Ah, Oscar season. This is that time of year where us black folks usually band together on social media to discuss how white the Oscars are. Well no, no, no. Not this year. This year we got “Fences”, “Hidden Fences (seriously?), “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” all up for best picture. Also getting nods are Denzel, Viola, Octavia, Mahershala Ali, Ruth Negga, Naomi Harris and “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins. This is far from #OscarsSoWhite. We were one rapper nomination away from this basically being the Imagine Awards.
But let’s be real, black folk. About five months ago, we were expecting another movie to dominate the nominations. It was a little film called “Birth of a Nation”. Remember that?
Lemme refresh: “Birth of a Nation” was written, directed and starring Nate Parker and told the story of Nat Turner, a slave who leads an ill-fated revolt. It hit the festival circuit and generated tons of early buzz. But as the release date approached, social media caught on to several stories written about Parker’s rape case 17 years ago – when he was 19. Parker was acquitted of all charges, but that didn’t stop the backlash. It was swift and widespread and collapsed the film’s momentum. “Nation” was a box office flop. Critics (who couldn’t seem to separate the film from the backlash) lambasted it and the awards committees ignored it.
But the most egregious and baffling backlash came from you…you, black folk.
For all of the complaining about the Oscars and not having enough representation, somehow, someway you couldn’t seem to look past Nate Parker’s decades-old indiscretions.
And maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if this was a general reaction across the board. But how many of y’all still sing “Bump and Grind” when it comes on the radio? How many of you passionately defended Bill Cosby with little to no research until it became impossible to? How many of you shed a tear for Michael Jackson despite the litany of rumors surrounding him?
Oh and if that ain’t enough, last week, recently departed Bishop Eddie Long got a heroes send off, ripe with celebrity testimonies and all the fanfare of a martyr. And if you combed social media, the reactions were mixed to say the least. Some praising him for his good works, some believed he got what he deserved and others thought primarily about those that loved him. Sadder though was that while on Earth, Eddie Long never lost the support of his church. And those that criticized him likely didn’t follow him to begin with.
What’s even more baffling was that Parker got something most of y’all agree is one of the hardest things you can do. Parker was a 19-year-old black kid accused of rape and was found not guilty by a jury. Ask yourself: how often does that happen? Shouldn’t his acquittal have more weight considering what we know about the criminal justice system?
So it’s time to admit something. Just between us. Let’s keep it 100, as the kids would say.
Let’s admit that you fell for the okie-doke. You got served up a plate of distraction and you ate it up. You licked that bad boy clean. You allowed your mind to be inundated with story after story, critique after critique. And you said “no way ” without thinking for one second about the relationship between Nat Turner’s story and the seemingly endless effort to make sure Parker’s life was the focal point.
I am not one for conspiracy theories, but to not even factor in the possibility that the glorification of a slave revolt wouldn’t elicit some less than supportive responses is foolhardy. And the powers-that-be, who opposed Parker, didn’t seem to have to work that hard to sway y’all – the core audience – from running away from the box office.
So what was the deal? Talk to me. Were you afraid to admit you either wanted to see it or that you saw it? Did you think the loud opposition would attack? Did you think you’d appear insensitive towards rape victims?
All of the above questions seem to lead to answers that most would deem reasonable, right?
Or maybe those are the questions “they” wanted you to ask? Maybe it’s time for some of y’all to take a page from Nat Turner and work on freeing yourselves, too.
Your Obedient Servant