On January 30, the creator of The Boondocks, Aaron McGruder, began seeking $200,000 through Kickstarter to fund his Uncle Ruckus movie. As one of the more controversial figures from The Boondocks, Uncle Ruckus – an African-American – has a narrative that revolves completely around his hatred of his own people. The fact that people did not feel strongly enough to contribute to its production actually increases my faith in society. However, the fact that it was even attempted by McGruder, someone who is, in my estimation, an otherwise socially-aware person, baffles me. Either McGruder is, in contrast to my opinion, painfully unaware, or he is for all intents and purposes an Uncle Tom – someone who is “a participant in the oppression of their own group.”
An excerpt from the campaign page: “If you’re not familiar with Uncle Ruckus, it’s difficult to even describe him without violating Kickstarter’s hate speech policy.” Well, because I’m not sure what PolicyMic’s hate speech policy is, allow me to show you one of Ruckus’ monologues:
The images of Uncle Ruckus inside of a courtroom, holding a noose no less, screaming “that N*gga is guilty” are unequivocally oppressive. These images contribute to maintaining the black stereotypes at a time when African-Americans are still fighting for equality. I refuse to hyperlink any of the words in that last sentence because if you don’t believe that the struggle for equality is an ongoing movement, then you should probably read something else. Anything else.
Cord Jefferson, a well-respected social commentator writing for Gawker, in all of his eloquence detailed what he called The Django Moment. This experience was signified by being in a movie theater filled with white people, and having to endure their laughs during racially insensitive moments. He writes:
"My personal Django Moment came when an Australian slaver, played by Tarantino himself, haphazardly threw a bag full of dynamite into a cage of captive blacks before mocking their very real fear that they might be exploded to nothingness. A white man behind me let out a quick trumpet blast of a guffaw, and then fell silent. My face got hot, and my nephew, who was sitting at my right, shifted uncomfortably in his seat."
Why Uncle Ruckus, a usually peripheral figure, was chosen to be the sole Boondocks character in the show’s first movie spin-off – the campaign page says that the story “will not involve any of the regular BOONDOCKS characters…” – is beyond me. Leaving the main characters out of the movie, and thus making Uncle Ruckus the singular character, essentially places the bigoted opinions he espouses in a vacuum. Uncle Ruckus’ character does not work inside of a vacuum. Leaving out the multiplicity of dimensions the rest of the characters afford the scripting, it turns into a racially divisive show — and by extension movie — that serves to perpetuate the stereotypes that are already prevalent within our society. If Uncle Ruckus serves as commentary or a criticism of a specific type of person, the satire is rather impossible to pick up without the presence of the characters on the show that serve to put Ruckus’ character in perspective. Aaron McGruber must recognize this fact. Apparently, due to the $70,000 the campaign fell short, other people already have.
If this movie had been made (and I refuse to rule out the possibility that it someday will be) there surely would have been Uncle Ruckus Moments, plenty of them in fact. The main difference between them and Django Moments is that the Uncle Ruckus movie would have been written by a black guy. Among my many issues with the movie, this one pains me deepest. For a black man, regardless of his life experiences, to literally create these moments is unfathomable to me. Dave Chappelle did the same thing, and I did not agree with him then. Eventually, Chappelle came to disagree with himself, leading him to turn his back on a $50 million deal to continue his racial goading.
Shortly after his return from Africa, Chappelle was the subject of an Inside The Actors Studio interview. His responses to James Lipton are telling. Beyond his admission of feeling guilt over his repeated use of the N-word, Chappelle reveals the most about his reason for leaving the show in his updated rendition of one of his most memorable characters, Clayton Bigsby.
Mr. Bigsby was a blind black man who was a prominent member of the KKK, obviously espousing the same self-hatred that is synonymous with Uncle Ruckus. At the end of his run on the show, Mr. Bigsby discovers that he is actually African-American. When Lipton asks to have a hypothetical, interview with Bigsby post black discovery, the audience gets a markedly different character. Instead of the racist man that was expected, we get a character that has found peace in his pigments — “Now I have tasted brown sugar, and I will never go back” Chappelle also seems to become uncomfortable when asked if Mr. Bigsby missed “the warmth of cross-burnings.” His answer eventually comes back around to a praising of black culture: “It's actually much better hanging out with … people of color”.
It’s important to note that I do not blame white, Asian, or Latino people for wanting to see an Uncle Ruckus movie – at all. It is human nature to laugh at other people’s circumstances. Obviously, I left African-Americans out. They should not have been drawn to see this, nor should they support its production. Why would you? Do the laughs make the racism worth it? The movie does not contribute to anything except cheap laughs. While for other races, that may be all the reason to spend the money on a ticket, for black people it would quite literally be a sell-out. Aaron McGruber hoped for an eventual sell-out when he started his Kickstarter campaign, as it turns out, the man himself sold-out as soon as it began.
In an interview with Vice Magazine, McGruder speaks about having some arbitrary line that he is mindful not to cross. What line could that possibly be? You can’t go much further than writing a character that calls for the lynching of a black man under trial. In the answer to the next question he concedes that there are people who are going to use the excuse of a character like Ruckus to continue their dislike of black people – he says the reaction is unavoidable. I argue that it is very avoidable; keep the character on the TV screen and outside it’s silver counterpart.