Gabrielle Union is totally fine with you not seeing ‘Birth of a Nation’ amid sexual assault controversy

The Birth of a Nation hit theaters last weekend and pretty much tanked. After months of intense advertising, the film brought in a measly $7.1 million in ticket sales, not doubt related to the fact that the director, writer, producer, and star hasn’t been able to escape a sexual assault controversy from his past. Because of Nate Parker’s questionable criminal history, Gabrielle Union doesn’t mind people not watching The Birth of a Nation.

Union appeared in the November issue of Essence magazine, and in her interview said, “As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult.” She continued, “I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film.”

In case you somehow managed to avoid all the news surrounding the film, Parker and his co-writer, Jean Celestin, were both charged with rape while students at the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. Parker was acquitted and Celestin was initially convicted of sexual assault but later had his conviction overturned because his attorney didn’t properly defend him. Of course, once the decades-old case was dug up, it followed the two men and their movie around like a dark shadow.

In the film, Union plays a slave who’s raped by slaveowners and is a survivor herself, so she gets why many people don’t want to see the film, despite it telling the important story of a slave rebellion.

She previously wrote an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, saying: “On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did.” She went on, “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.”

She may be in the movie, but she’s not listing it as a must-see flick.