I’ve picked up a new element of focus in my journey to healing; achieving and sustaining inner peace. Holding myself accountable for not disturbing my peace means being completely honest with myself. I was conflicted about my truths up until the last day to purchase my tickets for a private viewing of The Birth of a Nation.
The prospect of a private viewing of the film and the discussion afterwards was exciting, yet something that didn’t feel like peace churned in my belly. I wanted to put the allegations against Nate Parker aside and celebrate a piece of my Black history. I tried to fight the feelings of unrest. My lack of money became the deciding factor in the conflict.
As I counted my paltry finances, needing to make the last of my money stretch far enough to buy my tickets to The Birth of a Nation, I felt some resentment. I thought about my situation. How did I get to the point where $20 can make or break me and how does that tie into my feelings about Birth of a Nation?
In 2015 I experienced the most horrific month of my life. The trauma of a sexual assault on top of my already fragile mental health, shook me to my core and almost cost me my life. Reflecting on this once again, triggered my feelings of disgust for Nate Parker. As a sexual assault survivor I struggle with the emotions that come with feeling like no one cares that someone violated me and even that someone would doubt my story. I battle with suicidal thoughts from time to time. As a matter of fact those thoughts are only quelled by my spirituality and finding some purpose. I cannot help but think about the young woman in the center of this controversy, something Parker didn’t do until he was taken to task.
Is Parker guilty of sexual assault? I don’t know. I wasn’t there and he was acquitted. I’ve thought this and heard it many times leading up to the opening of Birth of a Nation. I had almost convinced myself that this reasoning is valid, but that churning would not let up. I couldn’t be at peace because I could not ignore that young woman’s testimony. I had to admit that my internal conflict began with and continued because of Nate’s dismissive attitude and that of his supporters. The struggle didn’t end there.
I love my Blackness fiercely and unapologetically. How do I support the importance of the film without supporting Nate Parker and rape culture? How can I cheer on F**k Rape Culture’s action against the film and be appalled by it at the same time? Ajunjanue Ellis summed up my struggle to separate the importance of someone’s work from their wrongdoing.
Ellis and I can agree on one thing I am tired of having this choice to make. We can attempt to separate Parker’s controversy from the message of Birth of a Nation, we can justify our support of the film by blaming the media and their “distraction tactics” or even systematic racism but in the end there cannot be a dialogue about the film without a rape allegation lurking. Refusing to address it is akin to erasure. Erasure is violence.
Many of the conversations that I have had about Birth of a Nation, have had little to do with the film itself. They center around questioning rather or not Parker is being attacked by the media. The defense is usually passionate and every form of rape culture that I can imagine oozes out into the open.
I know what my triggers are. Sometimes I control my reactions to them sometimes I don’t. This failure is not worth the loss of my peace or friendships. Again, I can’t help but think about Parker’s alleged victim as I pass on seeing the movie. My only regret is that I didn’t think of her sooner.