Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Sad Irony Behind a Wall of Silence


By now, many have already heard about the alleged gang rape of a black exotic dancer by 3 white members of Duke University’s men’s lacrosse team at a team party. Most recently, these allegations have resulted in the indefinite suspension and forfeiture of Duke’s remaining schedule and the DNA testing of 46 members of the team -- the 47th member was black and didn’t fit the description of a "white sexual assailant" -- because team members refused to divulge any information.

For now, members of the Duke mens lacrosse team's profiles have been pulled from the facebook.com and the team roster has been pulled from the athletic website. Clearly, the consequences are wide-ranging.

While these troubling allegations are still sorting themselves out, many issues are brought into play: a contemporary situation that calls into question the historical disregard for the black female body (see: black female body in slavery), application of the hip-hop “stop snitching” phenomenon as it applies to a team of (what I would assume to be) affluent (almost) all-white males, and what some would point out as the innate responsibility of the single black player on the team to tell what he knows.

For the 47th member of the team (the single black player) the sad irony is the fact that his race protects his innocence (as he didn’t fit the description), while it is a troubling central issue in the alleged rape of this woman.

How sadly ironic is it that the one time a brother is somewhat absolved of guilt in a shady situation a sister is the one that suffers?

While the factors in this case are still working themselves out, the stakes are high at one of America’s premier universities and the country is watching.

What say you?

12 comments:

Brother Smartness said...

Lightness,

The black woman involved in this atrocity claims that she was "taunted with racial epithets".

As reported in the NY Times, "a statement attributed to the [Duke Lacrosse] team captains- Matt Zash, David Evans, Dan Flannery and Bret Thompson...said...'The DNA results will demonstrate that these allegations are absolutely false.'"

I've heard from some reliable sources that one match has already been made. If, however, for some reason a DNA match is not made, will the utterance of racial epithets be overlooked?

What does this say about our 47th member?

It appears this woman has been violated in two ways: on account of her race and on account of her sexuality. And while every woman does not experience this type of forced carnal knowledge, I can only imagine what it must be like to experience the type of dual discrimination a black woman must face on account of her sexuality and race.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts:

1) The kind of misplaced honour and loyalty that would force reticence on the innocent members of this team is not necessarily apart of a hiphop phenomenon. In fact, most communities hold similar ethos when it comes to 'protecting' it's members from their own acts of irrationality /illegality.

2) The comment that one can "can only imagine what it must be like to experience the type of dual discrimination a black woman must face on account of her sexuality(I think you meant sex) and race" belies the fact that black men (in slavery and the post-slavery) are also the subject of said 'dual' discrimination. The silence of the 47th member offends the typical black male so deeply simply because you have attached yourself to this false notion that you are meant to be the rescuer and champion of the 'fairer sex.' Don't get it twisted, black men where sexually violated in slavery as well.

3)Perhaps, a more fruitful way to approach this situation is to interrogate ideas of community that arise from this awful situation to give ourselves a better understanding of how we determine 'membership' and 'responsiblities' based on these ideas.

4) We all wanted this black man to get up and start pointing fingers at (or more the the point inflicting violence on) the white men that usurped your collective black male power by violating this woman- but as Williams grads you all know that the chances that a black guy who plays lacrosse at Duke may associate more with his teamates than with a stripper.

5)Would you demand a similar reaction from him if the girl was white? If this was the mostly black basketball team?

6) Finally, and I hope this makes my objective clear. It's easy to have a typical debate that gives brown male williams grads the oppurtunity to declare in public their well thought out moral and display the ethical demands of their cultural (super)ego. But it's more interesting to think about how such an incident destabilizes the very foundation upon which this very forum was imagined.

Anonymous said...

Not to blame the victim, but from a historical perspective, don't you think it was more than a little stupid for a black female coed to strip in front of a bunch of horny, drunk men?

janine said...

Annonymous - Not to blame the victim but...? So how about NOT blaming the victim?

Brother Lightness said...

911 call from March 13

Emergency 911 tapes revealed that on the night of the alleged incident March 13, a black woman tearfully reported that a man came out of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. as she and a friend passed by and shouted a racial slur at them. Please note: The caller is NOT the accuser.

