Nate Parker has been under attack since old reports on his college rape case surfaced into media headlines in wake of the release of his upcoming critically-acclaimed film, “Birth of a Nation”.
However, despite the conspiracy many feel is in place over the irony behind Nate’s old rape case being drug up right before the release of his highly-praised film on the first recorded slave rebellion, Nate Parker is speaking out yet again in hopes of wiping away any further criticism he has received over his initial response to his past being brought up.
When originally asked about the old rape case, Parker, 36, spoke with Variety about the accusation:
“Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life,” Parker said. “It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is…I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.”
Parker is now acknowledging the selfishness behind his original statement in hopes of righting some of his wrong as theaters across the country continue cancelling advanced screenings of his film.
After answering a question about why he chose to make “yet another slave film,” Parker addressed the controversy head-on.
“I think it’s very difficult to talk about injustice and not deal with what’s happening right now,” the 36-year-old actor and director told the audience. “When I was first met with the news that this part of my past had come up, my knee-jerk reaction was selfish. I wasn’t thinking about even the potential hurt of others; I was thinking about myself.”
For the next 12 minutes, Parker discussed learning about things like toxic masculinity and male privilege, while explaining that he isn’t upset the rape allegation has been resurrected.
“This is happening for a very specific reason,” Parker explained, referencing God throughout the conversation. “To be honest, my privilege as a male, I never thought about it. I’m walking around daring someone to say something or do something that I define is racist or holding us back, but never really thinking about male culture and the destructive effect it’s having on our community.”
EBONY.com: You started out tonight addressing the controversy, and you talked a lot about male culture and toxic masculinity. So I want to kind of compare. What, at 19, did you know about consent?
Nate Parker: To be honest, not very much. It wasn’t a conversation people were having. When I think about 1999, I think about being a 19-year-old kid, and I think about my attitude and behavior just toward women with respect objectifying them. I never thought about consent as a definition, especially as I do now. I think the definitions of so many things have changed.
EBONY.com: So how does it differ for you?
Nate Parker: You mean like where I am right now?
EBONY.com: Yeah, as 36-year-old Nate.
Nate Parker: Put it this way, when you’re 19, a threesome is normal. It’s fun. When you’re 19, getting a girl to say yes, or being a dog, or being a player, cheating. Consent is all about–for me, back then–if you can get a girl to say yes, you win.
EBONY.com: You mentioned that your initial comments about the resurrection of this incident were self-centered, and from an emotional place on your behalf. So do you understand why people are struggling with…
Nate Parker: Absolutely! I understand now, but I was speaking from a standpoint of ignorance.
EBONY.com: Two weeks ago, you mean?
Nate Parker: Yeah. Well, when you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s like, if I don’t know how to swim and two weeks later I know how to swim, I know how to swim. Honestly, when I started reading them comments I had to call some people and say, What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong?
I called a couple of sisters that know that are in the space that talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions. What did I do wrong? Because I was thinking about myself. And what I realized is that I never took a moment to think about the woman. I didn’t think about her then, and I didn’t think about her when I was saying those statements, which was wrong and insensitive.
I just really wanted to know more about what I was talking about. People were saying, why isn’t he speaking soon? Cuz I still didn’t know nothing. I don’t want…this ain’t the hype for me.
EBONY.com: So why did you give those two interviews first? Because I feel like I had read some articles [about the rape case], but it wasn’t like this thing, until…
Nate Parker: This is hard; I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this. Not everyone has the best intentions. I thought I was giving the interview, at the time of those two interviews–and one really just bit off the other–I didn’t know the status of the women. I didn’t know. I was acting as if I was the victim, and that’s wrong. I was acting as if I was the victim because I felt like, my only thought was I’m innocent and everyone needs to know. I didn’t even think for a second about her, not even for a second.
You asked me why I wasn’t empathetic? Why didn’t it come off more empathetic? Because I wasn’t being empathetic. Why didn’t it come off more contrite? Because I wasn’t being contrite. Maybe I was being even arrogant. And learning about her passing shook me, it really did. It really shook me.
EBONY.com: Had you thought about her and this incident over the last 17 years?
Nate Parker: No, I had not. I hadn’t thought about it at all.
