Gabrielle Union has never been one to hold her tongue. After publicly coming out as a rape victim two years ago, she has since made space to talk about the issues plaguing women openly and honestly.
Her decision to take on her anonymous role as a rape victim in Birth of a Nation was for two reasons: to teach about history and consent, and to exemplify a rape survivor. Leading up to the movie's world premiere, she's now conteplating the role for a different reason. Nate Parker - director, co-writer and lead actor of the film - has been taken to task as an alleged rapist. Although acquitted of charges, like many of us, Union could not keep silent about the implications of the evidence. She chose to share her thoughts via an op-ed in the L.A. Times.
"Twenty-four years ago I was raped at gunpoint in the cold, dark backroom of the Payless shoe store where I was then working," Union began. "Two years ago I signed on to a brilliant script called “The Birth of a Nation,” to play a woman who was raped. One month ago I was sent a story about Nate Parker, the very talented writer, director and star of this film. Seventeen years ago Nate Parker was accused and acquitted of sexual assault. Four years ago the woman who accused him committed suicide."
"Since Nate Parker’s story was revealed to me, I have found myself in a state of stomach-churning confusion," she admits further down. "I took this role because I related to the experience. I also wanted to give a voice to my character, who remains silent throughout the film. In her silence, she represents countless black women who have been and continue to be violated. Women without a voice, without power. Women in general. But black women in particular. I knew I could walk out of our movie and speak to the audience about what it feels like to be a survivor."
"As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly," she admits. "On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said 'no,' silence certainly does not equal 'yes.' Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a 'no' as a 'yes' is problematic at least, criminal at worst. That’s why education on this issue is so vital."
Union's words are important, even if detrimental to the success of this movie.
I implore you to read her op-ed in full here.
[Photo: Getty Images]