Usually, when a person experiences an enormous amount of praise or success, their dark past isn’t too far behind to change the views or perceptions of the public. Unfortunately, the latest victim of this narrative is actor Nate Parker. Yes, Nate Parker, the creator, director and star of the highly anticipated film Birth of a Nation, a biography of Nat Turner, an infamous enslaved worker and preacher, who led one of the biggest slave revolts in history.
At the beginning of the year the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, and was bought by Fox Searchlight for $175 million, which is the most expensive purchase in the festival’s history. While movie critics and fans wait patiently for the films premier on Oct. 7, Parker is currently under some harsh criticism. During an interview with Variety, Parker opened up about his college rape trial. As a student at Penn State University, Parker and his roommate Jean Celestin, who also co-wrote Birth of a Nation, were charged with raping an unconscious 20-year-old female student in their apartment.
Parker admitted he had sex with the victim, but was exonerated, mostly because he previously had consensual sex with the woman, as if saying yes once is a yes forever (eyeroll). Celestin was convicted of the of rape and served six months in jail.
Parker addressed the incident, noting that it was a “very painful moment” in his life 17 years ago.
“… I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now,” Parker explained to Variety.
Nate doesn’t get it. No one is concerned about how painful that moment was for him 17 years ago. Whatever pain he thinks he is experiencing, is nothing compared to the pain and trauma that the victim is experiencing.
“There are numerous things that are surfacing,” said Parker. “But I’ve always been an open book. I’m an advocate of justice. I’m an older man. I’ve matured a lot … I am open to scrutiny. I will never hide anything from my past.”
Nate Parker’s catalog of work is undeniably great, and Birth of a Nation will more than likely send his career into another stratosphere. But with the lack of remorse he’s expressed, leaves an unsettling feeling. Although these new finding are troublesome, it’s important for us not to tear him down without extending a hand to lift him up (shout out to Funkydineva). But why now? Nate has starred in 18 films, and we’ve never heard an inkling of any of this. It seems as though mainstream media is attempting to derail the momentum and the impact of the film. We should still hold Nate accountable for his lack of remorse, but let’s not allow the media to change the narrative of this film.