This week, after weighing in on a heated debate and reading through too many disappointing and frustrating comments, I should just let it drop and move on to other less controversial issues, like Ryan Lochte. I am sure that nothing I said swayed any opinions. Yet my ego compels me to attempt the impossible...
I admit to not having read all of the requisite facts, but I have read various news accounts, am intelligent enough, and have lived long enough to have an informed opinion. And in my opinion based on what I have read and my own life experience: Nate Parker might not be a convicted rapist, but he is an asshole. (Note, I have used a lot of profanity in this piece, so continue to clutch your pearls.)
When an adult R. Kelly married then-15 year old singer Aaliyah and later urinated on a 13-year old child, he became forever in my mind, an asshole. Children cannot consent to sexual behavior with adults. R. Kelly is a talented man who has written some very inspirational music, but I will change the channel and/or leave the dance floor whenever one of his songs is played. I do not want to hear shit in terms of how these children in question were somehow responsible for what happened to them.
When Bill Cosby was accused by one woman of drugging and raping her, then another woman and then 40 other women, he is now and forever shall be in my mind an asshole. A drugged aspiring actress or unknown model is still a vulnerable woman who cannot give consent to sexual relations. His pioneering career, past philanthropy, and other good deeds are overshadowed by decades of alleged predatory behavior. I do not want to hear shit about the absence of a conviction despite multiple similar accusations.
So when Nate Parker has been accused, tried and acquitted of having raped a woman back in college, he is now an asshole as well. A woman who is intoxicated is not a willing sexual participant despite the fact that there had been a prior consensual sexual relationship. An intoxicated woman cannot consent to having sex with multiple partners. His current project is indeed important, as a film about the Nat Turner slave uprising is long overdue. But I do not want to hear shit about an acquittal being sufficient to justify supporting his work.
So to address some of the confusion, sexual violence is always one person's word against the word of another. Yes, there are historical implications when race is a factor. Yes, there are shades of gray.
I am not confused when it comes to the meaning and power of the word NO. So on behalf of my daughter, my nieces, my cousins, my sisters-in-law, my sisters from high school, college and law school, my sorors, every woman I know, and every other woman who has ever been the victim of sexual violence--NO, I will not support the work of an alleged rapist.
Cue the hypocrisy: Too many of the people who have used their social media platform to decry racial injustice appear to have a blind spot with respect to sexual violence. Some of these same righteously indignant folk have no criticism of a system that acquits Parker of violating the rights of this woman, yet issue forceful condemnations when that same system acquits police officers. Apples and oranges are still fruit.
I am not naive--the timing in illuminating Parker's past misdeeds has been fortuitous. Past allegations of rape involving black men and white women carry some very heavy historical baggage. His movie is called Birth of a Nation, and a film of the same name released 100 years ago centered on the theme of black men raping helpless white women during the Reconstruction era. The victim in Parker's rape case was white. Someone definitely intended to discredit him and the film before it even hits the theaters.
So I can accept that for some, there is a real dilemma in deciding whether to see this film. Does staying home feed the cynical racist trolls who thrive on perpetuating discord? Apparently, we were not paying attention when Parker's misdeeds were revealed years ago. Should important work suffer because the artist is an asshole?
I struggle with being an absolutist on this issue, so I will take the Solomon approach:
- For the record, I will not pay to see this film in the theater, but I will not condemn anyone else who decides otherwise because of its artistic and historical value. But I will request that right after you pay for your ticket, you make a donation to the Rape Crisis Center Hotline and urge others to do the same.
- Demand that Parker do more than just get better public relations. He needs to make amends to the family of the victim and even better, he needs to acknowledge how his actions ruined her life. All of this parsing of words to paint himself as a victim is insulting because the very nature of "running a train" on a woman (intoxicated or not) is just so beyond fucked up. But thanks to that lucrative distribution deal, he can start by writing a few checks...
- Those trolls who orchestrated this hit job? Assholes and cowards too. Come out in the open and admit that you could give a damn about protecting the virtue of women since you have yet to undermine a Woody Allen film or support the extradition of Roman Polanski.