Donald Trump, Nate Parker, And the Rape Apologists Who Love Them

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donald-trump-nate-parkerOver the past week we’ve seen quite the convergence of toxic masculinity. Following the release of a tape in which he bragged about committing sexual assault (and his subsequent denial that he even engaged in such action), we’ve seen Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump be accused of sexual assault by 10 women. At the same time, we saw Nate Parker’s film “The Birth of a Nation” flop at the box office in the aftermath of the world learning of his alleged rape 17 years ago. The two groups that have decided to defend both men, in the face of the indefensible, have been using the same arguments and tactics to absolve their beloved heroes.

Let’s start with Nate Parker.

I am absolutely entranced with the story of Nat Turner. Born a slave, Turner led a slave revolt against his owner and other slave owners in Virginia in 1831. He rose up and demanded freedom by speaking in the only language that his oppressors knew: violence. This story, until recently, had only existed in documents from the time. Nate Parker changed that by putting Nat Turner’s story to film (in the most historically inaccurate way possible) with “The Birth of a Nation” (cribbing the title of D.W. Griffith's film that showed a sympathetic interpretation of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan). During the press cycle around Nate Parker’s film, allegations surfaced that 17 years ago, while in college, Parker and his co-writer, Jean McGianni Celestin, raped a female classmate. Parker’s reaction to this allegation has drawn much ire, and rightfully so.

In the Variety interview that brought the rape case to everyone’s attention, Parker stated, “Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that.” That’s that. All done. A woman was raped, but “that’s that”. As if the dismissal of what happened wasn’t enough, in the same statement Parker focuses solely upon himself. To focus upon yourself when a woman has been violated, is disgusting. Oh, by the way, the woman that was raped 17 years ago committed suicide in 2012, but “that’s that”.

Let me address one part of the Nate Parker rape story now: I'm very well aware of the history of white women accusing black men of rape and the legacy of death that has been left in their wake. However, just because that has been the legacy, does not mean that white women accusing black men of rape are automatically liars. Transcripts of Nate Parker’s calls with the woman who accused him are especially damning and now Nate Parker is wondering just “what are these journalists trying to do?”

 

Now, on to Trump.

Last Sunday night, Donald Trump stood on a debate stage in front of a national audience and stated that he never engaged in the acts of sexual assault that he bragged about in 2005 with Billy Bush.

Since that moment, 10 women have come forward to state that Donald Trump sexually abused them in various ways. Among those women are: Temple Taggart McDowell, the former Miss USA contestant who stated that in 1997 she was kissed twice on the lips by Trump; Jessica Leeds, who stated that 30 years ago on a flight to New York, Trump fondled her breasts and tried to stick his hand up her dress; and People magazine staff writer, Natasha Stoynoff, who said that in 2005, while writing an article on Trump and his wife, Trump pushed her against a wall and forcibly kissed her. The reaction from Trump? This:

trump-rape-response

This reaction has been par for the course for Trump. Trump referred to his comments glorifying sexual assault as “locker room talk”, he referred to himself as “a victim”, stating that all these allegations are are a political smear campaign, and he has questioned why these women waited years to come forward.

The convergence of ideas between the camps that support both Trump and Parker begin and end with the arguments they use. The false flag of black unity that has been waived for Parker is nothing but that, false. The people who state that we must see “The Birth of a Nation” because it depicts black people on the screen are not encouraging you to go see “Queen of Katwe” or “Moonlight”, two movies that feature all, or predominately, black casts. And why aren’t they promoting these films? Because black unity is not the point. Supporting black movies is not the point. Supporting Nate Parker is.

Stripped of the lie of black unity, we can see their arguments for exactly what they are, rape apologies. The same rape apologies that Trump supporters are clinging to. Why did they wait so long to come forward? Check. The media is behind this and they have an agenda? Check. It’s all there.

I want to make sure that what I say next is absolutely clear: I do not side with those accused of rape, no matter their race. Nate Parker has not provided a service with his film and I, as a black man, am doing no harm to my race or culture by not putting money into the pockets of a man accused of rape. I don’t care if you’re a movie director or a swimmer or a football player or a photographer or a basketball player. I could care less if you're a person of color or white. I won’t stand with you. I won’t excuse your behavior or your reluctance to talk about your actions because it was so long ago. In my eyes, you are, and always will be, the lowest type of individual that humanity has to offer. I refuse to side with you because I understand all too well how this system works.

I have known numerous women that have been sexually assaulted by family members, friends, boyfriends, husbands, or strangers, only to have the scrutiny turned to them (if they decided to come forward with the truth of what happened). Despite what happened, suddenly they were the ones to be questioned about everything from what they were wearing to why they were alone with the assailant, from what they said to lead them on to their previous sexual history. Women aren’t believed. Regardless of the plethora of evidence they can provide, regardless of the number of women that come forward to say the same thing happened to them, they simply aren’t believed.

I, and every man alive, contributes daily to rape culture. We contribute to it when we don’t shut down the barber shop conversation objectifying women, we contribute to it when we don’t stop the street harassment that we see because it’s “not our problem”. We don’t exist to be the knight in shining armor for women, but we should exist to uphold what is right, to hold each other to a higher standard.

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