This, instead of those shameful, reactionary press releases that Parker and team released months earlier, should have been the interview he gave before news of his infamous campus rape incident resurfaced.
Well, he “goes off-script”. His doing so creates this illusion that he’s about to get real candid. That he’s gonna keep it completely 100. That he’s gonna lay it all out in the open and say everything that should be said and needs to be said.
By saying this, Parker (and his PR team) attempt to regain control of a narrative that has already wildly spiraled out of their reach.
And dare I say, it almost worked.
Parker uses all the “right” words in this Ebony interview. All those fifty cent “buzzwords” that you throw around to prove that you’re woke? That you’re down? He checked all of them off like they were on some Social Justice To-Do List™.
He talks about his [male] privilege. He elaborates about hyper-masculinity (toxic masculinity). He even talks about date [rape] culture. And he drops the word “consent” about eleventeen times, somehow trying to convince that “yeah guys! NOW I get it!”
All them feel-good buzzwords aside, his statement rings hollow. To put it bluntly, it is insufficient. And here are some reasons why:
1. For all the fancy buzzwords he uses, he avoids the biggies: rape and rapist.
Or rather, he evades answering whether what he did constitutes as rape and whether that makes him a rapist.
At a point in the interview, Britni Danielle asks Nate Parker how it feels when people [rightfully] call him a rapist. And his reply to this is basically “I don’t understand the question” in some many words. Now since Parker was likening this gendered conversation about rape to race and racial liberation here’s a parallel:
Imagine every time a White person has committed an act of racism against any of person of color and then turned around and said that they weren’t racist.
In both examples, continued acts of racism/sexual assault are not required for the definitions of rape and racism to apply. It takes only ONE time for these things to be applicable. And yet, people assume otherwise.
So, by that same logic, the denial that Parker is operating on, that somehow what he and his friend Jean Celestin did is not rape (and therefore doesn’t classify them as rapists), is disingenuous. And by skirting around these obvious points, it makes it so that this potentially “Earth-shaking” interview is all flash and no substance.
Which is particularly damning considering she committed suicide in 2012 (no doubt as a result of these events).
This point is rather self-explanatory but for those who don’t get it, I will say that his victim most certainly did not have that luxury. From the fact that she eventually had to back away from testifying (again) against Jean Celestin to avoid being re-traumatized to the fact that Penn State did not protect her and she had to eventually drop-out of school, I guarantee that this wasn’t something she could just “forget” about.
3. He’s still defensive.
Other than the fact that he literally hurdles over and jukes past the words rape and rapist, he positions this consent discussion as if his 19-year-old self and his current self are separate entities.
Granted, there is a difference between saying that 19-year-old Nate Parker is different than 39-year-year old Nate Parker. Naturally, people are going to grow and learn different things and hopefully do better. Hopefully.
But the way in which he refers to his younger self almost reads like he’s talking about a completely different person that is not himself.
And to that I say: no.
Yes, you were that 19-year-old committing these heinous acts. OWN it.
4. This whole “the rules have changed” tone that he uses for this issue is bullshit.
The rules haven’t changed, y’all. The definition of rape has not changed. Rape then is still rape now. Just because Parker himself thought he was above abiding by the rules (no doubt because of that athletic background) of rape (or rather, the rules of not raping) does not mean that the rules have suddenly been switched up.
The only thing that has changed are attempts by proponents of justice, survivors, and social justice advocates to get it taken more seriously. They are fed up. They are frustrated. They are loud. And they have every right to be because if they aren’t, society will surely allow them to silently fall back into the cracks.
Other than that, it’s still the same. The way that society-at-large disregards it as a serious crime (rape culture) is the same. The way that the courts refuse to seriously prosecute it as a serious crime (rape culture) is the same. The way that we bend over backwards to excuse people who commit this heinous act (rape culture) is the same.
Parker’s campus incident was not a threesome. It. was. rape.
For all Parker’s talk about “consent”, he consistently fails time and time again to grasp the concept of, you guessed it, consent.
Parker also fails time and time again to tell us whether his victim consented to his and Celestin’s actions. Danielle is eventually able to extract it out of him with her line of questioning (A+ questioning, I might add) when she asks whether he ever got a “yes” to go ahead with any sexual acts and he issues a straight-up “no”.
No consent? It’s rape. The addition of his pervy friend, Celestin, just made it worse. It doesn’t make it a consensual threesome.
Would his victim have consented to a threesome had she been conscious and sober? Maybe. I don’t know. We don’t know.
But did she according to this case? No.
And I have this tiny inkling that Parker would not have invited his friend and accomplice, Celestin, into the room like did had she been conscious and able to consent.
I say this because of the conversations on sexual assault that I’ve had the displeasure of either hearing or partaking in where men of all colors decided to play coy about the definition of consent.
