by Dr Boyce Watkins
This week, I went to see the new film, “Birth of a Nation” by director Nate Parker. I’ll start by saying that the film was one of the great cinematic masterpieces of all-time. Not only is the story of Nat Turner a powerful one, it’s one that’s been hidden in Hollywood. From what I’ve read, Nate had a great deal of trouble getting the movie financed, and for good reason. I’m not sure if it makes sense for us to expect white people to finance important and meaningful black stories.
Part of the quest toward black economic and political maturity is that we understand the critical importance of funding and supporting projects we want to see come to life. In other words, they pay for their heroes, and we pay for ours. If we aren’t willing to pay for our own heroes, then we must borrow heroes that belong to somebody else.
There are a few other reasons why most white people don’t want “Birth of a Nation” to be a successful film. Even though the film met box office expectations, publications like The Wall Street Journal are creating misleading headlines to make all of us believe the film was a flop. The film was hardly a flop: It made the money that analysts expected it to make. No more, no less. That’s pretty impressive considering all of the controversy that the film has endured, and is a symptom of the quality of this project.
Here are five other reasons that white Americans really don’t want Nate Parker’s extraordinary film to be the hit that it was meant to be:
1) Because nearly everything you’ve been taught about slavery is a lie: Most Americans are fed propaganda from the day they are born. They’re taught to believe that men like George Washington were wonderful heroes, when the truth is that Washington himself hated black people more than nearly any human being living today. Many of these lies are part of the psychological manipulation designed to keep us calm and away from truths that might make us want to punch someone in the face. So, when real history is finally revealed about what black people have been put through, there is the shock and cognitive dissonance you might expect from the little girl who had no idea that her daddy was a rapist. Guess what America: Many of your ancestors were rapists who loved to castrate black men, hang them from trees all while having picnics in the background. You come from a very sick culture for which you have yet to apologize or make amends. White people were the original American terrorists.
2) Because aggressive and courageous black men scare the &^%$ out of you: One thing that most whites in power could count on are passive and weak black leaders and pastors who might simply go to the church and pray for the men and women who’ve murdered us without remorse. This passivity has long been reflected and marketed in well-financed films like “The Help” and “The Butler.” But to have millions of angry young black men grow to admire righteous and extraordinary men like Nat Turner is literally a nightmare for many white people. White guilt actually leads to mass incarceration and police shootings because people are literally afraid of what might happen if black people suddenly reflect on all that’s been done to us.
3) You want to believe that Nate Parker hurt a white woman: The 1999 rape case against Nate Parker was ultimately the story that derailed his hopes of receiving an Oscar. Not that Oscars should matter to black people, but he won’t be getting one for this film. The fact that critics can consider a film to be Oscar-worthy one minute and then cringe-worthy the next, speaks to the fickle and biased nature of these meaningless awards and ceremonies.
Once Nate Parker was tagged as the man who might have harmed a white woman, primitive instincts of white mob mentality started to emerge, leading them to want to destroy Parker, his film and everything he stood for. This is the same barbaric behavior which led to black men being dragged out of the jail house and lynched for even being ACCUSED of harming a white woman. It didn’t matter that Parker was tried and acquitted. These laws become arbitrary when applied to black men, especially if white women feel slighted in any kind of way. The world caters to the emotional well-being of the white female. When black men are found to be in violation, they are typically destroyed.
4) You are wired to resist the truth about the righteous anger of black people in America: When black people get angry about our condition, the severe miseducation of whites often leads to them looking at us as if they had nothing to do with any of it. They don’t realize that they are the beneficiaries of hundreds of years of terroristic behavior on the part of their ancestors, which led to whites owning 98 percent of the land in this country. Because they are trained to disconnect the past from the present, many often wonder why we are so upset that everything tends to be rigged in the favor of white people. Rather than listen to our explanation, they’d rather condemn and blackball us. This is one reason why race relations in America are going to get worse before they get better.
5) You don’t want black people admiring men like Nat Turner: The idea of millions of black men watching Nat Turner slaughter slave owners in their sleep is bound to put fear into anyone who already sees black men as violent and aggressive. But here’s the truth: Most would argue that we SHOULD BE violent and aggressive when it comes to defending those we love. White men are incredibly violent and aggressive when foreign countries attack the United States. The interesting thing about white oppression of black people is that for many years, the most evil whites in America had the luxury of abusing a group of people who refused to fight back. In that regard, the story of Nat Turner is truly part of a birth of a nation of black men who are no longer afraid, willing to stand up and won’t tolerate inhumane treatment.
For right or wrong, good or bad, there is much more yet to come.