12:53 A.M.

TELECOMMUNICATOR: "Durham 911, where's your emergency?"

CALLER: "Hi, I don't know if this is an emergency or not, necessarily, but I'm in Durham, and I was driving down near Duke's campus, and it's me and my black girlfriend, and the guy -- there's like a white guy by the Duke wall -- and he just hollered out 'n-----' to me. And I'm just so angry I didn't know who to call. [Crying]

"I don't know if this is an emergency. They're just hanging out by the wall on Buchanan [Boulevard]."

TELECOMMUNICATOR: "On which side?"

CALLER: "It's right outside of 610 Buchanan [Blvd]. And I saw them all come out of, like, a big frat house, and me and my black girlfriend are walking by, and they called us 'n------.' [Sobbing]

"So I don't know what's gonna happen. I'm not gonna press the issue, I guess. But I live in a neighborhood where they wrote KKK on the side of a white station wagon, and that's near right where I'm at, you know what I mean. And they didn't harm me in any way, but I just feel so completely offended, I can't even believe it. I thought, you know what I'm saying, times have changed, and I don't even know what's going on.

"It's right in front of 610 Buchanan. I saw them coming out of this frat house. 610 North Buchanan. …

"So, I'm not going to press the issue, but, whatever, however Durham city feels about racial slurs and stuff, however you guys want to handle it, you can handle it however you do. I'm not hurt in any way, OK.

"Thank you ..."

Carla said...

Since we're throwing out scenarios: Would the young woman have come forward if the 3 perpetrators were black? And if they were members, say, of Grambling's black football squad? Further, would the community have rallied behind her then?

Suppose it was a rape situation in which she had to choose an identity--either black or female--but not both?

Just thinking outloud.

Great discussion you guys are having.

Ayana said...

The ignorance of some people does not cease to amaze me: "Anonymous said...
Not to blame the victim, but from a historical perspective, don't you think it was more than a little stupid for a black female coed to strip in front of a bunch of horny, drunk men? "

REALLY??? Because if a female chose to walk around naked in the street, NOTHING of this nature should EVER be condoned. NO MEANS NO. It may have been against her better judgement to re-enter the house after hearing racial slurs, however the drunken state of these young cowards IS IN NO WAY any kind of excuse for what occured in that house.

Did you even read about the charges before you posted that comment??? RAPE, SODOMY, STRANGULATION?????? Are these typical actions of drunken teenagers where YOU live??? Get real. Open your eyes and your ears to what is going on around you.

This young woman was out, trying to make money to better her life - does that mean nothing to you? Single mother, actually in college and not another drop-out, trying to make ends meet and pay her tuition. Sure, it's easy to say that there are other means to make money, but the point here is: don't judge her for what she did, she did nothing wrong. She chose the path she did for a reason, and unless you are in her position, in her shoes, you are in no position to judge her actions.

And about that "historical perspective" - what are you trying to say? Are you saying she should EXPECT to be treated in a manner less than human because she's BLACK????? I'm sorry - try again. NOT ACCEPTIBLE. BLACK PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE TOO.

So before you post another ignorant comment like this one, please get your facts together, and THINK ABOUT IT before you put it in writing.

bwapoi said...

Reading of the horrific events that have taken place at one of our nation's most prestigious universities, some would say that they were shocked and disgusted. I, on the other hand am more disgusted than shocked.

As "Brother Lightness" commented, these students, we assume come from affluent lifestyles. It is in my opinion, based on personal experience, that white men who have come from a privileged background tend to feel untouchable. They possess an attitude which emits a certain dispsition. That of an individual who believes that they can travel this world free of consequence to any wrongdoing. Add to that the all too common presence of alcohol and you have the creation of a dangerous beast. One that functions in complete disregard to ethical decision making. So as I have stated earlier, I am not surprised to find that these monsters demeaned, humiliated and violated that(a black woman) which they hold with little to no value.