The thing about consent is…it’s not complicated. Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) breaks it down perfectly:
See? Simple. At this point. I’m convinced that if men/those who identify as men don’t allegedly “get it”, they are feigning ignorance and are instead in denial about the possibility of them having raped someone before.
That’s the only explanation for such widespread “ignorance”.
6. Not only does Parker not take responsibility for the rape, but he does not take responsibility for making his victim’s life hellish after the incident.
While he mentions that her death “shook” him, he fails to take any responsibility for any of the actions that no doubt lead to her death.
The rape itself? Nah.
That nasty, gaslighting phone call? Nah.
The harassment by him and Celestin? Nah.
The harassment of the victim by other Penn State students that he and Jean goaded on (which, I expect would be relentless considering that they were both student athletes)? Lol nope.
There’s no clear-cut case of ownership here. And that’s…worrisome, to say the least.
But, you know, that’s not my favorite part of this admittedly brilliant (no doubt PR-orchestrated) interview. Here’s my favorite part:
7. Nate Parker does not at all elaborate on why bringing Jean Celestin onto The Birth of A Nation was a horrible idea.
Even if you believe Parker is innocent (lol), there’s no way to defend the fact that he made his rapist friend and co-conspirator an important part of his “liberation project”.
Celestin was convicted for the rape of Parker’s victim. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Even if Parker thinks they did nothing wrong (which is how this interview truly reads after sifting through all these fancy, fifty cent words), what sense does it make to bring Celestin onto the project when you know that this is on his record?
That this case is in the ether (and searchable) and can resurface at any point in time under even the slightest ounce of [celebrity] scrutiny?
As a matter of fact, what possesses you to not distance yourself from your rapey friend if you are in fact “innocent”?
I’ll tell you: arrogance.
That’s the one thing in this interview that Parker does nail: his aside about arrogance. Because arrogance really and truly is the only reason as to why Parker would still be so down to work with Celestin on such a huge project after all these years.
Now, I think redemption is not impossible. But I also think redemption cannot truly be attained until we admit that there is something to be redeemed from. That there are people that we hurt and that there are wrongs that needed to be righted.
Responsibility and ownership of said wrongs have to be part of redemption or otherwise, what the hell is the point?
Ultimately, all we can gather from this interview is that Nate Parker wants to be redeemed, he wants forgiveness, that per this and any other interview, for a crime he did “not” commit. Past this point, he cannot be given even an ounce of clemency for his past decisions. A woman is dead because of these actions and Nate Parker doesn’t have an iota of decency to even say her name, as he “goes off-script” with a well-rehearsed diatribe, bordering on whining, verbal diarrhea. A woman is dead and so many people are ready to forgive Nate Parker based on cheap buzzwords, based on an utter falsehood that consent is somehow not understandable at the age of nineteen…at least not for Nate Parker.
I cannot for the life of me understand how we arrived at the point where the bar is set so disgustingly low for men. How can we conceivably and credibly discuss the ills of rape culture, of misogyny, of patriarchy, of a faulty justice system when we set the bar this low for a rapist, whose actions led to a woman so tormented, that she took her own life.
When did we get here, y’all?
The cognitive dissonance surrounding this subject is so thick, one would need a chainsaw to cut through it. The willingness to give Nate Parker props for having a conversation about his actions, where he avoids all accountability for said actions, is so easily given. And for what, for a half-assed apology, with no substantiative deeds to rectify his “mistake”. No atonement. What does it mean for him to apologize when the person he victimized is no longer here to tell us how she feels? What does it mean for him to apologize when he brought his victim’s convicted rapist on board for his directorial debut?
I’ll tell you what it means: it means he doesn’t give a flying fuck about his victim. It means he is glad she is no longer here to solidify his guilt. It means he doesn’t want his directorial debut to bomb in theaters. It means he wants to be successful and that he’ll do and say anything to atone for this dark thing that has grown wings to stop casting shadows on his new life.
I’m sick, to be frank.
Saying “I’m sorry” is nice. You know, that “I’m sorry” Parker issued to all the survivors out there is even “polite” but if he doesn’t even know what he is truly sorry for (his “sorry” was in response to his initial, callous comments about the rape case rather than the fact that he raped to begin with), he has wasted his time with this unnecessary, verbose ass interview.
He has wasted the time of survivors with this unnecessary, verbose ass interview.
And he has wasted the time of proponents of justice and longtime (or even short-time) fans with this unnecessary, verbose ass interview.
And all of his “sorrys” and social justice jargon, and fancy buzzwords amount to nothing.
That said, if Parker is in search of some semblance redemption or penance, he is welcome to dedicate the rest of his life (and related funds) to ending the prevalence of rape and sexual assault (especially on college campuses).
But I’m sure many will not hold their breath on that one. I certainly won’t.
Images From: Popsugar, Brucemctague.com, Pennstatelive.com, Mic