Tarantino has been telling our stories for years; he includes black people. Jackie Brown and even Pulp Fiction – I challenge you to find a black person who can’t quote Sam Jackson in that movie. Tell us something about Tarantino that maybe isn’t so obvious to us. Why do you think it’s so important that he includes us in his films?
RH:You know that white family who, when the neighborhood turns black, the white family can’t afford to move out? He was that family. He grew up around black people; he grew up immersed in black culture as well as white culture, and that was just part of his life. So when Quentin and I talk about movies, we saw the same movies. We both talked about our experiences watching Roots when we were a kid. You know the end of Roots where the white slave master’s tied to the post and the black man has the whip and then he goes, ‘Oh, I can’t beat you. That would lower me to your level’ …? I was a kid in East St. Louis, watching that screaming at the TV, ‘Oh, hell no!!!’ I have never seen John Wayne go, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that.’ John Wayne handles his business at the end of every movie. But somehow when the black man is at the end of the movie, the rules are different. And the fact is Quentin was in South Bay, California, screaming the same thing, having the same reaction! So for us, we have a black man beat a white slave master with his own whip, which, as far as I know, has never happened in the history of cinema. It’s like, Wow, we’re doing our jobs.
EBONY: Once this film is complete – are we supposed to have learned something? Or are we just supposed to walk away having seen some fun stuff happen on film?
RH: With House Party, when I originally made that movie I wanted to make a safe sex movie, but I wanted to hide the message so deeply within the entertainment that you would never perceive it as that. In my whole career I’ve been successful at entertaining people so thoroughly that they don’t feel a medicine-y aftertaste. Because the truth is every generation needs to hear the story of America’s original sin and that’s what slavery is. And I mean everyone, black and white. Our Jewish brothers and sisters do a great job telling the story of the Holocaust over and over again and that’s a painful story, but they know, for themselves and for all of humanity, we have to remind ourselves what we’re capable of as a people, and we have to tell this story and we have to tell it over and over. We have to find new ways and new perspectives on that story so that we never forget. Because if you don’t remember your past, you’re doomed to repeat it.