Essay: “Why Black Men Still Need to Watch ‘Birth of a Nation'”

We must reckon with the patriarchal freedom dreams we have conjured in the name of Nat Turner, even as we dismiss Harriet Tubman, the great prophetess, herbalist, and midwife, or Mary Turner, lynched while pregnant.

We must watch “The Birth of Nation” in theaters so that we can see our patriarchal selves on screen, then we must go home and watch Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ No! The Rape Documentary in order to pick up the pieces to the mirrors we broke when we slammed the door on our sisters.

We must gather in our living rooms and discuss what we will do to stop rape in our communities, with Elridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice in one hand, and Darlene Clark Hine’s “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West” (pdf) in the other.

We must reflect on how killing white rapists falls flat when we are black rapists at home.

We must consider what it would have meant if we’d seen Gabrielle Union’s character, Esther, and Aja Naomi King’s character, Cherry, raped by both enslaved men and white masters. Indeed, our griots and ancestors have long told us that white masters weren’t the only rapists.

And finally, we must denounce the lies patriarchy makes us tell to ourselves; lies that tell us to force black women into birthing nations against their consent; lies that have us denying our own victimization and assaults; lies that have us dying inside even as we harm others.

Ahmad Greene-Hayes, Black Youth Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s