'I Was Acting as If I Was the Victim': Nate Parker Apologizes for 'Insensitive' Response to Rape Case Controversy

Parker is backtracking on his statements made in interviews earlier this month

Nate Parker
Photo: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Nate Parker is “still learning.”

In an exclusive interview with Ebony magazine on Friday, The Birth of a Nation writer, producer, director and star talked about his involvement in a 1999 college rape trial – and how he is moving forward.

Parker, 36, was acquitted in a 2001 trial after an 18-year-old female classmate at Penn State accused Parker and his then-classmate and current collaborator Jean Celestin of sexual assault. Celestin was initially found guilty, but his conviction was later overturned on an appeal.

“I gotta be able to look at it and say, well, you know, I have engaged in hyper-male culture,” Parker said about the case. “And I’m learning about it, and I’m learning how I can change and help young boys and young men change.”

Parker has faced criticism for his interviews following the trial’s resurfacing earlier this month. In one op-ed for the New York Times, Purdue University professor Roxane Gay said she would not be seeing Parker’s movie, adding “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.” (The woman who accused Parker and Celestin of assault committed suicide in 2012 but there is no evidence that her death was related to the trial.)

Parker told Ebony that he had read Gay’s article as part of his ongoing process. Gay later tweeted in response to the interview, “Okay, @NateParker. I see you listening. And trying to grow. I don’t know what to think but I see you.”

Parker also said he has reached out to others to talk about what he refers to as “toxic masculinity” and male privilege.

“I called a couple of sisters that [I] know that are in the space that talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions,” he said. “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.”

He went on to admit that his interviews with Variety and Deadline earlier this month reflected his lack of awareness and self-concern at the time.

“I was acting as if I was the victim,” he said. “And that’s wrong. I was acting as if I was the victim because I felt like, my only thought was that I’m innocent and everyone needs to know. I didn’t even think for a second about her, not even for a second.”

Parker added how learning that his accuser killed herself in 2012 “shook” him.

The director apologized directly to those affected by sexual assault for his previous comments, which he called “insensitive” and “nonchalant.”

“All I can do is seek the information that’ll make me stronger, that’ll help me overcome my toxic masculinity, my male privilege, because that’s something you never think about. You don’t think about other people. … I recognize as a man there’s a lot of things that I don’t have to think about. But I’m thinking about them now.”

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