ANDERSON: Nate Parker models Hotep definitions
Opinions Column: A 'Popped' Culture
This summer I stumbled, albeit very late, across an intriguing term that my friends started applying to certain black men. The term was “Hotep.” Hoteps are black men who are pro-black as long as that blackness exists within a hyper-masculine straight black-male frame. Urban Dictionary adds that Hoteps “are typically misogynists who display a particularly high level of disrespect for the thoughts, bodies and experiences of black women, black homosexuals and black children” while still claiming that they are “woke.” The title Hotep comes from an Egyptian word meaning “peace” along with the idea that “Hoteps,” in the 2016 sense, are stereotypically the first to tell you that black people were once Egyptian kings and queens (which we were).
This summer I also became exponentially excited about the upcoming movie “The Birth of a Nation” by Nate Parker. Parker is the director, star and producer of the critically acclaimed film that tells the story of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion and also stands as a clear slap in the face to the racist 1915 film of the same title. Parker’s film shows that African-Americans did not passively accept their enslaved position but constantly fought back and demanded freedom. The movie comes at a great time, given the sweeping Black Lives Matter movement, and the movie industry’s dearth of non-stereotypical African-American narratives and actors.
Unfortunately, it has been brought to the forefront that Parker’s college history consists of being tried and later acquitted for the rape and sexual assault of an 18-year-old woman. This was in 1999, 11 years later, after several attempts, the young woman committed suicide.
While Parker has come out saying he is “devastated” and does not want to ignore the pain felt by the victim’s family, he still maintains his innocence and has composed a response that focuses on ensuring that this news does not negatively affect his current success.
With all of that in mind, African-Americans, specifically black women, are left confused, and rightfully so, as whether or not to support a movie created by a man who they feel is a rapist.
Many feel that one cannot separate art from the artist. Additionally, African-Americans also feel conflicted because of a 2014 statement from a since removed BET.com interview, in which Parker said that he would never act on screen as a gay man because he wanted to “preserve the black man,” a problematic statement that can immediately be read as viewing homosexuality as an undesired trait that diminishes black manhood.
This brings us to the idea of Hoteps. Nate Parker is a manifestation of a Hotep in the sense that he has an un-complex ideal of blackness and his social consciousness stops the moment the heterosexual black man is no longer the focus. His statements of casual homophobia and his ability to distance himself from the life of the victim since his trial in 2001 speaks volumes to Parker’s own oppressive mindsets that are, sadly, not far from the sentiments shared by many black males.
Parker is the latest addition to a list of problematic black male figures that positions the black community between a rock and a hard place. Some African-Americans usually defend the problematic person publicly and privately scrutinize them. Due to our existence in what I consider to be white supremacist America, accountability operates differently for some African-Americans who feel that we must not air our dirty laundry in public for white America to see. For some African-Americans, when the question proposes itself, the first instinct is to defend their blackness before another aspect of their identity like gender or sexuality, especially when white celebrities who commit similar offenses (i.e. Woody Allen) get little to no attention.
This leaves the door open for conversations about rape culture, gender equality, the fragility of masculinity and other nuances of the dynamic black experience, to be publicly brushed aside by the “perceived” black leaders. This perpetuates the creation of Hotep culture for young black males who see these issues being glossed over as irrelevant or unimportant as they’re developing their consciousness. It is also up to black male mentors, fathers and community leaders to take the onus upon themselves to reshape their own oppressive predispositions and teach the younger community of black males to be more cognizant of these issues.
As for Nate Parker, I am happy to see that for the most part, black women are ending the cycle and actively calling out Parker and even going as far as to not watch his movie at all. Rape is rape, and if we are going to move forward as a society then accountability should be practiced with no exceptions for race. The victim’s whiteness should be noted along with America’s history of killing black men for even speaking to a white woman. This, in addition to the idea that the media’s emphasis is being seen as a distraction from one of the few movies that is significantly reshaping the perceived images of African-Americans, has done little to diminish black women’s commitment to standing up against rape culture.
For my black men, if you know better, do better.
Michael Anderson is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies with minors in Africana studies and digital communication, information and media. His column, “A ‘Popped’ Culture,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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