WaterCoolerConvos

Nate Parker is the Unrepentant Abuser We Know Too Well

nate-parker

As the Friday debut of his Nat Turner inspired film Birth of a Nation approaches, filmmaker and actor Nate Parker continues to field questions about his 1999 rape trial involving his co-writer Jean Celestin and a young woman who died by suicide in 2012. Sadly, his most recent interviews suggest that he still sees his abuse as secondary to his film-making. Once again, an abuser has centered himself in the trauma of someone he has traumatized.

While he has, at times, appeared to understand the gravity of his harm against the young woman and its explicit impact on the conditions of her death, in his recent appearances on “60 Minutes” and “Good Morning America,” Parker showed that even the mere discussion of those events were unfair to him. He offered no apologies and doubled-down on his claims that he was “vindicated” in court, disappointing entire swaths of fans and critics whose simple request is that he acknowledge and show remorse for his actions.

On October 2nd, Parker sat down with CNN Host Anderson Cooper for his appearance on “60 Minutes.” When asked if he believed he should apologize to the family for his actions 17 years ago, he replied with the following:

I’ll say this: I do think it’s tragic, so much of what’s happened, and the fact that this family’s had to endure, with respect to this woman not being here. But I also think that—and I don’t want to harp on this, and I don’t want to be disrespectful at all, but, at some point, I have to say it. I was falsely accused. I went to court, and I sat in trial. I was vindic—[with tears welling in his eyes] I was vindicated. I was proven innocent, I was vindicated. And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here, and I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is…no.

 

The following morning, Parker sat down with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” to discuss the film. But, when Roberts questioned him about the rape trial, he became agitated, frequently interrupting her and saying “I addressed it so many times. Did you see the “60 Minutes” interview with Anderson Cooper?” Roberts let him know that not everyone had seen his interview the night before while asking about whether he would offer an apology.

Parker looked exasperated with the line of questioning and said, “I’m not going to go through…I’ve said it, I said it last night. I was falsely accused, I was proven innocent and I’m not going to apologize for that. I feel terribly about that situation. But at some point, we have to ask ourselves, why are we..this is a film that is important to us.”

 

As Parker deflected the questions about the rape trial, moving the conversation back to his new movie, Parker solidified (for many people including myself) several things. First, he made it clear that the progress he seemed to have made when discussing the rape trial with EBONY in August was actually a smoke-screen. This has been confirmed as we get closer and closer to the film’s release. Parker has become less and less willing to acknowledge his role in the events that would later lead to a young woman’s death. But, beyond that, he often suggests that this discussion is distracting us from his “important work.” But what about the important work of restoring a community after harm has been committed? of transforming injustice? of accounting for the ways we harm one another especially men against women?

Second, Parker’s refusal to apologize – which is literally the least he can do – shows how rigid his notion of justice is and precisely who it refers to. Time and again, Parker rattles off historical facts about injustices facing Black people in the United States but never has he framed he and Celestin’s assault of a young woman as a form of violence, an unjust action that results directly from patriarchy and rape culture. As many reviews of Birth of a Nation suggest, the film is reflective of his limited conception of oppression, often objectifying Black women and reinforcing the same systemic violence these women face today. So, if “justice is love in public” as scholar Cornel West suggests, what exactly is Parker’s dissidence in the face of calls for public remorse and accountability for his offense?

Lastly, perhaps what’s worst about Parker’s lack of introspection on this issue is the way he has alienated survivors of sexual assault.

As I watched these clips, all I could think about was my own experiences as a survivor of repeated sexual abuse in high school. The man who abused me offered me trips to San Francisco, NBA Playoff tickets, and promises of expensive stays in Las Vegas hotels. Months later, when I ran into him again, he made polite conversation with me, asked me how I was doing, and attempted to flirt with me. After I made it clear that he had harmed and violated me, he joked about it, made excuses, and even suggested that I was into it. But, he never offered an apology.

There is something particularly disturbing and inhuman about refusing to apologize to a living person who one has been harmed. But, as in Parker’s case, to be unwilling to apologize to a woman who has posthumously become an object against which he has sought to justify his manhood (by using his wife, sisters, mother and daughters as props), to legitimate his professional accomplishments (as seen in every interview when he pivots to the film), and to confirm his status as a producer of “important work,” is truly confounding. In fact, Parker seems most upset, discombobulated, and offended when aspects of his identity and experience are questioned. Yet, when this young woman’s short life is discussed, he is stony, solemn…even cold.

As people rush the theaters to see his film on debut weekend, I deeply hope that the images those viewers see become interlaced and connected with Parker’s own political situatedness, his lack of reflection and personal responsibility, and his unapologetic abuse. I hope they see him scowling at Robin Roberts, beckoning her to move away from the abuser he is to the saint he hopes to become. I hope they see him force back tears when he discusses how hard it was for him to go through a rape trial while looking on peacefully as he feigns compassion and empathy for his deceased victim. I hope they see R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and the great many other prominent Black men whose “important work” has silenced our justified rage.

This is what shameless, remorseless, unabashed patriarchy looks like. When an apology appears to be the breaking point for an abuser and no one rages in the streets, mass media isn’t in uproar, and we literally proceed with the status quo, we’ve all lost. So, maybe too many of us are content with losing this time around.

Photo: Screenshot of Nate Parker from “60 Minutes” Interview

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Jenn M. Jackson

Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief
Jenn M. Jackson is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. She is a native of Oakland, CA, resided in sunny SoCal for a decade, and now lives in the Chicago suburbs. Bringing the bourgie and good measure of the nerdy, she fearlessly writes about politics, pop culture, and whatever other topics in black America have firmly planted a bee in her bonnet.

