Going into Birth of A Nation I wanted to see the gore of slave masters being killed, but then I was reminded that this is still America and the slave masters’ sons and daughters are very sensitive to this kind of imagery. So I slowed my roll. After all the hoopla concerning Nate Parker’s personal life, I see now why he said on the Breakfast Club that it’s not about him, rather about the power behind the legacy of a Nat Turner. It takes a special person to be this passionate about making a film about Nat Turner despite the obstacles. But wait, there’s more…
When I came to this country and was force fed slave history as 10 year old boy, Nat Turner was someone who caught my attention immediately. He was someone I felt I could respect because even as a child I had something within me that said freedom was worth dying for. Ever since about age 10, I’ve wanted to be a leader of some sorts for my people. I didn’t know then what it actually meant to be a leader and I eventually found out the hard way. I was told we don’t need another hero because black heroes get killed. Back then I felt the epitome of leadership was in the presidential ranks and family quickly told me that it’s much safer and may afford me a long life to just go to school and get a job with the education I receive.
Think about that. That’s how Black America raises black men- to cower in the face of white oppression; that being a leader means nothing because the powers that be will kill you for it. As a people we face annihilation on a daily basis and live through it everyday while still finding a reason to smile as we endure. As I watched the film, it reignited that flame within me that makes me believe that freedom is worth dying for and that there is such a thing as an honorable death for a man.
But most black men don’t understand that our unwillingness to die for our freedom is what keeps us enslaved to this very day. In the movie there’s a scene where two male slaves were on a hunger strike and eventually they just broke away all his teeth and force fed him with a funnel. During slavery you couldn’t die unless you were killed by a white man. Remaining a prisoner or slave is not a part of the essential nature of any man- black, white, yellow or red. You have to be bred to accept slavery. Never in the history of mankind was slavery used the way the way it was used on and against the black man. The psychological mindfuck that they employed to keep our enslavement going for hundreds of years is cruelty no man has ever attempted before the European.
A man is a protector; his role on this earth revolves around this essential nature. A whole race of men have been forcefully removed from protecting their women and children for 500 years and counting. The slave conditions have changed from chains and whips to jail, jobs, child support and police killings- yet somehow black people think they’re free. Society gives us access to material possessions that many men can use to indicate their level of manhood. But very few black men have freedom to show as an indicator of their level of manhood. Living his life in America, the black man will never be free. He can’t protect his women and children; they won’t come with him because they’ve been conditioned to live without him and while he yearns to be with them, their existence intensifies struggles and often are the reason he ends up incarcerated.
In the film Nat’s wife was raped and beaten- something common in slavery days. Our manhood was continuously taken away from us through the raping of our women and very few of us are capable of getting our manhood back like Nat Turner did. Love and children are a curse for the black man in America. It’s 2016 and look at the parallels we have today to 1816:
- In 1816 the black man was forced to have sex with the black women to produce children he would never raise; children who would be enslaved, sold and even killed to force his hand
- In 2016 the black man has sex with black women who want to have children, but want to keep the man out of the child’s life for the benefits they receive from the system
- In 1816 black women were raped by their white slave masters because they lusted after them and they knew rape is the beginning of the destruction of a woman’s soul
- In 2016 more black women engage in relationships with white men in hopes of having children that they feel will fare better in a world that is so abusive to black people. They hope for the protection of a white man who perhaps only views her as an obedient sex object.
- In 1816 the black woman would raise a child to be obedient to master to have a better chance of surviving slavery and white supremacy
- In 2016 the black woman is still raising children to be obedient to avoid being killed by police, but still have no real black father to protect her and the children
You’re wrong as a black man if you believe that there’s a difference in how our people are treated in 1816 and 2016. You’re wrong if you feel you don’t still need to fight against modern day slavery. You’re wrong if you don’t see that what we go through everyday in America in 2016 isn’t still worth a “slave rebellion.” You’re wrong if you think that we’ll fix our problems under the microscope trans-generational white supremacy. You’re wrong if you think you’re doing your best by having a job and taking care or your children if you’re children will still be oppressed by white supremacy.
You’re wrong if you think your legacy as a man doesn’t matter because it does. Nat Turner’s legacy is one that says that men are inspired by God; God inspires a man’s purposed. And a part of every man’s right is to be free. It’s worth dying for. That’s the message Birth of A Nation sends that many people will mistake as just another slave movie. It’s not. It’s about you seeing that freedom ain’t free and that your present state of freedom is only an illusion of freedom.
What did you think of the movie and it’s social implications today?