Racist Stereotypes And The Duke (Non) Rape Case

Betsy Newmark has an excellent piece at the Examiner today about the Duke lacrosse (non) rape case and racist stereotypes.

If the case is dismissed shortly, what can we expect from all those who were so ready to brand the Duke lacrosse team as a group of racist rapists? Will the 88 professors who published an ad praising the protestors who weren’t waiting for due process and already labeling the lacrosse players rapists apologize for their rush to judgment? Probably not.

I expect we’ll hear instead calls for healing. The players will be urged to get on with their lives and not to focus on suing Durham or the D.A. They’ll be reminded that Durham is not a wealthy county and can’t afford an expensive civil suit.

Those who were quick to say that this story was emblematic of racism at elite colleges will say that the lesson is still true, even though this one specific story was a hoax. Wahneema Lubiano, the Duke professor of African and American Studies who led the group of 88 who published that ad, wrote back in May that, no matter the outcome, the whole story exposed deeper truths about racism on Duke’s campus. Expect that storyline to be repeated if the charges are all dropped. The song of “fake but accurate” will be sung again.

Sadly, we didn’t learn from the Tawana Brawley hoax that we should pause when a story seems to fit a stereotypical version of racism. The storyline of rich, privileged white boys raping a poor black girl seemed so apt that some people embraced it without waiting to evaluate the evidence.

For some, the facts don’t even matter. Newsweek reported in April that one student at North Carolina Central University where the accuser attended school wanted the players to be prosecuted “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”

Our justice system deserves better than a “fake, but accurate” approach to prosecution. We don’t prosecute people just because they fit a stereotype. It was attitudes like that which resulted in the injustices that the NCCU student wanted addressed in the first place. In this case, turnabout is not fair play.

Read it all.

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