Trump, sexual assault and the curious case of Nate Parker
SUSAN K. SMITH | 10/28/2016, 1:30 p.m.
Crazy Faith Ministries
In 1999, actor Nate Parker was accused of raping a young woman along with his writing partner of Birth of a Nation, Jean Celestin, while they were all students at Penn State University. Parker was acquitted of the charges because he supposedly had had sexual relations with the woman at another time. Celestin was convicted, but his conviction was overturned on appeal; he served six months. Their victim reportedly committed suicide in 2012.
I could not help but think about Parker’s case as the controversy around Donald Trump has continued to swirl, with him making matters worse by denying that he has done wrong, calling the women liars, and falling into a “victim” mode. Poor Mr. Trump wants the world to feel sorry for him as he tells the tale about the mainline media being out to get him. His “heartfelt apology,” as his surrogates have claimed he offered, was hardly that, but what is heartfelt is his anger and his arrogance. He cannot believe, it seems that he is being drawn over the coals for what he really believes is “locker room talk.” In this culture, which has minimized the seriousness of sexual assault, Trump is caught in a net of accusations and criticisms because he is running for president. That fact should not matter, he and his supporters are saying. The attitude seems to be that sexual assault of women is just what men do. One of Trump’s sons said that if women can’t handle what goes on in the workplace, they ought to just get out – stay home or teach kindergarten. Clearly, women are not valued, not even yet in this, the 21st century.
Reading what happened with Parker then and how that case shook out isn’t really troubling in one sense. The American judicial system has long had a tendency to blame female sexual assault victims for their attacks. Remember that Stanford student Brock Turner only got six months’ sentence for raping an unconscious girl and got out of jail after serving only three of the six months. But what is curious is that the media sought to make an issue of Parker’s situation only as Birth of a Nation was about to debut. It seemed that perhaps some of the American powers that be were worried about how Birth would affect the nation, especially in this period of time when African Americans are so openly disgruntled about race relations in this country. Birth tells the story of a Black man who would not bend or bow to White supremacy. Perhaps the American powers that be were worried about young bucks leaving theaters ready to set fire to buildings and cars, calling out the frustrated chant, “Black lives matter!”
But Parker has been in a lot of movies since 1999, including The Secret Life of Bees, Beyond the Lights, The Great Debaters and Red Tails among them. On television, he’s been on the Steve Harvey Show, Access Hollywood, Tavis Smiley and the T.D. Jakes Show and has received an NAACP Image Award. Unless I missed it, only with the advent of Birth of a Nation has his rape case made big news.