On Friday, Nate Parker gave his first interview since news of his being charged in connection with a 1999 campus rape surfaced, and the actor and director of "Birth of a Nation" was candid about the mistakes he made — both then and about how he had responded to questions about the charges two weeks ago.
He claimed that in 1999, he didn't know much about consent outside of "no meant no," saying that "if she didn’t say anything and she was open, and she was down, it was like how far can I go? If I touch her breast and she’s down for me to touch her breast, cool. If I touch her lower, and she’s down and she’s not stopping me, cool. I’m going to kiss her or whatever. It was simply if a woman said no or pushed you away that was non-consent."
When asked why he responded to questions about the charges by making it about himself — which many critics thought sounded cold and heartless — he said at the time he hadn't known the woman subsequently committed suicide. "You asked me why I wasn’t empathetic? Why didn’t it come off more empathetic? Because I wasn’t being empathetic. Why didn’t it come off more contrite? Because I wasn’t being contrite. Maybe I was being even arrogant. And learning about her passing shook me; it really did. It really shook me."
Parker added that he hadn't thought much about the incident in the 17 years since, a point that he admitted would not sound very empathetic. The reason he hadn't thought about it, he claimed, was simply male privilege. "I’m understanding that I’m dealing with a problem, like an addiction. Just like you can be addicted to white supremacy and all of the benefits, you can be addicted to male privilege and all of the benefits that comes from it. It’s like someone pointing at you and you have a stain on your shirt and you don’t even know it."
"Race I’ve been studying since I knew there was a problem with race and that I was black and something was wrong," he continued. "Gender, is very new to me. All I can say is this is something that I’m going to take hold of and pray about it. I’m going to soul-search, I’m going to talk to people like you, and I’m going to talk to people who know more than I do."