The pending birth of my daughter in 2012, 18 months after the arrival of twin sons, weighed heavily on me.
I remember sitting with my pregnant wife, as our boys climbed around our row house, as I lamented that no one would be good enough for my precious daughter.
My wife, ever my biggest cheerleader, assured me not to worry. She had found a worthy partner in me, so surely our daughter, she reasoned, could replicate her mother’s success.
“But that’s just it,” I told my wife. “Someone like me is not good enough for our daughter.”
“Well then who is?” asked my wife, confused.
“Jesus!” I replied.
We both had a good laugh and went on to discuss our hopes, dreams and desires for our baby girl.
I’ve been replaying that scene recently as I try to make sense of the controversy swirling around Nate Parker, the writer, director and star of the upcoming film “The Birth of a Nation” by Fox Searchlight.
Parker was a student at Penn State University in 1999 when, according to a report in Variety, a female student at the school accused him and his roommate of raping her while she was unconscious.
Parker, who said that the sex was consensual, was later arrested, tried and ultimately acquitted during a 2001 trial. But questions about his conduct that night began percolating soon after Fox purchased the rights to his film for a record $17.5 million in late January at the annual Sundance film festival.
I can’t say with certainty that Parker and his former roommate and co-writer of the film, Jean McGianni Celestin, got away with raping a former student. I can, however, glean from court documents that the two men were part of a disturbing pattern of college students who mix alcohol with one bad decision after another, resulting in consequences that could prove deadly. Did Parker, who’s now married with daughters of his own, treat the young woman who accused him of rape in a way he would expect a man to treat his daughters?
Although the crisis of sexual assaults on college campuses has gained widespread attention in recent years, we still often focus a disproportionate amount of attention on the women; our daughters.
Will they place themselves in vulnerable positions? Will they know when they’ve had too much to drink? Will they be strong enough to fight off a would-be-attacker?
But what about the role our sons play?
As my wife’s abdomen grew, and our twin boys formed into little people, I didn’t fret about them having to one day make a moral decision that could impact a woman’s affirmative right to choose.
That’s the bad news.
But the good news is that time is definitely on our side.
With twin 6-year-olds, my wife and I are still in the early stages of raising the boys who will grow to be young men who will have to make decisions that could impact the course of someone else’s life.
They’re far too young to understand this concept, but that doesn’t mean that my wife and I don’t look for opportunities to prepare them to be the kind of people who’ll look out for their neighbor, rather than someone capable of exploiting vulnerability.
We talk to our boys about their responsibility to look after, for instance, a classmate who might be hurt or injured on the playground. We’ve shared with them our expectations and remind them that they have an obligation to stick up for a friend in need or a stranger who might be in a dangerous or compromising situation.
The facts surrounding Parker’s case have forced me to take a hard look in the mirror. Like many fathers, I can’t say that I’ve focused enough on the role my sons could play in future scenarios that might turn uglier with each incorrect decision.
While I’ve spent my early parenting years dreading a less-than-God-like-figure for my daughter, I haven’t concentrated equally on preparing our two boys to eventually fill those roles for someone else’s daughters.
Thank God for time and mirrors.
Lester Davis is deputy chief of staff and communications director for the president of the Baltimore City Council.
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