Nate Parker: A Biased Woman and “Birth of a Nation”

I read 6 articles and 23 Facebook posts before posting my own status about my position on the Nate Parker rape controversy. I wanted to be well informed. Women on my timeline were angry and dismissive. Others were silent. It was clear to me that in social media land, very few people shared my position.

My post read: “I will continue to stand with and support those working to end rape culture by challenging and changing social norms that have silenced women and men who have been violated throughout history. However, I WILL be supporting the film “Birth of A Nation” and I am interested in the evolution of Mr. Parker’s social consciousness and perceived responsibility. I also believe there are entities involved with intentionally triggering women (of which, 84% have been date raped) and puppeteering the media by escalating this controversy now. I am open to publicly discussing my perspective on this.”

Many women, especially those who have been raped are biased in the matter. Their thought-pieces and social media posts are layered with the hurt of their personal experiences and cultural norms which have been silencing women throughout history. These women have been sharing their personal stories to dismantle rape culture and advocate for women’s rights and healing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work they’re doing and I believe it will impact the future for girls and even boys, in a progressive way.

However, I just couldn’t get on board with the “bash Nate and boycott ‘Birth of a Nation’” arguments and I’ve concluded that my perspective is also based on biases.

First, I’m biased because I’m a filmmaker who has celebrated the making of the film, its debut at Sundance, and its theatrical distribution deal. I sat on panels speaking about #OscarsSoWhite and the need for additional narratives. When I learned of Nate leveraging his work as an actor to create the film, I was ecstatic! The title, was especially provoking because the original film is held as such a staple in film history and I believe the new “Birth of A Nation” will become mandatory viewing alongside the racist 1912 original. So, yes, I am biased. As a black woman filmmaker in the United States, who believes most studio films misrepresent blacks in history, I want this film to succeed.

My bias also reaches back to 1999, the year Nate Parker was accused of rape. At that time, it was common folklore that a woman who got too drunk at a party might be taken advantage of. It was also common for other women to look out for one another if one of their homegirls went a little over board. For girls, drinking and conduct was taught like drinking and driving. At that time, the slogan was “no, means no.” So, in 1999, prior to terms like “rape culture” dangling in the mainstream, I’m not surprised that a man (who was also drunk), would assume participation, without verbal rejection, meant consent.

I’m not dismissing or condoning the acts that occurred. But, I am willing to acknowledge the cultural shift that has happened since 1999. Because of the hard work of trail blazers who are sharing their stories, organizations that are raising awareness and disgusting histories like Bill Cosby’s coming to the forefront, we are all more aware and able to better articulate the boundaries of consent, especially when involving inebriation.

In bias, I am still looking forward to seeing the film, even if I’m the only one in the theater.