When Nate Parker talked to Ebony about his rape case in August, I called the conversation “Nate Parker’s Official Celebrity Apology.” Then, he said “sorry” five times. He apologized to survivors of sexual assault for being “insensitive” and “nonchalant” in his previous statements about the case. When asked about his plans to talk about consent and toxic masculinity in the future, he said this:
“This is the first step. You will know my commitment by the next few steps.”
So far, his so-called commitment to continuing the conversation about consent has been non-existent. At this point, I have no idea what he meant by “next few steps.” Since that interview, we’ve seen Parker dodge questions about his alleged rape while doing press for The Birth of a Nation at TIFF and now, there is the 60 Minutes interview where he explicitly refused to apologize and frankly, any semblance of the guy who gave that interview to Ebony was gone. Here’s how the 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper went down.
Cooper asked about the victim’s suicide and if Parker would consider apologizing to her family.
“I feel terrible that this woman isn't here… I feel terrible that, you know, her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is – no.”
Parker went on to acknowledge that he doesn’t want to play the victim himself but got choked up and tearful when delivering the following response.
"You know, I was falsely accused. You know, I went to court. And I sat in trial. You know, I was vindicated. I was proven innocent."
My gut reaction to watching a black man tearfully say that he was “falsely accused” would normally be empathy. But as Roxane Gay wrote about Nate Parker back in August, empathy has limits. The justice system has proven time and time again that “proven innocent” doesn’t mean a lot when it comes to rape cases. The details of this case in particular are so disturbing (click here if you want a refresher) that it’s unnerving to hear Parker talk about vindication in a triumphant way. But it is not surprising to me that Parker is doubling down on his innocence. He’s proclaimed innocence from the beginning. What surprised me about his interview was the seeming lack of any remorse at all. Anderson Cooper may not have pressed hard enough or asked some of the tough questions a female interviewer might have but he did push Parker to talk about his feelings of guilt – or lack thereof.
Anderson Cooper: Do you feel guilty about anything that happened that night?
Nate Parker: I don’t feel guilty.
AC: Do you feel you did something morally wrong?
NP: As a Christian man, just-- being in that situation, yeah, sure. I’m 36 years old right now. And my faith is very important to me. You know, so looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like-- it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19 years old.
That answer is bullsh-t on a lot of levels. It’s bullsh-t that Parker is using his faith to dance around answering the question. It’s bullsh-t that he brings up being 19 again as though age is an excuse for his actions. Let’s not forgot that Parker himself admitted that he did not have verbal consent from his alleged victim. I’ll refer back to Gabrielle Union’s poignant op-ed:
“… did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said “no,” silence certainly does not equal “yes.” Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a “no” as a “yes” is problematic at least, criminal at worst. That’s why education on this issue is so vital.”
The fact that Nate Parker cannot admit to any moral wrongdoing or feelings of guilt given everything we know is shocking to me. The fact that he can’t even say sorry to his alleged victim’s family for the pain they have been going through while he promotes his movie is appalling. There’s a guest column in Variety by Parker’s alleged victim’s sister called “Nate Parker’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ Exploits My Sister All Over Again” where she details the anger and agony of watching the men her sister accused of rape move on with power and privilege and the backing of a big Hollywood studio.
The 60 Minutes interview was split in half between the conversation surrounding Parker’s rape case and talk of the movie The Birth of a Nation. Parker reiterated the sentiment that Nat Turner’s story is bigger than him. He’s right about that. The story of the Nat Tuner-led slave rebellion is bigger than Nate Parker but this movie that he wrote, directed and starred in is not. This 60 Minutes interview did nothing to change my decision to not support Parker’s movie.
“I cannot value a movie, no matter how good or “important” it might be, over the dignity of a woman whose story should be seen as just as important, a woman who is no longer alive to speak for herself, or benefit from any measure of justice. No amount of empathy could make that possible.” – Roxane Gay
You can read the 60 Minutes segment’s full transcript and watch clips here.
Attached - Nate Parker at Good Morning America today.