Gabrielle Union continues to be open and honest about her experiences and perspective in a way that puts all other Hollywood media-coached actors to shame.
In a long interview with Zon D’amour for XO Necole (one she called one of her favorites of her career), Union talks about her op-ed that addressed Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker’s rape case, her recovery as a rape survivor, the many confusing views on what constitutes consent, intersectional feminism...and more. Much more.
First of all, Union isn’t worried about her brand, or maybe it’s that her brand has become advocacy couched in personal experience. She says that “Everyone on my team was in sync about me doing an op-ed,” and that she was actually pushed to release it sooner, but she took her time talking with family and friends. Those conversations led to her to couch her opinions on Parker in a larger conversation about consent, but she admits lots of people still weren’t happy:
Some people have said, ‘If you’re a feminist, you should boycott the film.’ And I was like, ‘But wait, my role in the film and the reason I signed on was to talk about sexual violence.’ So it feels ass backwards to shirk that responsibility when the controversy swirling around our film is around sexual violence so who better to speak on it than me?
And if I take myself out of the conversation because it’s uncomfortable and because I’m worried about my brand, then my brand ain’t shit if I don’t stand up for what I’ve always stood up for since I became a rape survivor.
D’Amour asks Union if she felt her white co-stars were cognizant of their white privilege, and if Union has been using the film to start those conversations with her “colleagues,” which I guess generally means white people in Hollywood. That seems like an enormous responsibility for Union to take on with all the other controversial aspects of this film she’s juggling, but apparently she’s been doing it! She says:
[During The Birth Of A Nation press conference] I was challenging the journalists in the room to evaluate their social circles. What day-to-day work are you doing to recognize your privilege then actively dismantle it? The next step is figuring out what you’re willing to do that may not benefit you but will benefit mankind. Most people are savvy enough to say the right things but when it comes to hiring someone that looks like them because it makes them feel more comfortable, that’s an example of the big and the little things that go into dismantling the system of oppression that people who benefit from it aren’t interested in tearing down. The reason why most people aren’t willing to go the extra mile to really have equality is because it won’t benefit them. Most people are self-serving, which is human nature so you have to fight back against that.
In order to begin to see change start to occur, we have to be willing to have conversations with people who have different opinions than us. I’ve already talked to Lena Dunham; I would love to talk to Kate Upton and Amy Schumer. Maybe I can help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things. Those conversations are awkward as fuck and they get heated. Similar to watching people have conversations about consent.
In the end, Union is still pushing Birth of a Nation as a film that honors Nat Turner’s resistance to oppression which can serve as a catalyst for activism and resistance now. But she says she understands if people who are uncomfortable with Parker’s past (and how he’s dealing with it in the present) decide not to see the film. She says, “I’m going to continue to live at that intersection because my womanness and my blackness are intrinsically linked. I hope that the film will inspire you to take the spirit of action, resistance and personal liberation and apply it to your own lives.”
You can and should read her whole interview here.