While Gabrielle Union professed she couldn’t take the rape allegations against her The Birth of a Nation co-star, Nate Parker, lightly as a rape victim, Sheryl Underwood obviously can.
During a segment on The Talk, the co-host spoke out very strongly in defense of Nate Parker — not necessarily because he wasn’t in the wrong, but because other men who’ve done the same haven’t been subjected to the same amount of scrutiny. While that is a valid concern in many ways, giving Parker a pass simply because other men have been given one is poor logic. Nevertheless, that’s precisely the argument Underwood used when she discussed the controversy that has followed the actor-director as of late.
“I think this is an odd time for this to be the time that they judge this man on this,” Underwood said. “Now it’s being brought up when he makes the most iconic film, the most thought-provoking film for some of us who believe Nat Turner was a revolutionary…
“Why is it that Roman Polanski can do whatever he wants, Woody Allen — I guess my feeling about this, from a person who has been raped, one thing we need to understand is the long-lasting, devastating effect of rape to everyone involved. The young lady who could not move forward in her life, that she felt the only way to end that pain was to take her life. So when you’re talking about a movie that seems to artistically portray the violation of a people who were considered property, then you’re talking about a political devastation, not just a sexual devastation that was supposed to motivate Nat Turner to doing what he did.
“So for everybody that does not understand, at the end of the day [Nate’s] life has been changed, but he has evolved. He’s given his to Christ. He’s become a better person. If you want to hold him to that then you need to hold everybody else that’s done something to the exact same standard.”
I don’t disagree with Underwood on that point at all. The unfortunate implication of her words though Parker shouldn’t be held accountable simply because others haven’t been and if we continue to allow that treatment for perpetrators of sexual violence, we’ll never get to a place where these men — and women — have to own up to what they’ve done.
Yes, the timing of these resurfaced allegations is unfortunate, but so are the circumstances that led to their original initiation in 1999. Parker has acknowledged that he shouldn’t have even been in the situation that led him to be accused of rape, and yet he continues to demonstrate the same “indignant attitude” that was characteristic of his 19-year-old self at the time — despite writing, “I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial.” That’s not the message viewers get when they watch Parker attempt to martyr himself in his latest interviews and that, even more than his past, seems to be what will ultimately cause his downfall.