All that being said, before we cast stones at our lacrosse playing brother, let's give him a chance. A local newspaper reported this story in today's edition and it stated that these events occurred at a party at an off campus apartment. I prefer to think (and hope) that the single black player was not in attendance and possesses no knowledge of the attack. Until otherwise stated I will assume that he was not there. If he was indeed there or knows anything about it, it would no doubt be a great shame if he chooses to remain faithful to the fraternal bond of his lacrosse team, rather than the racial bond that he and the young ladies ultimately share.

If the DNA results are not conclusive, the likelihood of the players seeing consequences coming from the alleged use of racial epithets, is unlikely. I think anyone who has spent time in a southern state can agree. Unless, however, someone comes forward with the truth.

This crime is the greatest disrespect to a woman, and it was done at the hands of cowardly boys. Justice must be done! District attorney, Mike Nifung, stated that he was confident that rape convictions would be made. As crimes against black women are all to often disregarded or downplayed, I anxiously await the outcome.

Let us pray for all parties involved!

Rell said...

awesome post -- and I totally agree with pretty much everything you wrote.

It's disgusting and having played sports in high school, this is where the whole "locker room culture" becomes a super hindrance.

If someone doesn't come out soon, and the allegations prove to be true, the entire team should forfeit their scholarhips.

Anonymous said...

One can imagine all kinds of hypothetical situations, guessing how the outcome might have been different if the accuser was white, if she were not a stripper, if the accused athletes were black or were not even athletes at all. One can ponder if this appalling incident took place in the basement of a New York apartment building or a suburban household rather then within the boundaries of a nationally recognized university whether it would have even been mentioned at all in the pages of The New York Times.

However, if move out of the passive position of wondering we can see that what we have here, with the information presented before us, is already the making of an alarming situation. The alleged events which took place between the Duke lacrosse players and the black female stripper are all yet another embodiment of America’s very imperial foundations. Repeatedly, the roles of colonizer and the colonized evolve from abstract sociological and historical theories into concrete dangers that propel America’s deeply rooted cravings to consume, control and objectify those individuals we designate as “other.” The very evolution of this power dynamic into a disturbing concrete reality is clearly what occurred in the town of Durham, North Carolina on March 13, 2006.

As young Americans we have been preached to and pondered ourselves the notion of embracing racial differences, of being “multicultural” not just in theory but by practice. However, at some point these lessons of racial acceptance evolves into a grave issue as termed by sociologist Bell Hooks in her work, Black Looks: Race and Representation, as “the commodification of Otherness.” Hooks poignantly states, “Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture” which we can see directly applies to the situation at hand in Durham. A black woman allegedly walks into a room of about 40 white males only to be raped, assaulted and taunted with racial epithets. Are we really that surprised?

To these young white males this was just an opportunity to transcend into the world of the exotic—the dark other-- to live life for a night balancing on that fine line between pleasure and danger. It is a reminder to everyone else that racial acceptance must continue to be taught with a wary eye, always protecting ourselves, our bodies from being commercialized and objectified. May the voice of the black woman who was sexually assaulted and verbally abused be listened to and heard and excuses not be made. May the white male lacrosse players realize that race and sexuality is not the name of a game—a walk on the wild side. May we continually strive to break the colonial and patriarchal mindset that exists at the very core of America’s own paradigm of “otherness--” an objectified status that not just on one account, but rather twofold, afflicts the world as lived by woman of color.

Anonymous said...

"If he was indeed there or knows anything about it, it would no doubt be a great shame if he chooses to remain faithful to the fraternal bond of his lacrosse team, rather than the racial bond that he and the young ladies ultimately share."
I agree--and I also would hope that in this situation any man would choose faithfulness to the human bond between himself and a woman being assaulted, regardless of race. Whether the victim or assailants are black or white, we need to reinforce a culture in which men see women as human beings deserving of respect.

Anonymous said...

all i want from my comment is to encourage. please, stop with the racial crap. i know what it is to grow up in the south in a different skin than those around me. i know what it is to me abused and molested for my race. because of this i have learned, that race is irrelevant. the point is that these cowards raped a fellow human. i don't care about their ignorant reasonings. the point is they did it to a PERSON.

mabey if we, as the black community, stop seeing things as black and white and more in terms of right and wrong others will also.