“Where do you stand?”
A dear friend of mine posed this question to his “strong black sistahs” regarding his conflicting thoughts on supporting Nate Parker’s now highly controversial film, “The Birth of a Nation.”
The film documents the events that lead to Nat Turner’s 1831 revolt against his and other slave owners in Virginia. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Centre County Court documents the murky events that lead to an acquittal of rape on behalf of the film’s creator, Nate Parker.
This poses a conflict for many African Americans. For some, seeing the film means supporting a man who denies sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. For others, not seeing it means supporting the tactics and strategies of Hollywood insiders who consistently deny African Americans the opportunity to share our truth on the big screen.
As a strong black woman, I refuse to purposely jeopardize the success of a strong black man’s (or woman’s) plight toward positive change based on his/her poor decision made as a teenager. The Lord only knows the poorest decisions I’ve made; some of which were made far beyond 19.
As a survivor of childhood sexual assault by my father’s youngest brother and date rape, I understand the trauma associated with sex crimes. Still, as much as the actions of my molester helped to cultivate my early life of poor decisions and possibly lead me into the arms of revictimization, I can’t hold him accountable for my actions forever. The day either of my rapists writes an essay, not to mention a movie script, to convey the horrors of rape for the masses to try and understand, I’m supporting it. Whether either of them admits they raped me or not, is not a factor. I don’t need my rapists to confirm what I already know: they hurt me.
As an educator and student of creative non-fiction writing, I believe this is a film that needs to be supported. The impact of sexual assault on black women (and ultimately the black family) during slavery has not been lessened with time. The story can be researched and read, yes. But as much as I enjoy reading a well-written, non-fictional account of my history, I know that there are millions who prefer watching that same well-written account.
As the author of a critical thesis about writing literary scenes that convey the unrelenting impact of sexual assault and rape on its survivors, I stand with victims of abuse, survivors of abuse, and writers against abuse. I’m not big on movie theaters, but I will definitely support this film.
Those of you who do not support the messenger, I get it. It’s unfortunate that our people are constantly faced with such harsh decisions. It’s similar to the bashing of Bill Cosby. Fortunately for Blacks, Cosby’s actions ruined him after the masses heard his message. By bashing Nate Parker now, we bash his message (possibly of partial redress for the rape case) before it’s shared. Why shun a message that seems to illustrate why Blacks must STOP TALKING WITHOUT ACTION, STOP PRAYING WITHOUT ACTION, AND START STANDING UP AND FIGHTING against the injustices we are still facing today?
With all that being said, I have obviously reached a place where I can comfortably say that my pain will never outweigh the pain of my ancestors as a whole. I empathize for those who aren’t here yet, and will continue to pray for the healing for all involved in sex crimes.