i could write about my stance on Nate Parker as an artist. whether or not a boycott of his film is in order. or whether or not i believe him to be a rapist. but honestly, those aren’t the questions i’m interested in answering. or even could.
why is it, because i’m a woman of color, i have to choose between being a responsible black person OR honoring victims of sexual assault? why am i, once again, standing at the intersection of my identity, expected to righteously juggle opposing dualities, and arrive at a conclusion that will maintain everyones comfort levels but my own?
because of who i am and the experiences i’ve had, i am triggered all over by this story. by Nate Parker’s statements, then and now. by the dismissal of the victim’s pain by some. by a story of a white woman accusing a black man of rape, considering the troubling historical connotations dating back to America’s inception. by the jump to conspiracy theories claiming this is nothing more than another attempt to take a successful black man down in his prime. and by the eagerness of some to vilify this man, almost as if they’ve been awaiting the chance. but especially, i’m triggered by the contradictory stances on whether or not to believe a victim based on the perpetrator’s (or the victim’s) race.
i am inclined to acutely examine ANY presumptions based on personal pain — whether based on racial or sexual trauma.
i have been excited to see Nat Turner’s story told thru what i understand to be an exceptional film for months. but because of who i am, the work i do, the things i believe, and the causes i champion — i have to ask myself questions before i do.
like, if this had been Tom Hanks’ past revealed, would i still watch You’ve Got Mail every chance i get? how about Luther? i fucking LOVE that show, and Idris Elba because of it. would i run to a theater to see a movie made by and starring Brock Turner? even if he was a respected and talented actor whose performances i love, telling a necessary American story, instead of an entitled piece-of-shit college swimmer?
would i revere 12 Years a Slave as the impeccable film it is and celebrate it’s incredible box office success if a similar story were uncovered about Steve McQueen or Chiwetel Ejifor? i’m inclined to think i would, having received the information after the fact and appreciating the film as separate from it’s creators. but would i watch it again? (i mean, who could even watch that movie more than once anyway, right? i almost died i cried so hard.)
i know…pretty provocative of me to pose such questions. but this is me being honest with myself. taking a second to truly examine the reasons for my feelings and what they mean for the choices i make. i also have to consider the weight i put in… a movie. i mean, right? am i so desperate for representation and historical context that reflects my feelings on any given day, having to hear constant stories of the dehumanization of black bodies, that whether or not a movie does well determines my visibility and worth?
am i to make concessions in one case over another simply based on varying parts of the accused’s identity? is he a movie star? a talented athlete? a loved one?
how worthy would i feel watching this story, no matter how fantastic and compelling, if the hero of said story reminded me of what it must’ve been like for that young woman to be inundated with the image of the man she believed to be her predator?
is the idea that a boycott of a movie in a response to sexual violence more of an insult than a show of support to victims? as if their pain could be healed by my refusal to pay $12 to inhale popcorn for two hours. or is it a welcomed and strategic move to take some ounce of power back?
again, just asking honest questions, folks. here’s the truth i’ve come to so far: i wouldn’t be honoring MYSELF — pardoning my “responsibility” to my race or gender — if i dismissed ANY accusation of sexual violence or any victim’s pain. guilty verdict or not. even considering my experience with the wrongly accused. even considering my understanding of the power of telling important historical black stories. i simply will not meet any legitimate allegation of rape or sexual violence with anything other than the deepest empathy and compassion.
and yes, even if that means a black man’s reputation and/or freedom is compromised.
and yes, i say this as a lover and supporter of black men who has carried their pain — whether inflicted by or whose burdens i’ve shared — on my innately heavy shoulders all my life. with love.
and yes, as a survivor whose predator was a white man.
and yes, as someone who’s been privy to the wrongful accusation against a man in the prime of his life and the destruction of his spirit and well-being because of it. (although, i must point out, he recovered and even thrived. an oftentimes grave difference between victims and — wrongly or not — alleged perpetrators worth pointing out.)
i most likely will not see Birth of a Nation. but it’s not because of some hashtag or an assertion of my buying power or any other largely systematic reason. or because i’m unable to separate an artist’s personal life from their art. honestly, i’m still thoughtfully navigating all that. i’m still figuring out my feelings on whether or not a film’s necessity trumps it’s creator’s questionable character. or if that’s even the question on the table or my responsibility to answer.
my very personal reason is this: because i empathize too deeply with even the slightest possibility of what it would feel like to watch my own predator’s face on screen for two hours.
i will most likely follow the film’s success because i’m in the biz and these things interest me. i won’t stop loving a friend because they choose to see it. and i can say for sure that i will not start vetting the pasts of every project’s cast and crew before enjoying their work. because, well, laziness and my desire to live my life.
in this moment, this is how i feel. i reserve the right to alter those feelings any way i please. because of my responsibility to myself. not because of some imposed duty to my gender or race, but for me. with heavy consideration of the voiceless. because i’ve been that. and it’s affected my life more than any other sliver of my identity.
so instead of looking at this as a boycott or not situation, or whether or not to hate Nate Parker (i don’t), maybe ask yourself what role you play in the perpetuation of sexual violence in this country and the treatment of it’s victims. how are your viewpoints affecting those who’ve been silenced because of our discomfort and inability to accept horrible truths about the people we admire or even love? how are things like product advertising, mainstream media, and popular culture shaping our dehumanization and hyper-sexualization of women? turning us into hypocrites.
i’m not saying that once you’ve examined the available facts of this particular case you should come to any certain conclusion. or that you should examine them at all. i am saying that society in general is quick to jump to varying standpoints, oftentimes at the expense of victims who are desperately seeking justice, to heal, and to move on. and THAT is worth examination. not to mention extreme reprograming and restructuring of our ideas surrounding consent, masculinity, and this incredibly biased justice system.
just my two cents colored with sadness and hurt and a bit of confusion. i’d love to hear your thoughts.
be well, friends. wishing you all peaceful spirits and self-care for daaays.