Couple things. First, it’s not like the news of Parker’s history was on some special Google for stars of Black Netflix or some shit. A regular google would have found everything about the case. It resurfaced in the sense that more people are talking about it now, but it’s always been there.As the Blackest year in modern history starts to wind down, let's make a pact that by the time 2017 starts, we will no longer defend men who sexually violate women and girls.
And more people are talking about it now because more people are talking about Nate Parker now. When he was starring in Rome & Jewel and Pride and Blood Done Sign My Name, no one — at least no one in entertainment media — gave enough of a damn about him to investigate his past. But he’s a big deal now. And when you’re a big deal with tens of millions of dollars invested in you and your project, everything about you and your past becomes media fodder. Particularly something as serious as a rape allegation. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last person — Black or White; man or woman — to make it big and then have some unflattering details about his life become news. - Damon Young, Very Smart Brothas
As Nate Parker joins the ranks of Bill Cosby and Shane Sparks, we see the same tired, defensive narratives coming into play. Folks are talking about "bringing down another Black man", "smearing the messenger", the "fishiness" of the timing, and all that other bullshit. This has nothing to do with timing, or a conspiracy to bring down yet another Black man. This has everything to toxic masculinity and its unhealthy fascination with sexual assault. I don't call it "non-consensual sex" because rape and molestation are not sex; they're a form of assault. It's crucial people learn to make that distinction.
The stories of Parker, Cosby, and Sparks read like Greek plays, in that each one is the central character whose past actions bring about his own downfall after he attains great heights. And the catalyst is always the same - each man engaged in some form of sexual assault, and did so with the confidence that his actions would never come back to haunt them. Nate Parker was acquitted at his rape trial in 1999. His accuser then committed suicide in 2012. To your average rapist/child molester, these are optimal conditions. But now, in Parker's finest hour, in his moment of triumph as an artist, after making multi-million-dollar history at the Sundance Festival, the ghost of his accuser speaks yet again.
That's not conspiracy, children. That is karma.
So instead of bitching about all the damage done to Bill Cosby's legacy, or the inconvenient timing to Nate Parker and Shane Sparks's careers, let's focus on the social, psychological, and legal factors which influenced their behavior in the first place.
I'll be honest; I was a fan of all three. Like many people, I grew up watching The Cosby Show. I think Shane Sparks is a very talented choreographer. I was rooting for Nate Parker when he first revealed he was working in a Nat Turner project. But I cannot in good conscience be a supporter of men who are in denial of their wrongdoing and refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions.
Cosby admitted to drugging women. Sparks was convicted of molesting a child. And Parker's victim initially wanting to go home after drinking, but he refused to take her. She testified that she woke up to find both Parker engaging in intercourse with her while his friend used her for oral sex. And way too many men and boys see absolutely nothing wrong with this behavior.
Just a few months ago, I went to a party hosted at a bar and I had a blast. I had one drink, danced with some friends, and being old and weary, I decided it was time to head home early. Now, one of the acquaintances I danced with offered to walk me to my car. I was slightly buzzed in that warm, feel-good sort of way, but my mind was still sharp. I was also in this mood of being easily amused by everything, like the fact that this guy was offering to walk me to a car parked a just few feet away. It was right in front of the bar, in a brightly lit parking lot, surrounded by people.
Once we got to my car (a whopping thirty seconds later), dude hops into the passenger seat uninvited. Still amused, I take out my phone (for the usual reasons) and he displayed this irritable impatience, even going so far to try to push the phone out of my hands, while saying something to the effect of, "No, no, no, don't do that". Since we were surrounded by folks, he kept insisted on needing to be alone, basically demanding that I drive us somewhere more secluded. When I didn't jump at his command, he irritably grumbled, "Could you just do it, please?"
Now, I wasn't worried about anything because my mind was sharp, we technically weren't alone, and I'm one of those lunatic women who sometimes pins up my braids with a long, sharp silver hairpin for more than just cosmetic reasons, feel me? So the moment I heard that "tone", the pin came out and the braids came tumbling down. If need be, at any moment, I could have easily stabbed him in an eyeball...or the throat.
Thankfully, it didn't come to that. But while he kept trying to have sex with me in my car, and I deftly kept fielding his advances, every so often that tone would return, that irritated, impatient attitude which betrayed a sense of entitlement. And right here is where I think we as a society need to press the pause button, and replay in slow motion for analysis.
Some of you will recall the hashtag #NoWomanEver, which was trending a while back. With #NoWomanEver, the main theme was how easy it is to be swayed and seduced by sexual harassment...said no woman ever. And while I liked that hashtag and what it represented, I felt the premise was off in that the assumption was men didn't realize that harassing and terrorizing women was never going to work. Men already know this, and yet they do it anyway. Why? Because this is a driving force of toxic masculinity; men and boys are taught that sexually devaluing women is an acceptable form of sexual expression (at least, to them). The fantasy they cling to is that they are all physically desirable, well-endowed Nice Guys™ who should be having great sex with the best-looking women all the time, if women just weren't so stupid/stubborn/difficult (think Elliot Rodger). Meanwhile, the reality is, well...we all know what the reality is.
So men and boys have learned to deal with reality by not only hurting women, but deliberately creating situations in which to do so. Thus, when a man catcalls a woman in the street, he knows fully well it's a turn off for her, but that's not the point. He's just waiting for his cue; the minute she ignores him or says something back, that's his opportunity to call her something derogatory, or physically assault her, or even kill her. Hence why the rape, torture, and murder of women is increasingly popular in film and television (and constantly justified as "historical accuracy" or a necessary plot point/metaphor). For many men, it's scintillating. Since in reality, women and girls are generally unwilling or incapable of consenting 99.9999% of the time, too many men and boys have decided that forcing themselves on women and girls is simply the new sexual standard. Nothing's ever their fault, because in their eyes, they did nothing wrong. It's women and girls who are at fault for not being easier, for "needing" to be drunk, or drugged, or beaten over the head and held hostage caveman-style.
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: too many men and boys are deeply screwed up about sex. The problem is not that they don't understand the concept of consent, it's that they simply don't believe they should have to adhere to it. To them, it's not a matter of yes or no, but rather the hard way versus the easy way. The easy way is if the woman just says yes and cooperates. The hard way is when she declines, and the man feels he needs to either force the issue, or berate/assault/kill her for saying no.
In other words, after all this time, human beings are still stuck at a point where #TooManyMen refuse to take no for answer. So what do we plan to do about it?