Friday, April 07, 2006

Men Behaving Badly: In Response to Brother Whitlock

The drama that is the Duke Men's Lacrosse team scandal has been a central source of blog discourse since the alleged events surfaced and -- up until yesterday -- every response I had read on the matter was focused on race as a central issue.

Well, yesterday came and went, and with it contributor Jason Whitlock's "Scandal isn't just about race" reared its controversial head. Admittedly, at least initially, I felt the point that Brother Whitlock was trying to make: race has become such a central issue in this case when so much more focus deserves to be placed upon the group dynamics of boneheaded men in large groups.

But upon further reflection and intellectual brow beating courtesy of the other Brothers, the rudimentary fact remains that within America race is indelibly linked to privilege.

To make this assertion is to directly disagree with a central piece of Whitlock's argument:

"...whatever transpired inside that house was not provoked by race. Gender did the driving. Race is simply driving everyone's reaction to the controversial event."

As much as I'd like to think that race wasn't a central matter in the issue, I can't fool myself. Our own Brother Spotless aptly made this point to me via e-mail:

"If all [the Duke lacrosse players] said was 'yea bitch -- take that, take that, take that,' then [Whitlock's] point is more credible. Fact is, [the Duke lacrosse players] probably said, 'yea bitch--take that, take that, take that, you nigger bitch,' which makes this a racial issue..."

Brother Spotless's point is in direct contention to another of Whitlock's more central points:

"So, the lack of respect exhibited at the Duke party has little to do with the race of the dancers. I contend two white entertainers would've received the same treatment. "

I'm going to have to side with Brother Spotless on this one. Brother Whitlock, as much as I enjoy your writing, you're going to have to one yo'self as Freeway suggested.


Brother Spotless said...

I hope my comment did not offend any of our female bloggers. I also hope it is clear that I don't think of the stripper as a bitch or nigger. I was attempting to express my displeasure for Mr Whitlock's opinion in a private conversation. Out in the open space of a blog, these comments may offend some. I fully understand that, and I apologize.

However, it is not a stretch to imagine language like that being used if the woman was indeed raped.

Brother Lightness said...

I made the decision to offer Spotless's quote because I believe that it highlights an important distinction. Any who might be offended should direct their comments towards me.

Though, I do believe the quotes offered are completely comprehensible.

Brother Afrocan said...

"So, the lack of respect exhibited at the Duke party has little to do with the race of the dancers. I contend two white entertainers would've received the same treatment. "

Not trying to play the devil's advocate lightness but I agree with Whitlock. I see it as two different problems and if we are to analyze this strictly from a causation perspective we would have to leave race out of it.

I won't deny racism is a big problem in America (the world really), from institutional racism, violent-in your face racism, to condescending racism where white people sympathize and help black people because they find them genetically inferior thus requiring assistance.

I am not suprised by the alleged insults the lacross players hurled at the women they are accused of assaulting. Look to your right and left next time you are in the subway, the white person next you may hold those feelings about you- yet they won't rape you- they are likely to smile at you and nod acknowledging your presence. Given the right atmosphere- if they feel comfortable enough or alcohol induced enough to think they have the upper-hand power-wise and can face no consequences, the same person smiling and nodding at you may reveal his/her true biases.

As concerns the rape- I think the primary impetus was primal lust and a "I can take what I want when I want it" power-play. If the strippers were white women, they would have been victims of the same animalistic desires and reasoning, putting them at equal risk of being raped.

Brother Spotless said...

Good point, Afrocan. There is a "dual hatred" of sorts, at play. I can even go along with the argument that gender played a larger role than race. However, Whitlock is saying race has nothing to do with the Duke situation, which is absurd. The moment they said "nigger" or "darkie" or whatever, they were degrading the race.

It is important to note that all of the crimes we are speaking about are all, at this point, alligations. I read the same reports you do, but nothing has been proven yet. what would happen if it turns out that this woman is lying, and the only crime that happened was that she didn't get paid??

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly feel that gender is the driving factor of this tragic incidence.

My evidence and affidavit from the case which contains a email, the invitation to the "incident".

It contains no reference to race...
Sometimes we gotta consciously challenge our preceptions of these issues....

Brother Curious

Brother Smartness said...

For a minute, I was with Whitlock. As I was reading that article I found myself in agreement with the argument he was making because he presented us with an intelligent (maybe a better word would be cunning) hypothetical: “What if they were white women?”

He went back to 96’. I’m talking Matthew McConaughey in the courtroom in A Time to Kill asking the jury, “now what if she were white?”

Does everyone remember that scene?

McConaughey, who plays a defense attorney for a black man (Samuel L. Jackson), effectively encourages a white jury to sympathize with Jackson, who murders the two white men that raped his daughter (“yes they deserve to die, and I hope they burn in hell!”), by making the crime less about race and more about humanity. McConaughey wins the jury with a closing argument where he presents a hypothetical and similar rape. As he goes on and on, in what was a powerful closing argument, about the grotesque and inhuman nature of the crime. Asking the jurors to close there eyes, he paints a vivid picture of the act. He wins the jury with a last stroke of his verbal brush. He ends by asking: “Now what if she were white?”

