August 31, 2016

Category: Real Talk

Nate Parker: When Black Power Meets Rape Culture

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Ah Nate Parker. This has been extremely challenging for me to process. I wasn’t so much disappointed by the news of his rape case as I was offended. Nate Parker has disappointed me in the past with other choices and comments he’s made, but not this. And his recent comments were almost more offending than the incident itself because it showed that 17 years later this dude had convinced himself that he had done nothing wrong and that by being someone’s father and husband absolved him of any accountability. That was reprehensible. He didn’t own up to any of it. I think his blasé attitude helped spark a slew of responses that frame Nate as the victim. Comments like, “We all have our flaws and have made mistakes” kept popping up in my timeline on Twitter and once on Facebook. Let’s be clear, rape, sexual assault, and inviting your friends to run a train on an 18-year old is not a mistake. A mistake is cc’ing someone that should’ve been bcc’d. At the every least, this was a young man and his friends taking sexual advantage of an even younger woman who by everyone’s accounts involved had been drinking. At worse, this was rape. He was acquitted. Yes, and so was George Zimmerman. If you can’t say he raped her, I hope that you can at least form your lips to say he and his friend, (who was initially convicted and serves as co-writer of Birth Of A Nation), were dead ass wrong. We need to talk about rape culture and the many ways in which it manifests especially on college campuses. If Nate had some informed, social change seeking community-minded people in his corner and on his payroll they would come up with an engagement initiative and tour college campuses talking about sexual abuse, harassment and rape especially since rape figures so prominently in Nat Turner’s life and in this film (he is a product of rape and his wife Cherry was also raped and “their” child was not Nat’s, but the slave owners). For so many girls and young women who are raped on campus and in their homes, their experience may not resemble the horrifyingly vicious and brutal act that will surely be portrayed in “BOAN,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rape and it surely doesn’t mean Nate is off the hook from doing the work of owning his role in promoting rape culture.

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And while I’m in full-blown rant, let me add, that we, us Black grrrls, are not doing anything we haven’t done before. We have demanded boycotts of white folks and other trifling Black men and women who have participated in the subjugation, exploitation, and dehumanization of Black people. Nate Parker is hardly the first. Even though folks still attend R. Kelly concerts that doesn’t mean there have not been massive calls to not support his tours or buy his records because there have been. When Matt Damon said that shit about the irrelevance of Black people working behind the cameras in Hollywood, Black bloggers and media went crazy asking folks not to see The Martian. When Zoe Saldana felt like she could play Nina Simone with dark make-up and a prosthetic nose the massive stood up and demanded we not support her flick (and thank God we didn’t). Two years ago when Black Lives Matter petitioned folks to not shop at Macys on Thanksgiving weekend to flex our economic power and show that Black lives matter as much as our dollars we had die-ins and marched on Black Friday. Nate is just the next to get it, not the first, surely not the last, and not by any stretch of the imagination is this “a singular lynching” as I have seen it referred to on Facebook. Interesting to me, that whenever other Black women call out Black men for being sexually exploitative then it is a “lynching” (Clarence Thomas, anyone). Like lynching was only relegated to Black men and that being held accountable by Black women for sexual harassment or rape is akin to us publicly tying you by the neck to a tree and letting you hang to death because of some ill conceived and unjust bias. Really dudes? In the name of our ancestors, please stop that insane Black patriarchal bullshit now!

Like many people, I did wonder why this news didn’t come out earlier in Nate’s career, but then I thought about Gina Prince Bythewood and how this news would’ve surely cost her a distribution deal and would’ve added to the many challenges she already had in selling a love story with two Black leads. And with that realization I cared less and less about some c-o-n-spiracy to dismantle BOAN. The thought of her, a Black woman director, having to carry the burden of Nate’s sex crimes on her back while trying to make her own film dreams a reality makes me shutter. I thank God that it has come out now so he is forced to carry his own cross.

I will admit though that one of the first people I thought about when this news came to light was my comrade Aunjanue Ellis who had mentioned to me this film and her role in it (she plays Turner’s mama) a little over a year ago. She’s been excited about this film (as was/am I) and now this. I will go see the movie to support HER. But please know that whenever I talk about the film I will always employ a few hashtags in my discussion like #BelikeNatNotLikeNate and #LovetheFilmHatetheRapist. When I read the phone transcripts between Nate and the woman, who has since committed suicide, it made certain things clear to me, but still, here in the aftermath of what was going to be a full fledged moment of celebrating radical storytelling and filmmaking, there’s a smudge that has left me more subdued and disgusted than anything else.

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