A woman accused Nate Parker and his roommate Jean McGianni Celestin rape in 1999. The woman claimed that the two men assaulted her while she was intoxicated and unconscious. The two men professed their innocence, claiming the sex was consensual. A jury acquitted Parker, but convicted Celestin. Celestin later won an appeal. The woman later sued the school, Penn State, and received a settlement. According to reports, she committed suicide in 2012.
In most instances, this would be the end of the story. However, Parker recently directed the film Birth of a Nation, and the interest in the film brought attention to his past. Given the politicized nature of sexual violence and the current politics playing out with the campus rape “epidemic”, the media immediately latched onto this part of Parker’s past.
Parker, who has always maintained his innocence and claim that the sex was consensual, could have again stated this and moved on. However, he choose to play to the political left:
“I talked about it publicly and I never sought to hide it,” he said. “It was the most painful thing I have ever had to experience. I can imagine it was painful for a lot of people.”
He also said that he “welcomed the conversation.”
“It’s a serious issue. I get it,” he said. “The reality is there is a problem on campuses in America, and violence against women is not taken seriously enough. And the dialogue and the discourse isn’t loud enough. I think there’s even more that can be done to educate university students, men and women. Being a father of daughters” — he has five daughters, three with his wife — “it’s important to say if something happened, to lift your voice.”
He later said: “They say the oppressor is anyone who’s not on the side of the oppressed. I stand firmly on the side of the oppressed.”
Asked if justice had been served in the case, he replied: “I was cleared of all charges. We’re talking 17 years later. We’re discussing a case which was thoroughly litigated. I was cleared of everything. At some point I have to ask myself, ‘How often am I willing to relive it?’”
That statement kept the story alive. The coverage of Parker’s case prompted actress Gabrielle Union, who is in Parker’s film, to write an opinion piece discussing the seriousness of the accusation against Parker.
This was the general opinion on the left. That a jury acquitted Parker does not matter. That he has maintained his innocence for 17 years does not matter. His actions play into the progressive narrative, and for some bizarre reason Parker chose to play into that narrative as well. The result is that now the left is attacking him not only for his actions 17 years ago, but now for professing innocence.
In a 60 Minutes interview, Parker stated:
“I do think it’s tragic, so much of what happened and [what] the family had to endure with respect to this woman not being here,” he said. “I don’t want to harp on this and be disrespectful of them, but at some point I have to say it: I was falsely accused. I went to court and I sat in trial.”
Parker continued: “I was vindicated. I was proven innocent, and 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.”
This is not to say that some of the left have not questioned the narrative against Parker. Some noted that Parker was not convicted of rape and therefore cannot be called a “rapist”. Others noted that there are serious questions about what happened 17 years ago.
Yet these are not the issues bothering those who took issue with Parker’s statements on 60 Minutes. What bothered them is that he essentially rejected the narrative he appeared to go along with. These people thought he was admitting he did something wrong, perhaps even criminal. By stating that he would not apologize for something he did not do, Parker shattered that view. He made himself no longer culpable.
So now some on the left are attacking Parker for professing his innocence.
Keep in mind, Nate Parker is black, as is his former roommate, and the woman who accused him of rape was white. Keep in mind that there is a history of white women falsely accusing black men of rape. Keep in mind that there is a history within the United States of assuming that black men are inherently guilty of any criminal accusation.
With all that in mind, look again at the current situation: some on the left are attacking Parker for professing his innocence after a jury acquitted him of the charges.
This is why you do not play into the left’s political narratives.
There is no winning this game. By conceding that his behavior was wrong, Parker gave the left the story they wanted. In their eyes, he essentially admitted that he is a rapist, at least an unintentional rapist. Parker may have thought he was getting out of the spotlight and refocusing it on his film. Instead, he made it easier for the left to use his claims of innocence against him.