EBONY.com: That’s going to come off very…privileged.
Nate Parker: It is! Listen to me when I say I’m understanding that I’m dealing with a problem, like an addiction. Just like you can be addicted to White Supremacy and all of the benefits, you can be addicted to male privilege and all of the benefits that comes from it. It’s like someone pointing at you and you have a stain on your shirt and you don’t even know it.
I’m a work in progress. I’m trying to be better. I feel remorse for all the women that are survivors that felt I was being insensitive because I was. And I want to have a better understanding of how I can be more of an ally, if they’ll accept me. There will be people who won’t accept me, and that’s okay. All I can do is say that I stand for justice and really learn more about this issue so I can be a better ally of this issue.
EBONY.com: So you’re not the conspiracy theory guy? Like, they’re just trying to kill this story about Nat Turner?
Nate Parker: No. I’m like, it’s here now. And I’m going to celebrate Nat Turner and if he’s a leader who inspires me, I gotta face injustices in my own community. I gotta face my past, whether it be 17 years ago or 17 minutes ago. I gotta be able to look at it and say, well, you know, I have engaged in hyper-male culture, and I’m learning about it, and I’m learning how I can change and help young boys and young men change.
Race I’ve been studying since I knew there was a problem with race and that I was Black and something was wrong. Gender, is very new to me. All I can say is this is something that I’m going to take hold of and pray about it. I’m going to soul-search, I’m going to talk to people like you, and I’m going to talk to people who know more than I do. Because when it comes to race, what do I do? I call people like Harry Belafonte. So when you talk about Roxane Gay, when you talk about Maiysha Kai, I’m open to criticism. I don’t want to be a leader that is one-dimensional or two-dimensional because he’s not willing to be open.
EBONY.com: A lot of people are going to say, hmmm, he wants to be a leader. Because nobody really says they want to be a leader, but you’re saying this in terms of leading change?
Nate Parker: Yeah. Every role I’ve ever taken, I said I want to be clear I’m not going to do anything that denigrates our experience, that’s going to speak power into our community. So when this thing surfaced…”healing comes from honest confrontation,” Maiysha Kai said that. And you can print this, I took those words to heart. She’s right. So I’m going to honestly confront this. This is all I can do. I’m not perfect, I’m a flawed man, but I’m willing to try to get better, I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to take input from people who are living it everyday.
So like you said, it’s been two weeks, but it’s been a long two weeks. But I refuse to look at this like a victim. I’m going to look at this as someone, okay, this is a flaw in me that needs to be changed, something that needs to be dealt with. And it’s bigger than some small technicality. There are people in my life, and people outside my life, that need to know there are people at least talking about it. If I can use my platform to affect change in gender, as I can in race, then I think I can have an impact. This is not the end-all, it’s a work in progress. And I say that humbly as a person that has literally been humbled into really reassessing his ideas and thoughts.
One last thing, and I want to be clear on this, this is very, very important. Homophobia. I said some comments in 2014 and regardless of the actual words, in the same way conversations around consent have changed, conversation around homosexuality and LGBT…I’m continuously learning more and more. Five years ago, two years ago, ten years ago…just like some people think racism is if you say the n-word, so homophobia is if you call someone [he abruptly ended the sentence.] The fact that I said I wouldn’t wear a dress, or that I’m not interested in gay roles, I can see now that was being exclusionary. It was being insensitive, and it was being homophobic. And guess what? I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everyone who ever read similar comments or just got wind that something was said. I’m growing in my understanding in my relationships with [the] LGBT [community]. I had to ask people I know like, is this homophobic? A couple people said yeah. And I was like, oh.
So every day I’m reassessing what I’ve been taught against what I see, and the man I need to be if I’m going to call myself a leader of anybody. So like I said, for the women out there that I’ve hurt with my male privilege, I’m sorry. For the men that identify with whatever they identify with, I retract my comments, and I’m sorry. I hope they can forgive me for those attitudes and behaviors. And like I said, this is a step of one of many, many, many, many steps I need to take toward a lot of things that will refine me and make me better suited for leading anyone out of any place of injustice to a place of justice. I got work to do. I got a lot of work to do within myself.
You can read Parker’s full interview with Ebony HERE.