Why You Won’t Support Nate Parker
He picked her up by her hair and “began slamming her head and the right side of her body repeatedly against a brick wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd with a gun. After Dre tried to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s rest room. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair again and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head. –Alan Light (for Rolling Stone Magazine)
I used these words to open a piece I wrote around this time last year, right before the movie Straight Outta Compton was released in theaters. They describe a horrific beating journalist Dee Barnes suffered at the hands of rapper and hip-hop icon Dr. Dre. Not only did Dr. Dre’s life serve as a central part of the NWA biopic, but Dr. Dre also served as the film’s executive producer. I wrote about the beating and asked, “Are we really going to support a film by a man who brutalized a woman in this way?” Do you know what happened as a result of my (and several other bloggers’) query?
Zip. Zero. Absolutely nothing.
We went out to support the movie in droves. Straight Outta Compton made a whopping $60 million during its opening weekend, making it the top movie with an R-rating to ever premiere in the month of August. My timeline was filled with people posting their own “Straight Outta this place” and “Straight Outta that place” photos. My article received a ton of push-back, from women in particular, scolding me for digging up something that happened in the 90s.
“Dre. Dre had his day in court, he has moved on and so should you,” they said. I look around my neighborhood even today and so many people — men and women alike — are still rocking a pair of Dr. Dre’s Beats (a rather ironic name if you really think about it) headphones around their necks.
And now, just one year later, a set of eerily similar circumstances surrounds the movie Birth of a Nation. That movie’s star & executive producer, Nate Parker, was accused of raping a woman in the 1990s. But now, for some strange reason, everyone’s too angry at Nate Parker to go out and support his movie. Can someone tell me why we’ve taken such a hardline with this movie and not the other?
After all, Birth of a Nation is the story of Nat Turner’s slave revolt, one of the first and most notable stories of African-American resistance against systemic oppression in this country. It is from Turner’s resistance that all other African-American resistance movements — including NWA and “F*ck the Police” — have sprung. So why wouldn’t we support a film about such an important part of our history? It can’t be solely because of Nate Parker. Because, you know, at least Nate Parker pleaded not guilty and was found not guilty of rape; Dr. Dre pleaded no contest.
I also don’t think any other women have ever accused Nate Parker of rape, but there are several other women who have accused Dr. Dre of viciously attacking them y’all remember — Michel’le? And as best as I can recall, Nate Parker never made a movie joking about the rape accusations (Dr. Dre rapped on and co-produced “Guilty Conscience,” a song where rapper Eminem quips about taking advice from someone who “slapped Dee Barnes.”
To be clear, I’m in no way letting Nate Parker off the hook for his involvement in the incident in question; if the accusations are true, that was pretty grimy. What Dr. Dre did, though, was pretty deplorable, too. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t endorse Dr. Dre’s youthful behavior any more than we do Nate Parker’s, but we were willing to look past it because we really wanted to see that story brought to life.
Nate Parker made a slave movie. We’ve seen that story before. It’s dark, painful to watch and unlike Straight Outta Compton, everyone we care about ends up dead. No matter how you shake it, we’re fatigued by the notion of slave films. And we should come out and just say that, instead of playing like violence against women is our only concern. Because if that were in fact the case, y’all would have kept your money in your pockets last summer, too.