Just when we thought the Nate Parker controversy was put to bed, he’s yet again back in the news after some decried that actor Casey Affleck, who settled two sexual harassment cases, is benefiting from white privilege because of his recent Golden Globe nomination for his role in Manchester by the Sea.
Affleck’s nomination is a double standard, they argue, because Nate Parker, who directed, produced and starred in Birth of a Nation, did not receive any nominations. ‘Is Affleck’s white privilege to blame?’ they question.
If you ask me, Nate Parker is guilty, has always been guilty, and the justice system just so happened to work in his favor despite his blackness.
Parker’s acquittal is so flimsy, were the skin colors reversed, literally no black person would be defending him. And in many cases, when you bring up how shoddy his acquittal actually is and compare it to white men getting off for killing black men and boys, it conveniently becomes a different conversation.
Yet this did not stop various news outlets from running variations on the same theme of, well, if Nate Parker was dragged through the mud, then why is Affleck not suffering the same fate?
To even ask that question, however, you have to innately believe one of two things: that Nate Parker’s backlash is a product of white supremacy as compared to Casey Affleck, despite most of the loudest calls against Parker coming from black people; and that it’s in the best interest of black people overlook our most heinous wrongs as white people allow their most heinous wrongs to go unpunished.
While some might eagerly point at the racial double standard, in actual terms of consequences, Parker got off for some 17 years before he really had to face any public backlash, largely because he was a college football player and not a well-known actor in Hollywood. All of that changed when he signed his distribution deal with Fox Searchlight, but the backlash was notably worsened thanks to his own actions and his smug and arrogant responses when pressed on the topic.
There is no reason for anyone to put on their capes for Nate Parker.
He most certainly helped to make this problem what it became and for otherwise reputable platforms to even mouth anything that resembles sympathy for Parker is to be complicit in normalizing violence against women in the name of standing up against a purported racial double standard.
Interestingly enough, however, despite the very public resistance to Parker, he has somehow managed to receive a nomination for an NAACP Image Award.
Enter the Casey Affleck Golden Globe conversation.
Affleck has settled his suits in civil court and never saw the light of day in a criminal court, which means that circumstantially there is no reason for an uproar, except on the basis of those who would like to make the case that the treatment of these two men largely hinges on race and not the facts that Parker, unlike Affleck, actually stood trial for rape, which is largely viewed more harshly than harassment.
Ultimately this discussion boils down to Affleck being a complete chauvinist but not forcibly taking a woman’s sexual agency. Neither Parker nor Casey are men whom I would publicly defend. Both have done or said things against women which deserve to be scrutinized and cannot be morally defended. However, legally speaking, in the case of Affleck, the discussion is more of a closed book than Parker’s.
Those who are pretending that racism or white supremacy play into this on any level are deluding themselves and telling the rest of us that they don’t quite understand how either of those things work. If we as black people are going to wait on white people to punish themselves for their wrongs, then we might as well accept the fact that we’ll probably be holding our breaths forever.
Why is white criminality the default comparison when we should be collectively holding our own people accountable to moral standards and integrity? We do ourselves disservice by holding up Parker, of all people, as a victim of white supremacy.
In my opinion, he is guilty.
It is a tired and pointless game we play when we bring up white men who have been given slaps on the wrist by white institutions whenever black men are justly held accountable for their sins. Do not waste your sympathy on Nate Parker. He doesn’t deserve it.
Daniel Johnson studies English at Sam Houston State University. In his spare time, he likes to visit museums and listen to music. He has self-published two collections of poetry and has written several short stories.