No matter where you stand on Nate Parker and his upcoming film, Birth of a Nation, it’s safe to say news that the actor was enthralled in a rape case while in college was both shocking and disappointing for everyone. Regardless of Parker being acquitted of the charges — and the widespread belief that being found not guilty is not the same as being innocent — the situation in which he found himself on the night in question in 1999 still doesn’t speak well of his character. A fact he himself acknowledged when he wrote on Facebook, “no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation.” Knowledge of the rape accuser’s suicide further tainted the image of Parker and his fellow Birth of a Nation co-writer Jean Celestin, who was accused and initially found guilty of rape as well. And yet, according to Variety, Parker is somehow disappointed in the Black community and the way we’ve failed to support him at this time. The outlet reports:
A source in communication with him says that he’s in a low place. He vacillates between thinking the case is resurfacing now after 17 years because of a Hollywood conspiracy against him or just bad luck. He’s disappointed over the backlash on social media and that the African-American online community hasn’t been more supportive. And he’s even mad at himself, for underestimating the public’s interest in a court case that happened so long ago.
Let’s just stick with that last thought Nate. Because, honestly, if he can self-righteously find disappointment with us. He ought to imagine how we feel for a second.
I don’t want to belittle the gravity of this situation or those that surpassed 17 years ago, but in it’s most simplistic form, the day we all were made aware of Parker’s rape trial it’s like we were Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model screaming at him, “We were rooting for you!” No one wanted Birth of a Nation to succeed more than us — for Nat Turner, for a new representation of the African American slave, for diversity’s sake, and for Parker’s own edification of a job exceptionally well done. I can’t imagine a single Black writer takes joy in sharing the knowledge of these accusations or their stances on them, many of which are torn; however, as Roxane Gay pointed out in her New York Times Op-ed, there are limits to empathy. And for many of us they don’t extend to accused rapists who get off due to age-old beliefs that consensual sex with a woman one time means every time thereafter is consensual.
Parker didn’t simply underestimate the public’s interest in a court case that happened years ago, he underestimated the public’s interest in the rights of sexual assault victims and the desire not to be complicit in a system a great number feel let his accuser down. I can imagine that is a hard truth for a man who still maintains his innocence to accept. However, any disappointment Parker feels from this day forward should only be directed at himself.