The recent resurfacing of a 1999 rape trial involving “The Birth of a Nation” writer/director/star Nate Parker has inspired any number of essays and thinkpieces. Some are more worthwhile than of others, of course, and the following four are a good place to start.
“Brother to Brother: An Open Letter to Nate Parker” by Ibram Kendi, African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
“On your recent Facebook post, you admitted that you ‘still have more learning and growth to do.’ That is why I feel hopeful in the midst of my fury. This is an open letter expressing my hopes for you—my hope of what is to come from you—and of you.
“In your Facebook post, you finally expressed in public ’empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.’ But showing empathy is only a start.
“I am writing this letter to tell you that in the end you must stop declaring your innocence. That was the problem seventeen years ago. That remains the problem today.”
“Nate Parker and the Limits of Empathy” by Roxane Gay, New York Times
“We’ve long had to face that bad men can create good art. Some people have no problem separating the creation from the creator. I am not one of those people, nor do I want to be. I recognize that people are complex and cannot be solely defined by their worst deeds, but I can no longer watch ‘The Cosby Show,’ for example, without thinking of the numerous sexual assault accusations against Bill Cosby. Suddenly, his jokes are far less funny.
“I cannot separate the art and the artist, just as I cannot separate my blackness and my continuing desire for more representation of the black experience in film from my womanhood, my feminism, my own history of sexual violence, my humanity.”
“I want to argue that this situation demonstrates an absolute fissure in contemporary progressive politics, that there is a direct and unambiguous conflict between our efforts to address mass incarceration and the insistence that people accused of crimes such as sexual assault should be presumed to be guilty and that those who are guilty are permanently and existentially unclean.”
“The truth is: I don’t know Nate Parker, so who am I to fully judge his current character — 17 years is a long time to internally attempt to pay for past sins. But it’s also a long time to reinforce past behavior, a long time to reap the benefits of the power imbalance that aided in his rise to prominence. As individuals, there is no requirement to pick a side in the court of public opinion. But completely staying out of it, while seemingly indifferent and fair is anything but — silence is still a vote of confidence, in favor of Nate Parker.”