The civil rights era triumphantly followed, but then something unexpected happened: an outburst of black rapine straight out of Birth of a Nation. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver summed up his racial motivations in the 1968 bestseller Soul on Ice, which was on the required reading list at my high school in the mid-1970s:
[W]hen I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically … Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women … I felt I was getting revenge. … I wanted to send waves of consternation throughout the white race.
In 1975, after a decade of increasing rape rates, journalist Susan Brownmiller published the feminist classic on rape, Against Our Will. What makes striking reading today is Brownmiller’s terse frankness. From a 1975 interview in People magazine:
Q. What were some of your major misconceptions?
A. Those of anyone growing up in the liberal New York City milieu. To me, rape was a screaming vindictive white woman and a framed black man. I had no sympathy or identification with rape victims. It was all the fault of women who led men on.
Q. What do statistics show?
A. That most rape is black on black, that it is basically an intraclass, intraracial crime because of opportunity. But there is a definite rise in the percentage of interracial rape.
Q. Why is it increasing? “¨”¨A. It’s part and parcel of increasing violence rather than sex, partly because the criminal population is rising and becoming more adventurous. I think writers like Eldridge Cleaver and Franz Fanon, who tried to give rape an ideological justification, didn’t help. They tried to justify interracial rape as some sort of political act. It’s typical of the left to make a convicted rapist a hero.
We”ve also seen the same pattern of black liberation leading to a long outburst of rape in Mandela’s South Africa.
The icy Boer novelist J.M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his 1999 novel, Disgrace, about a professor’s lesbian daughter being gang raped by liberated blacks. It was made into a memorable 2009 movie starring John Malkovich as Coetzee’s alter ego. The laureate fled to Australia when the ruling African National Congress made threatening noises.
Hence, it appears that Griffith might have been onto something in his portrayal of the Reconstruction Era. But that only makes his crime worse.
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