Comments

comments

  • Shawna

    Great piece on a very complicated issue. I can definitely see where remorse, an apology, empathy could go a long way. He supposedly had a relationship with the victim. To not display concern is tragic. It made me question how truthful he was to their relationship. What was his intention or motive in that relationship? It doesn’t seem like it was to have a serious, monogamous relationship.

    • He really ruined his own career with his indignance. It’s disappointing to watch.

      • AKA

        You black women are stupid and have allowed yourself to be used as tool by white supremacy to undermine you’re own men. A majority white jury found Nate Parker not guilty of rape. What is there to apologize for.?

      • AKA

        You see, women like you are the greatest enemy of Black men in this country. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. You’re a dangerous woman Jenn M. Jackson. I’ve see a picture of you and your son and no father in sight…..which say a lot about you.

        The timing of your article is highly suspicious in my opinion. Nate Parker has been in public eye for almost years, so why now? Why bring up this issue right now? Either you Black women are politically unsophisticated or knowingly contribute to the downfall of your own community. You will think that a Black man who invested his resources and time to tell the story of one of Black Americas first revolutionary, will garner support and encouragement of a segment of his own community (Black women) at a time when Black Americans are being murdered and politically disenfranchised. Nooooooooo, again you’ve allowed yourself to be used as a tool of distraction from a common goal. Just like you did in the 1960 with the women movement. They told you that men were your enemy and were holding back your progression….You agreed, chased the Black man out the home in return for welfare, destroying one of Black America’s greatest foundation (family). What was the result you may ask? 70% of child out of wedlock, mass incarceration, gay/effeminate men ( you raised them), lowest ethnic marriage rate in America, broken down and poverty stricken communities, and few economic infrastructures to speak of.
        Now Back to Nate Parker. Why are the media bringing up a rape case that happened almost 20 years ago, for which I REPEAT, he was found NOT GUILTY by a majority white jury? Have you asked yourself that question or you chose not care? You see, you’re used to seeing a black man in a subservient role in cinema. He’s always persecuted and another white man comes to his rescue. That’s what they want you to see. You’re not used to seeing him in a position of power and in charge of his destiny. That movie was well made and would have garnered national and international attention and they did want Nate exposing one of America’s greatest and potential bring an angry Black men uprising reminiscent of that of Nat Turner. They white movie and Network executive didn’t want to be seen as racist, so they sent out the favorite enforcer of their agenda against the Black American man to do the work. Yep! they sent out you black women. You helped smear that man’s name, and destroyed his box office and that’s exactly what you did.
        Use you head and stop being naive, why will a man be remorseful for a crime that he did not commit? You Black women, if you’re even a black woman are very annoying. You think a majority white jury will fail to convict a Black man for raping a white woman in America? Do you really think?

        • Just an FYI – my son’s father was behind the camera.

          To be clear, I am married to a Black man. I have been with the same Black man for 15 years. We run this site together (something you would know if you did just a little bit of research).

          Beyond that, I am not commenting on your defense of Nate Parker. I have nothing further to say about this topic. Good luck with your internet trolling.

    • AKA

      You black women are stupid and have allowed yourself to be used as tool by white supremacy to undermine you’re own men. A majority white jury found Nate Parker not guilty of rape.

      • Shawna

        I stated a point and a question and you stated insults and a rhetorical question. As a human being, I’d be remorseful and empathetic if someone I had a serious, monogamous relationship with committed suicide. In fact, I’m empathetic towards strangers who commit suicide, regardless of the reason.

        • AKA

          The timing of your article is highly suspicious in my opinion. Nate Parker has been in public eye for almost years, so why now? Why bring up this issue right now? Either you Black women are politically unsophisticated or knowingly contribute to the downfall of your own community. You will think that a Black man who invested his resources and time to tell the story of one of Black Americas first revolutionary, will garner support and encouragement of a segment of his own community (Black women) at a time when Black Americans are being murdered and politically disenfranchised. Nooooooooo, again you’ve allowed yourself to be used as a tool of distraction from a common goal. Just like you did in the 1960 with the women movement. They told you that men were your enemy and were holding back your progression….You agreed, chased the Black man out the home in return for welfare, destroying one of Black America’s greatest foundation (family). What was the result you may ask? 70% of child out of wedlock, mass incarceration, gay/effeminate men ( you raised them), lowest ethnic marriage rate in America, broken down and poverty stricken communities, and few economic infrastructures to speak of.
          Now Back to Nate Parker. Why are the media bringing up a rape case that happened almost 20 years ago, for which I REPEAT, he was found NOT GUILTY by a majority white jury? Have you asked yourself that question or you chose not care? You see, you’re used to seeing a black man in a subservient role in cinema. He’s always persecuted and another white man comes to his rescue. That’s what they want you to see. You’re not used to seeing him in a position of power and in charge of his destiny. That movie was well made and would have garnered national and international attention and they did want Nate exposing one of America’s greatest and potential bring an angry Black men uprising reminiscent of that of Nat Turner. They white movie and Network executive didn’t want to be seen as racist, so they sent out the favorite enforcer of their agenda against the Black American man to do the work. Yep! they sent out you black women. You helped smear that man’s name, and destroyed his box office and that’s exactly what you did.
          Use you head and stop being naive, why will a man be remorseful for a crime that he did not commit? You Black women, if you’re even a black woman are very annoying. You think a majority white jury will fail to convict a Black man for raping a white woman in America? Do you really think?

  • When [black] men learn that there is no such thing as free lunch, free love, or free pussy–consensual or grabbed–the world will be a safe place for women and children. Did this black man use his penis to make war on The [white] Man as so many male cowards believe they have the right to do? If this is so, then this is the whirlwind that he raped, and reaped. This movie flop is the cost of his need to be The Boss.