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         I remember vividly when the scandal broke; I couldn't get enough of the stories, but simutaneously, they were too heinous to read. It was the antithetical car wreck you really needed to not look at because you were driving, yet you couldn't stop watching because it was so shocking.    
          Having lived in North Carolina for a large portion of my adolescent life, reading that the prestigious Duke University had fallen so far from grace was not only harrowing, but repugnant: Duke was the dream school of most of my elementary school, unless you were "one of those people" who were devoted Tar Heels and decisively were going to UNC Chapel Hill; these early seeded rivalries made NCAA basketball season energetic, to say the least. Moreover, Duke had a legacy in the smaller towns: the prestigious and renowned medical program had treated many a patient, at least that someone had known anecdoteally, and, if the Great Duke had not cured "our good friend," had made great headway in their treatment. If nothing else, the best and the brightest always went to Duke, and, even at the Middle School Level, you always wanted to say you were one of them.
        Oh, how times change. As more and more garbage is being brought out into the open due to the horror that was the rape scandal and the lacrosse team, unity, legality, and complicity are taking on vastly different meanings than what Merriam Webster would have defined utlizing the history of the words or their context. Faculty are now coming forward with consistent stories of "Group Think" and fear of being found out for exposing a culture of academia where the air is thick with "if you're not with us, you're against us." Students are coming forward with feelings of ambiguity on all sides--after all, these were their friends, and the overwhelming sense of prosecuting all publicly at the expense of finding the one puts loyalties in a bind. How does a friend look at the relationship when something as heinous and despotic as rape is on the line? Where do boundries get drawn when the elephant in the room cannot be ignored--and yet, delicate word by delicate word, is?
        Lawyers, legal scholars, and judiciary committees across the country are holding up former Durham DA Mike Nifong as an example of how not to behave. Even during the hurricane, what few voices were audible, there were questions of behavior: Shouldn't he slow down? Why is the victim changing her story? Isn't there something wrong here? There is, after all, a procedure in place for dealing with something as delicate as rape--especially when it's something as explosive as a racially profiled community, a racially divided community.
          But, to me, here's the $65,000 question: where was the procedure, and why wasn't it more strictly enforced? Why was it that race became the more loudly shouted issue, and when did race v money become the hallmark of the crisis--when it all started with a group of college boys (the hallmark, according to more and more neuroscientists, of immaturity) hiring a stripper, who claims that she was raped?
         But one pervasive thing strikes me, consistently: What if the skin colors had been all different? Or the skin colors hadn't been an issue period and the issue had been religious in nature? Would there be a prosecutorial misconduct hearing in place at this moment? Or would it be hate crime hearings we would be worried about?
           What does it say about American society that a case like this does not focus on the facts but becomes focused on "guilty until proven innocent" and "driving while Black?" Moreover, is there a viable solution to be searched out and defined--with what types of consequences?--if we were to do such a thing?
          The flashpoint of the whole cancer, according to lawyers, experts and op ed columnists was the fact that, supposedly, these were upper class caucasian boys who hired a african american stripper. But that doesn't seem to add up. A flashpoint, by its crude definition, is the point where something explodes because it has reached it's hottest temperature; therefore, there had to have been underlying factors. Addimitedly, once Durham, NC, was put on the national news media radar screen, there was a microscopic look at the community.(Perhaps if nothing else good comes out of this, it will be a model for other communities nationwide to challenge themselves to avoid overt racial divisions like Durham had suffered.) Whereas Duke is the diamond of the community's eye, there is another college within the community; however, it is not nearly as well funded, and is historically black (a fact that only rose to prominance when the victim was shown to be not simply a stripper, but a mother and a student simultaneously). Whereas Duke students seem to isolate themselves within their campus (common), the rest of the community is fairly well connected with their neighbors, including their HBC (uncommon). Duke, by its sheer size, is one of the major economic factors for Durham's local economy and historically had brought a level of prestige to alumni, allowing connections to jobs, internships, and international opportunities (good). The wake of the scandal has leveled the field to a point of hesitance and to a point where alumni have become selective of what they say about their tenure at Duke--specifically, during the investigation, if they were participants in the lacrosse team (problematic).
        The list could go on  for pages, and summizing it to a few sentences is idealistic. The thesis, however, could be pointed out in this: it seems American society has specific expectations of specific races, specific classes, specific religions, and specific persons within the classes/races/religions. Adding gender into these mixtures complicates our desires to have neat, tight conceptual ideals about who and what we are as a society in such dire ways that it isn't simply upsetting to our self concepts, but disturbing. To a very real extent, we define ourselves by how we define other people, and when other people fail to define themselves how we define them, we become uncomfortable.
         Therefore, as the former DA Nifong faces the reality that those who enforce the laws will find the laws are equally enforced on them, it may do us as a society well to look deeper into the implications of the Duke University Lacrosse Rape Case. What expectations do we have of specific races? Of specific religions? Of specific class and class structures? Of genders? And how do we as individuals react when our expectations are not met, but bent? Why?
        What reflection, in other words, does Duke LAX have on me? And what if it was me in that house, and not some one else?

Originally posted to TheUnConventionalAnalysist on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 02:24 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I feel like we've become a guilty until proven (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo

    innocent society, where gossip is so much more important than truth that we don't care.  Even when found innocent, there are those who still are perceived as guilty.

    Oh wait, sorry, you said that about guilty until proven innocent... yeah, I totally agree.

    The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Daedalus.

    by sister daedalus on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 02:29:51 PM PDT

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