In what may seem like another tone-deaf move by The Birth Of A Nation writer/director/actor, Variety is reporting that Nate Parker is “disappointed” by the lack of support he is getting from African-Americans since details about 1999 college rape allegations and a subsequent 2001 rape trial recently resurfaced.
Despite having defenders such as Rev. Al Sharpton and iconic actor and activist Harry Belafonte, the future of his Oscar-hopeful film is now up in the air with Black Twitter snatching his edges clean off, think pieces flowing on the Internet and high-profile screenings and Q&As being cancelled in places such as Los Angeles and Toronto.
As expected, this is taking a toll on Parker, a close source confirmed to the entertainment publication.
“[Parker] vacillates between thinking the case is resurfacing now after 17 years because of a Hollywood conspiracy against him or just bad luck. He’s disappointed over the backlash on social media and that the African-American online community hasn’t been more supportive. And he’s even mad at himself, for underestimating the public’s interest in a court case that happened so long ago,” they said.
Disappointed in us? Really? The absolute nerve.
Now regardless of whether one believes that Parker is innocent, a rapist who got away with it or that his past shouldn’t matter (especially when white directors can get away with raping women and young girls), it cannot be denied that it’s jarring to hear Parker underestimate African-Americans in such a way.
Ain’t we allowed to be concerned and even disgusted with these rape allegations, regardless of how old they are?
Did Parker really believe that folks wouldn’t take issue with him referring to an alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old freshman as a “very painful moment” in his life”? Or that folks would actually believe that the 36-year-old had no idea that the alleged victim killed herself in 2012?
Did Parker actually think that because of the past history of white women falsely accusing Black men of rape, that the entire African-American community would automatically be on his side because the alleged victim in his case was white? Or that we wouldn’t bother to read the transcripts of both the court testimony and taped telephone conversations? (Which by the way, please read them here and here. They are literally horrifying and paint the Beyond The Lights star in a damning and a predatorial light)
How dare not all of us co-sign on rape culture.
Better yet, was Parker really surprised that folks raised their eyebrows after finding out that his college wrestling teammate Jean Celestin, who was initially found guilty in the same rape case and was later released on appeal because the alleged victim didn’t want to testify again, was also a co-writer for Parker’s upcoming film? Or that Black folks winced when they found out that a third friend Tamerlane Kangas testified that Parker motioned him to join the alleged gang rape, but Kangas refused because the alleged victim wasn’t moving and “it didn’t seem right.”
Or how about given the rise of Black feminism and the notion of intersectionality, did Parker really think that Black women would swallow their own past sexual trauma or let race trump gender in order to prop him and his “important” film up?
And finally, did Parker truly believe that because he wasn’t convicted–mostly thanks to a technicality–that Black people aren’t sophisticated enough to realize that a “not guilty” verdict and innocence aren’t synonymous? Hello…we all watched George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson and the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray get acquitted.
We know better.
And yes, for some the decision to support Parker and The Birth of A Nation is very a complicated one, and for others it’s pretty cut and dry. But either way, no matter how talented you are or how significant you believe your work is, Black folks’ faith in you shouldn’t be blind, nor should you ever feel entitled to it.
In the end, one can only hope that this isn’t how Parker really feels about the African-American backlash to these past allegations. Because if none of us were concerned and we all chose to look the other way, what would that say about the collective humanity of the same community that Parker claims he made his film for?