By now, most of us have heard about Nate Parker, star and writer of Birth of A Nation, and the allegations that he raped a woman while he was a student at Penn State. By now we’ve read his painfully tone deaf and blatantly selfish interviews with Deadline and Variety. And by now, I feel sick just thinking about Parker and the myriad of excuses he conjures up so that he won’t have to take responsibility for his actions in 1999. But I must be one hell of a masochist because I immediately clicked on Parker’s interview with Ebony magazine, because I just had to see what this fool was going to say next.
I’ll say this — which is Parker’s favorite phrase — this interview is the one Parker meant to give when the news blew up. It’s polished and wrapped in so much of what other, smarter, non-alleged rapists have said this week, that it almost sounds genuine. As I’m sure is his intention, it sounds like he’s undergone a great change since he was labeled a rapist a mere two weeks ago.
We’ve already established how I feel about rapists (even the alleged ones): they are pure and unadulterated trash. And while change is always good, I’m not ready to rescind the label of rapist from Nate Parker, just because he’s good at parroting what other people have said. This interview only confirmed what I already suspected: Parker raped a woman and didn’t care until the public got mad and threatened his career-making film.This interview is wrapped in so much of what non-alleged rapists have said that it almost sounds genuine Click To Tweet
The “incident” (as his and Jean Celestin’s alleged rape of a woman is referred to) is tapdanced around throughout. The interviewer asks about it, but Parker draws a hazy line between addressing it and talking about society’s enduring issues with masculinity and rape culture. While Parker throws around some buzzwords like “hyper masculinity” and “male privilege” (which he admits he picked up from some more well-versed voices) and talks about flawed and false definitions of manhood, he doesn’t talk about what made his “incident” wrong in the first place. Instead talks about how “being a dog”, picking girls up in clubs, cheating on girlfriends, does not a healthy relationship make, and about nineteen year olds being into threesomes.
Fact: Having sex, even having casual sex, is not a bad thing. Going out and looking for one night stands isn’t a bad thing. I know because I just graduated college, and I got through the whole experience being part of, and watching my friends be part, of sexual relationships both casual and serious that didn’t include rape. Now, I’ve never had a threesome (maybe one day!), but I know this about them: they’re way more normal than rape. Even the most vanilla person on the planet should be able to agree with me that a threesome between three consenting individuals is fine and dandy.
Rape, however, isn’t. And what (allegedly) happened to Parker’s accuser wasn’t a threesome, it was a rape.
Parker doesn’t make this distinction, despite admitting his definition of consent was flawed and incomplete. He says, “I’m 36-years-old and I’m learning about definitions that I should have known when I started having sex.” But he doesn’t tell us how the absence of those definitions led him to be charged with rape. Instead, he says he didn’t understand consent because no one ever told him. So he did rape her? He just didn’t know that’s what it was?
Let me tell you something, Nate: if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, it still fell. Just because you don’t know it fell, doesn’t mean it’s still standing. If you rape someone but don’t know, or consider, or haven’t been taught to know and consider it rape….it’s still rape.If you rape someone but don't know….it’s still rape. Click To Tweet
It’s true that men aren’t taught about consent. That’s how we end up with David Beckers and Brock Turners and Austin James Wilkersons, but we can acknowledge societal failures without excusing personal ones. Patriarchy and rape culture taught Nate Parker it was okay to (allegedly) rape an unconscious woman. Then Nate Parker (allegedly) raped an unconscious woman. Both are at fault. Neither are innocent.
While Parker would like us to believe he was just doing what society taught him to, like a rapey puppet, his ignorance isn’t synonymous with innocence.
“How many Black men you know that are talking about gender?” Parker asks stupidly, as if to justify his own glaring ineptitude. Or worse, to imply that he’s doing us all a favor for coming around to what other people, particularly women, have been saying forever. And have been screaming at him for the past two weeks. Though the interviewer informs him there are black men not as far up their own ass as Parker, Parker goes on to say, “But how many that have the platform?” And I simply tried not to poke my eyes out with toothpicks.
As you all know this gender thing is very newfangled — it only just came into existence when Birth of A Nation was produced. So of course Parker had no clue about any of this until he reached out to black feminists and rape survivors who worked on BOAN (take a moment to consider what it was like for a rape survivor to get a call from an (alleged) rapist to chat about why his PR efforts were failing), because he was so confused about what was so wrong with lamenting his misfortune to (allegedly) rape a woman.I simply tried not to poke my eyes out with toothpicks. Click To Tweet
Despite what Parker thinks, there are men out there (black ones, too!) that not only speak about gender but haven’t raped anyone. Those men grew up in the same America Parker did, absorbed the same toxic thinking, and rejected it. Not to mention the men out there who haven’t entirely shaken this thinking but have managed to never rape anyone.
Most infuriating about this interview, besides the alarming trend on my Twitter timeline that had self-proclaimed feminists applauding Parker for simply repeating what they’d told him, is that it’s not that different from ones he gave before or even from the statement posted on Facebook. The song remains the same. It’s still all about Nate Parker.
We’ll never get to hear from his accuser, and while her brother spoke to Variety about her, I don’t expect her family to relive her death by throwing themselves into a publicity debate with Parker. So with her unable to tell her side of the story, Parker gets to use her, her (alleged) rape and following suicide as evidence of his own growth.
By his own admission, he hadn’t thought about her in the seventeen years since he (allegedly) raped her. While she slipped easily from his mind, he remained enough at the forefront of hers that she eventually took her own life. He still wasn’t thinking of her when he did those vomit-inducing interviews (also by his own admission), and he’s not thinking of her now except for how she can be used to prove he’s changed.
She was (allegedly) raped and committed suicide, but look at how much Nate Parker has learned in the two weeks since he was forced to remember she existed.
It’s possible he’s learned something, I admit. I shudder to think of all this happening and not learning anything. But it would be easier to believe if Parker wasn’t trying to convince us his movie is still worth watching.
Find me when you’re done fishing for your Oscar, Nate.
Better yet, don’t.
Just shut the hell up.