Nate Parker recently gave an Ebony.com interview where he confronted rape allegations and male privilege, after previously giving several other ill-advised interviews about his 1999 rape case that sparked backlash leading many to retract support for the much-anticipated Fall film “Birth of a Nation.”
In the Ebony sit down with writer Britni Danielle, Parker claimed that he just learned about his male privilege in the past two weeks and is finally ready to confront it– and rape culture — after living with his privilege unchecked for his entire life.
Almost simultaneously, Usain Bolt is making news headlines all around the world, after pictures surfaced of him in bed with another woman after the 2016 Rio Olympic games– despite the fact that the media publicized his relationship with his girlfriend Kasi Bennett-– and partying it up with different women both in Brazil and later in London. When asked about these cheating rumors, Bolt told The Telegraph:
“Every culture is different. Jamaican culture is different, when you look at women and men having more than one… It’s different. I’ve noticed that in Britain, every famous person, as soon as they get famous, they have to get married – like, it’s a rule. And I’m like, that’s not fair!’
That’s the expectation. If you’re famous, you need to have a family – that’s what they need to sell in Britain, I don’t know why. It’s respectability. But I’m not English! I’m Jamaican! We have a totally different culture, so you can’t judge me based on your culture.”
Pressed to describe “Jamaican culture,” per his definition, Bolt continued, “’We’re laid-back. We dance, we live our lives, we have our fun. And then when we get older, then it’s time to settle down and have a family.”
Though described innocently, this concept of “fun” seems to not be simply exclusive to Jamaica. In the interview, Nate Parker described his outlook on male sexuality at 19-years-old (and up until two weeks ago, one could assume), when he was on trial for rape, saying:
“Put it this way, when you’re 19, a threesome is normal. It’s fun. When you’re 19, getting a girl to say yes, or being a dog, or being a player, cheating. Consent is all about–for me, back then–if you can get a girl to say yes, you win.”
Many can argue this sounds precisely like the culture Usain Bolt is participating in. A culture all about men, being “players,” cheating and of course winning at male hypermasculinity. A culture where a man should freely parade around with multiple women he does not know at all and be captured in bed with a 20-year-old college student. This is not simply a matter of “Jamaican culture” at all. It is a plain example of a man participating in toxic masculinity. And even more specifically, it is a plain example of a Black man perpetuating Black male hypermasculinity myths to the detriment of the reputation of Black men who are constantly stereotyped in this way, his country’s reputation, and his girlfriend’s.
These men, both Usain Bolt and Nate Parker readily participated in and condoned a culture of toxic masculinity, which is harmful to all women, but yet expect the support and adoration of women. Most assuredly, if they encountered racism of any form from a White institution, Black women would be expected to rally behind them and demand accountability. All the while, they are not held accountable for the mistreatment of women. This provides a clear-cut example of the gender social hierarchy created, enforced and protected by Black men (and women) in the Black community. Where men are, in no way shape or form, accountable for their own actions or behavior that can be harmful to Black women, merely because it is their “culture.”
Yet, expectations of the Black woman’s loyalty remain?
Misplaced loyalty means oppression for Black women. We cannot support Black men who do not protect us– our image, our emotional or physical well-being or our Blackness. And our support is powerful both socially and economically. The retraction of our support for the “Birth of a Nation” forced Nate Parker down the path of “enlightenment” on gender issues after completely ignoring them for his entire life. What impact could wielding our support, to our own ends, have on a mass scale?
While Nate Parker proves that he is ready to confront toxic masculinity, many other Black men– like Usain Bolt– have yet to even come to terms with what it is. It is up to other Black men to educate and direct them. And we are the overseers of that education.
The Black woman’s support.