I'm Done Taking One For The Team: On Birth of a Nation and Black Womanhood
A few months ago, I did a Facebook Live video on why I still watch and support films and/or television shows about slavery. During the video, I mentioned my excitement about Birth of a Nation. My excitement was two-fold, I was looking forward to seeing a major motion picture about Nat Turner’s rebellion and seeing it from the perspective of a Black man. It’s not often that our stories are told from our point of view in popular culture.
The closer we got to the release, the more I shared information on the Mamademics fan page encouraging everyone to go see the film. And then Nate Parker started to do press and the media asked him questions about his acquittal in a rape case during his college years. His initial response was lackluster and caused Black women to raise their eyebrows. I raised my eyebrows right along with them but I also tried to ignore the noise surrounding Nate Parker’s problematic responses to the questions because…
… this film is important.
… Nat Turner’s story needs to be told.
… why are they bringing up old stuff?
… if we don’t support this movie we won’t get another one?
The list goes on and on so instead of really pushing myself to confront the reality, I chose to be silent. I stopped sharing posts promoting the film but I also didn’t share posts about the concerns. Instead, I watched silently in the background and privately decided that I would see the film. I felt somewhat vindicated in my choice to see the film when Parker’s interview with Ebony magazine was released. It seemed like he finally was starting to get what we were saying about rape culture and why one-time consent isn’t blanket consent. Then he went on 60 Minutes and said “I was falsely accused. I went to court. I sat in trial. I was vindicated — I was proven innocent. I was vindicated. And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is, no.” His failure to even apologize for the role he played in the emotional turmoil this young lady went through was the beginning of the end for me. Yet, I was still silent.
This past weekend after reading this piece, “The Birth of a Nation Is An Epic Fail,” I finally made a definitive choice to not support the film. I told my husband was my decision was based on the revisionist history that Parker uses in the film but that’s not the complete truth. I am choosing not to support Nate Parker’s work for the same reasons I no longer subscribe to respectability politics. Supporting Nate Parker whether publicly or privately not only means I support rape culture but it also means that I’m willing to deny my womanhood for my blackness. Contrary to what some people think, I am not Black first and a woman second. I am always Black and a woman at the same time. I am never one or the other. I am ALWAYS both at all times. While I can’t speak for all Black women and how they handle the intersections of their identity, I can say that I am tired of always having to take one for the team and I’m sure many of them are as well. I am tired of having to watch my sisters silenced in order for “the greater good.” I am tired of being the private hero but never the public hero. I am tired and I am done doing it. If you cannot consider the intersections of identities, I cannot support you.
Birth of a Nation is not bigger than the voices and pain of Black women. When are we as a community going to stop asking Black women to take one for the team? Nate Parker’s art is not worthy of ignoring the fact that 60% of Black women have reported being sexually assaulted in their lifetime and despite the revisionist history Parker creates with his gang rape scene, no one is coming to save us. I cannot tout myself as a Black feminist who believes in the need for intersectional discussions on social justice if I am willing to publicly and/or privately support the silencing of myself and my fellow sisters. I can not teach others how to Raise an Advocate if I’m not fully being one myself.
So, I will not be purchasing a ticket to see Birth of a Nation and I’d like to think that Nat Turner would be proud of those of us who are taking a stand because that’s what his rebellion against slavery was about, standing up for what is morally right. I will admit that I find it a bit ironic that Parker wrote in the rape scene as the catalyst for Turner’s rebellion as a means of protecting Black women and yet him, his co-stars, and other Black men are refusing to protect Black women now. They are refusing to listen and act on our behalf and now they’re blaming us for the film’s failure.
The reality is Nate Parker has no one but himself to blame for the failure of this film. His failure to take ownership for his actions and sincerely apologize tanked his film. His arrogance and expectation that Black women would support him no matter tanked his film. Let this be a lesson to everyone that Black women are no longer taking one for the team. We are no longer sitting this one out and everyone should stop expecting us to fight for them when they’re not fighting for us.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Beyonce songs, “Save The Hero“.
Who’s there to save the hero
When she’s left all alone
And she’s crying out for help.
Who’s there to save the hero
Who’s there to save the girl…
After she saves the world
After she saves the world.
P.S. Now is a great time to read, Black Women Are Vocal, But Their Pain Is Often Silenced.
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