Nate Parker’s forthcoming film, Birth of a Nation, has been beleaguered by an avalanche of press surrounding his involvement in a college rape trial. And, when asked by Anderson Cooper on this Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes about whether or not he’s sorry about what happened in the past, he danced around the question before outright saying that no, he will not apologize for what happened.
“I was falsely accused…I went to court…I was vindicated,” Parker tells Anderson Cooper, according to a press release from “60 Minutes.” “I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here…her family had to deal with that, but as I sit here, an apology is – no.”
He said he hoped that anger over the accusations wouldn’t cause people to boycott his film about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion.
“I think that Nat Turner, as a hero, what he did in history, is bigger than me,” said Parker. “I think it’s bigger than all of us.”
What’s worth mentioning is that one of the scenes in the upcoming film features rape as a narrative device via the character played by Gabrielle Union, a slave with no dialogue that is raped by visiting slave owners. Union has spoken out about her conflicting emotions regarding her role in the film and Parker’s history with the sort of grace and nuance that most others have not been able to muster.
In a guest column also published in Variety and written by the accuser’s sister, she addresses the issue of the fictional rape scene and accuses Parker of “exploiting” her sister’s trauma for his own success. She writes:
As her sister, the thing that pains me most of all is that in retelling the story of the Nat Turner slave revolt, they invented a rape scene. The rape of Turner’s wife is used as a reason to justify Turner’s rebellion.
This is fiction. I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape.
Given what happened to my sister, and how no one was held accountable for it, I find this invention self-serving and sinister, and I take it as a cruel insult to my sister’s memory.
In 1999, Parker was accused of rape by a fellow classmate at Penn State and was ultimately exonerated in 2001. The details of the case resurfaced in August when Variety reported that the woman involved in the case took her own life in 2012, after struggling with depression and substance abuse. While these allegations were resurfaced and as the public’s outrage over how, precisely, to handle these two separate bits of information ramped up, Parker remained silent aside from a lengthy Facebook post that served as his statement until an interview with Ebony revealed that he was unclear about the definition of consent and its relative importance.
Watching how Parker choses to navigate public appearances after the film opens on October 7th will be interesting to say the least.