By Kyla Lacey
The highly anticipated Birth of a Nation was released recently to a less-than-stellar opening weekend, and I was not in the audience, have no plan on seeing it, and you know what, I will still be black, still have black struggles, still crave the goodness in black men, and still have black girl magic at my fingertips, because not seeing one film cannot negate my blackness at all.
Recently, I read Feathers Scott’s article that essentially blamed black feminists for the reason that Birth of a Nation was not a blockbuster. The writer claimed us petty and jealous because Nate Parker happens to have a white wife, and while seeing a successful black man with a white woman can be triggering for some, I highly doubt that collectively black women got together and were like,” oh snap, he likes white vagina, let’s not watch this movie!” That sounds super stupid. Not only does that statement attempt to invalidate all of the good that black feminism has accomplished, but seeing as how the majority of audience members for BOAN were women of color, (Not to mention how Black women support all of the other films starring black men who have wives that aren’t black) it is factually incorrect. This movie was deemed too important to our history not to see, even though it was historically inaccurate.
Could it be that some people really just didn’t want to see the film for other reasons?
When the news broke that Nate Parker went through a “tough time” during college where he was tried and eventually acquitted of raping a (white) woman, while his roommate was initially found guilty and then freed on appeal, it could easily leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. The argument by many black men is that he was falsely accused because I guess black men can’t be rapists, even though I totally know that to be false, and more importantly they can’t be acquitted if they do actually in the rare almost impossible chance, especially against white women, (cough cough O.J. Simpson). Even though only 1.3 % of rapes are referred to a prosecutor and only .07 % end in a conviction, we are supposed to believe that only .07% of the time what we call rape is actually a rape.
Facebook saw plenty of men mansplaining that because he was found “innocent,” there was no way that he was a rapist. He was not found “innocent;” being found “not guilty” and innocent are not the same thing. It was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty. Rape cases are notoriously hard to prove guilt. It is estimated that one in five women will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime. Maybe just maybe there are women who didn’t want to see the film because it is triggering as fuck. Maybe there were women who did attend a college and found themselves cowering and confused in dorm rooms after they were violated and found their attacker unscathed, who feel like this case was triggering as fuck to them and just want no parts of that, whether he was guilty or not. Are we to deem that their rapes and their mental and emotional health is worth less than a fictitious account off Nat Turner?
The fact that Nate Parker uses an undocumented rape as the catalyst for Nat Turner’s revolt, even though that’s not what documented history says happened, could also be triggering to sexual assault survivors. Whether the actual rape scene was shown or not, just the thought or the reminder might just be too much for some people to see across a giant theater screen and I feel like we need to respect that.
There is also the crazy possibility that people just didn’t want to see Birth of a Nation at all. When 12 Years a Slave came out, there was a backlash from people who were tired of seeing black people portrayed as slaves or subservient. This argument was also made when The Help, The Butler, and the remake of Roots came out. Maybe people were tired of the narrative of slavery being such a central focus in so many movies that were made with black protagonists that didn’t involve a love scene with Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Sanaa Lathan or Taye Diggs. Every black movie, starring a black cast is not seen by every black person and that’s ok.
I’ve been told that because I refuse to see the movie that I am being manipulated by the white media to turn against black films.
Really? That’s the best argument you can come up with? There are so many black movies that Tyler Perry hasn’t produced that have come or are coming to the theaters that have been produced by someone who wasn’t on trial for rape. People who don’t want to see Birth of a Nation aren’t stupid or petty. They are people who made a conscious decision to not see a film because they don’t want to support someone whom they feel is a rapist, support a film that uses rape as the catalyst for revolt, see a movie about slavery, or just have better shit to do. If you needed a fictionalized movie to find out about Nat Turner, you weren’t really interested in his story in the first place. I suggest you watch Ava Duvernay’s 13th. It’s jarring, it’s factual, it’s truthful, and it’s on Netflix so you don’t have to worry about paying $57 for a bag of small popcorn, and you might even be able to chill afterwards.
Even if you don’t see it, (which again, I highly suggest you do) you will still be the same color you were with or without it.