man, the subaltern. The above-average slave is trained to serve his White masters but never to leave his place in the hierarchy, because he is of a different racial caste. This increases the elite minority’s reliance on the subaltern, because he takes on roles of increasing economic or social importance, as we shall see. But it also produces resentment and moral justification for overthrowing the established order, as we shall also see. And again, while I disagree with the film’s message and it is historically incorrect, it is communicated very effectively.
Nat’s journey to renegade subaltern begins when the master’s wife becomes aware that he knows how to read, and has him brought into the house for reading lessons. She shows him a room stocked with books, but when he reaches for one of the shelves, she tells him that those books are “for White people only.” One can only presume what a Southern planter would have in his library, most likely classical Greek and Roman republican philosophy and history, English history, perhaps some natural science, etc. Instead, she gives him the Bible, the world’s most famous Semitic text. The irony of Christianity’s duplicity of values will be played straight throughout the remainder of the film—that for every verse supporting something there is one condemning it.
Nat’s instruction is cut short as the master passes away, and his new master sees fit to have him pick cotton rather than study scripture, showing just how arbitrary the life of a slave is and how little control he has over anything. Nat spends the rest of his adolescence picking cotton, but as an adult his literacy becomes useful one more, as the chaplain of sorts of the plantation. He is able to read the Bible to the other slaves and preach to them, which has its uses so long as one preaches the appropriate message.
This is then put towards the acquisition of shekels for his master, who rents Nat out to other slaveholders so he can preach to them about serving their master and being slaves. But other slaveholders are not as genteel as the Turners, and they treat their slaves very brutally, which Nat had never quite seen before. He begins to conceive of the world and the dindu’s place in it vis-à-vis the White man differently.
The final straws of the master-slave relationship occur on Nat’s home plantation, where he learns he really isn’t any better than the dindus elsewhere so long as they all live under the same system. One night, the Turners are entertaining guests and one of them requests a female slave to essentially rape, which naturally upsets Nat and the slave woman’s husband. Nat’s master has to agree to the request, since his plantation is failing and he needs to maintain good relations with his neighbors for business purposes, even though this greatly perturbs his slave labor force.
Another crucial event is a debate over the Christian faith. Nat baptizes a White vagabond on the Turners’ property, which is of course extremely embarassing. Nat later engages in verbal debate with the local White minister, and both are able to quote scripture supporting or opposing slavery. Nat gets louder and more aggressive until finally he is beaten, put in stocks, and then whipped. After this, he is resolved to start a race war against all Whites.
One of my favorite characters, in terms of what he represents, is the house negro—Nat’s foil and a pale-skinned mulatto (or quadroon) who is always by his master. When he catches word of the rebellion Nat is planning, he demands he call it off, lest they all be killed by the Whites. It was very wise of him. And after the master and his family are murdered by Nat’s posse, the quadroon comes out and scolds Nat and his followers, telling them that everyone is doomed. The audience did not like this character. He is the subaltern who remains loyal to the imperialists, unlike Nat who leads the colonial revolt. That is too collegiate of an analysis though. Instead, the theater chatter revolved around how he was “lightskin” and couldn’t be trusted.
But it wasn’t the quadroon that did Nat Turner’s rebellion in. It was that he was a stupid dindu. After massacring several plantation families, Nat’s rebels are finally cornered by a White militia, who they somehow manage to defeat, though taking heavy casualties. Immediately following, the US Army arrives, complete with cannons and flags waving, to blow away the dindus. What did they think was going to happen anyway?
Nat survives for a few months living on the lam. But he finds out from his wife that the Whites are summarily executing black men and demanding he turn himself in. So he finally does, and is publically hanged before a mixed race audience, complete with American flags waving and uniformed officers of the military in attendence. One of the young dindus in attendence grows up to be a black Union soldier fighting the Confederacy.
So America oppresses blacks, but it also gives them the tools of liberation. Ditto Christianity. That’s the message. It is a postcolonial narrative applied anachronistically and inacurrately to the slaveholding South—which was primarily “liberated” by White Union soldiers. There were no massive google uprisings. There was no storming of the plantations by black troops. They were auxilliaries at best, and Lincoln had wanted to deport them originally until he realized what thousands in the South already knew, that blacks were free manpower if you fed and clothed them.
But what was interesting to me about this film as a White nationalist was how atomized the White planters were. Each family had its own manor, isolated from those of the other families, barely even knowing who their neighbors were or where they lived. The Whites of Southampton hardly knew those down the road. They were set up to fail in the event of a slave uprising, if they had to fight it themselves. Nat Turner—who had traveled among the plantations and evangelized to his race across the boundaries of geography—was able to wipe out several plantation families before the government could finally put him down.
The White planters also relied much too heavily on the slaves for economic security, to the point where they had to take actions which jeopardized their own fragile authority over the slaves—having one read the Bible to the others, letting guests rape your female slaves, etc.—in order to maintain their own plantations, a fundamental contradiction. And master Turner was also a indolent alcoholic.
In other words, if you are going to be a degenerate, you will lose to these people. One cannot be a narrow-minded materialist either. I left the theater realizing that we essentially need some form of fascism. We can’t be atomized, profit-maximizing materialists like the slaveholders were. The Southern planters—for a time—had the government on their side. But today, those of us who live among the ruins cannot afford to be so degenerate, lazy, and narrow-minded. We are surrounded by people intent on conquering what we have and they have all the (((moral justification))) they need to do it, the product of decades of anti-white evangelizing.
The subalterns are not happy. Integration of a people who cannot achieve parity was a mistake at best, and a crime at worst. Bolstering their numbers through mass immigration (and even creating new underpeforming colored minorities on our soil such as mestizos) didn’t help either. And who can forget history’s most infamous subalterns, the overseas Israelis, who held a variety of mercantile and administrative posts throughout the history of feudal and early modern Europe but never rule itself, which today has produced one of the most hostile outgroups in our midst that there is. Politically they almost always ally themselves with other aggrieved people of color, and indeed helped to fund this movie. (((Jason Michael Berman))) produced it while (((Steven Rosenblum))) edited it.
You should look upon the current zeitgeist with a sense of dread, but also of purpose. There is a reason the current year’s Birth of a Nation is about killing White people to overthrow order while last century’s was quite different. How we will respond to that wider societal context is something one must have an answer for, lest he be swept aside like the Gaul or eventually even the Roman himself.