And while making the act of rape less about race and more about humanity might sound like a good idea, it really isn’t. Why? Because we've stop looking at these acts of horror from the eyes of the victim. I’m not arguing that a white or black woman don’t feel the same kind of oppression or harm when they are raped. What I am arguing, however, is that when you sprinkle racial epithets into this cauldron, the extent to which the victim of a rape is harmed is far greater.

It’s for this reason that I ultimately have to disagree with Whitlock.

Anonymous said...

Brother Smartness,

If we are going to use fictional movies to prove points, why not think about the infamous "gimp" sequence from Pulp Fiction.

Remember the scene? Ving Rhames' and Bruce Willis' characters are basically trying to kill each other but end up in the basement of a sadistic shop of horror.

The owner and his police friend where most definately racist as evidenced by the prominent "bars and stars" in the LA shop, but in the end it was, "Who do you want to do first?" Beyond race, the sex acts of the sociopathic fiends were to force their victims to submit to their power. And rape is about power, not sex.

This example is both fictional and extreme, if not hyperbole, similar to your case in point. I encourage you read the actual evidence which posted above and to consider Kobe Bryant case in comparison, as Brother Whitlock suggested.

Brother Curious

Brother Smartness said...

I take it you're referring to the link to the affidavit that you made a link to above. I hope I’m correct in making this assumption.

The affidavit was sent after the incident. It is dated March 14th when the event actually took place on the 13th of March.

The way you presented this link gives me the impression that you believed it was the invitation to the event. This is not the case. That e-mail was sent out of anger over what had transpired the previous night.

When it comes down to it, we’ll only find out more about the motives of the accused when the deposition of the victim comes out. Most of what we are doing here is speculating as Spotless pointed out earlier.

That said, I agree with you when you say that rape is about power. But I still strongly believe that it is much more harmful when race is the driving force or a coupling force.

Anonymous said...

Brother Smartness,

I stand corrected in that the email did not precede the incident. But it was sent on the night of the incident. The party took place on the night of March 13th and the email went out at 1:58 am on March 14th. In that light, I don't know how to interepret it (sarcasism, bravado, ect). How do you come to the conclusion that it was sent out of anger?

I must say that it feels much more substantive to debate facts than speculation.

Brother Curious

RAK said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RAK said...

Sorry for the delete...I deleted half of a sentence when typing and it was an important sentence. here it is again, corrected.

That email is certainly really f*cking odd, but it is tangential. I remember reading Whitlock'a (absurd) column and wondering if it would make it onto this blog. To be fair, in general I find Whitlock's writings a little off, even as I agree with many of his points.

To reduce this horrible accident to any one dimension is to be foolishly reductive. Were the stripper black men, would they have been raped is, in a way, just as legitimate a questions as, were they white girls, would they have been raped? The facts (if the allegations are true, as I am led to believe) are clear; the girl was raped and assaulted both as a gender minority and a racial minority. To focus on one without the other is a mistake.

Further, in fact, to focus on them separately is to somehow claim one can decide at one point to present only one's race or gender at certain times, when in reality, one is always presenting a racial identity and a gender identity. The victim is always a black woman. Everything that happens to her always happens to her as a black women (unless she is passing for male or non-black or just ambiguous at a point, but those are the fuzzy edges of race and gender).

In the first NY Times article I read of the incident, it noted that most of the escort services in the area, when called, will send white strippers unless blacks are specifically requested, leading to a circumstantial piece of evidence that they asked for black strippers.

Finally, looking at this rape in the light of only gender leads to statements about power, sociopathy (I disagree with identifying rape as sociopathy as it is far too common and far too close to accepted sexual acts to be deemed such, IMO), etc. Looking at it only in terms of race leads to statements about race, its endurin inequality, and privilege. Looking at it as the convergence of race and gender leads to statements about all of the above (sans sociopathy, I believe. and that's a good thing, I think) and the particular stereotype of the black woman as hypersexualized, desirable only for sex but not for love, the plaything of privileged white males, and secretly lusting for violent, rape-like sexual acts because they aren't as civilized as cultured white women who are relatively asexual (I feel dirty even writing that garbage).

That Jason Whitlock missed those points is not surprising (he loves to do the whole "change the culture of athletics, woe is society!" article. I normally do as well, but not this time...) as he comes from his background as a former athlete, not racial and gender and power scholar, but it is very disappointing. And, as a black writer who does often write about race, he lends a credence to the argument that is particularly unfortunate.

Plus, as a former lacrosse player in high school, I can tell you, that sport is still a bastion of blue-blood privilege that should not be denied in this debate.