Birth of a Nation director and actor Nate Parker exclusively spoke out after a Merge Summit film panel to publicly address the backlash he’s received since a 1999 rape allegation was uncovered almost a month ago.
“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,” he told Ebony, referring to his initial reaction and an August 16 Facebook post many felt was insensitive.
Parker goes on to say he has a new understanding on why his reaction and Facebook apology was not well received and harbors no ill will regarding the public’s knowledge of the rape accusation. He said he worked to peel back the layers accumulated from his male privilege in order to see through new eyes.
“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,” Parker said.
He said his perception of consent at 19 differs now as a 36-year-old man. Parker said as a teen, conversations surrounding consent were few and far between, adding to toxic male culture and masculinity.
To be clear, he says he always understood when a woman said no, but also says that at 19 his mind frame centered around how far a woman would let him go.
After posting the Facebook apology, he took time seeking advice from close friends, including cast members of Birth of a Nation, on why he received such backlash. He also sought out the work of prominent feminist voices to help him discover a deeper understanding about himself and his perceived flippant attitude regarding his accuser.
He likened his revelation to White supremacy, saying before he sought advice, he existed in a male-dominated mind frame because that is what his environment supports.
“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,” the Beyond the Lights actor said.
Parker says he has had to face his ignorance head on, in speaking with his college-age daughter about his past, consent, and campus cultures that support privileged environments.
He says in the 17 years since his rape accusation, he never thought about his accuser, but when he learned of her death, it “shook him.”
He ends the conversation by saying he is resolved to unpack his ignorance. “I got work to do. I got a lot of work to do within myself,” he said.
SOURCES: Ebony | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty