Friday, March 31, 2006

It's Time to Snitch

The Duke University rape case is one of the most shocking racial flare-ups we've seen in America in quite some time. A bunch of wealthy, White, often northern boys sexually assaulting a Black woman, all while hurling racial slurs at her--it brings to mind a darker age of our nation's history. And of course, the upshot is that maybe we should start thinking about these cases in the context of this age in our nation's history.

Anyway, Rachel Sullivan, who has been indefatigable in getting this story out (drop her a line of encouragement at her blog, if you will), has a particularly interesting post up about how the media portrays Black crime as indicative of group behavior, and White crime as isolated and aberrational. Consider:
The most famous example of this is the term "wilding." The term wilding was used to describe the attack of a White woman in Central Park in the late 1980s. Scared Whites suddenly worried that groups of young Black and Latino men would descend on innocent White women and attack them, like that has supposedly done to this woman. The term was almost exclusively used for young Black and Brown men, and as such has became synonymous with them. What is even more striking it that through DNA evidence and a confession by an imprisoned man, we later found out that this group of young men didn't attack the Central Park jogger and in 2002 their sentences were vacated (DNA evidence confirmed that it was a lone attacker, who was a Latino man.). Why not use the term wilding to talk about what the rape survivor said happened at Duke. One of the regular commenters on my blog, Anthony, reminded me of this term, when he argued that the attack at Duke was an example of wilding. I wondered if popular media outlets will use the term wilding, or will they come up with some special code word that referred to groups of young White men who attack women (especially Black women). Probably not. When White men behave badly it is usually framed as a problem with the individual White man or the small group of White men involved, but it is almost never a collective statement about the problems with White guys in America.

Another example of this is the whole "Stop Snitching" phenomenon, which has been labeled as a huge threat to the criminal justice system. The term "Stop Snitching" has been connected with an underground video out of Baltimore. "Stop Snitchin'" has also been advertised on T-shirts that have become very popular mostly among young urban Black and Brown kids. If you watched shows like America's Most Wanted or the nightly news, you would think the "Stop Snitchin" phenomenon is new and young Black men created it. However, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the idea of not snitchin' has been around for a long time, way before Hip Hop and way before the T-shirts. In fact, I was watching the Abrams Report, since he has been covering the Duke case, and he kept alluding to the editorial that he was going to do at the end of the show. The editorial was about "Stop Snitchin." My initial reaction was good somebody finally gets it. These Duke boys are living by the "Stop Snitchin" code of ethics. It's not just poor Black and Brown people and Hip Hop artists. Well much to my chagrin Abrams didn't even connect the Duke case to this phenomenon even though it was so blatantly obvious--the Duke lacrosse players need to start snitchin.

This second one gave me some pause, because I am not a proponent of the "stop snitchin'" school by any means, but I know I give more leniency to "I'm not going to talk on the advice of my lawyer," even though they're effectively the same. Dressed up in legal language, suddenly it's not a threat to social stability but a cherished legal right. Imagine that! It's especially ironic because the most pervasive "stop snitchin'" mentality ever to actually come into practice is not inner-city Blacks refusing to aid murder investigations, but southern Whites refusing to cooperate with lynching investigations. In the end, I concur with Rachel--maybe we can't expect the actual guilty parties to come forward and confess, but we can expect the bystanders to act as witnesses to see that justice is done.

The other part of this story that's been nagging me (and I apologize because this is a bit of a leap) involves the "apologetic White guy." Let me just give a summary of the story for context:
According to a search warrant, the victim and another woman went to a university-owned house on March 13, where three members of the team live. When the men became aggressive, the women left but another player apologized and convinced them to return.

The women returned to the house, but were separated. The victim alleges she was forced into a bathroom and assaulted. The men also allegedly yelled racial slurs at the women.

Okay, what do we do with this mysterious man? Let's assume that he wasn't "apologizing" in a deliberate effort to get them back in the house to undergo this abuse. I'm not saying that this couldn't be the case, only that if it is we'd all agree that this guy is a Really Bad Man and there'd be no debate.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that this guy was operating in good faith. The rest of this thought experiment goes under those lines. We don't know what he said, but it might have been something like this: "I'm really sorry, those guys just got really drunk, they didn't mean it, I'll talk them," etc etc in those lines. Naive perhaps--but there are naive people out there. Hell, I'm a naive person--I always underestimate the amount of "true" racism that exists in America, so in my shoes I'd probably be far more likely to attribute this sort of thing to drunkenness than animus (at least one time someone said something anti-Semitic to me while drunk, I shrugged it off). Anyway, his apology is genuine, not a ploy to get the rape to happen. But happen it did--in some respects, as a direct result of this person's "apology", for if he'd had said nothing, the woman probably would have went home. Given that sequence of events, the apologizer feels awful about it. How do we feel about him? Is he a complete accessory of the rapist? Not as morally culpable, but still condemnable? Is he more or less condemnable than the complete bystander at the party--the one who said nothing to girl but stopped nothing either? Does it matter how he behaved once everyone went back inside? We might say he had an obligation to stop the rape--but remember, he's still one guy on 39 at this point--not exactly fair odds.

Anyway, this person seems to be in a different category, for better or for worse, than the rest of the partygoers. I'm curious to hear his story. If he really does feel guilty about his role in this crime, it's time for him to snitch.

Justice 4 Two Sisters is the information clearinghouse for this story.


Josh said...

I agree that the whole shebang is a travesty. We would like to think that we have made some real ground-breaking progress as far as closing the racial divide in this country, but let's face it; racial hatred reigned for nearly two hundred years in this country alone, and we think that 50 years of haphazardly skirting around the issue is going to claense the essence of the situation?Please.
And yeah, I think the apologetic white male in this instance should be held as an accomplish, whether his apology was made out of naivety or not, which we are assuming it is. I hold as a general rule that normal, innocent people typically would:
1. Rarely have cause to be directly involved with such a potentially environment and...
2.Rarely have cause to be indirectly involved in such an environment.
I don't know, sort of guilty by an overall association.
Anyway, great post man.
Keep us updated.

Anonymous said...

The issue is race and class. It could have also happened to a couple of poor white strippers. This lacrosse team came from privigled families. Lower middle class high schools don't have lacrosse teams. I wonder if the Duke students mix with any people from the other side of the tracks. I am from Michigan and many universities are islands, seperating the privelegded from the locals. Reminds me of the movie "Breaking away".

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your very selective reading of black versus white crimes. The first statistics you skipped over is that blacks commit crimes at a per capita rate seven times greater than whites. Look it up on the Department of Justice website and use the statistics from the Clinton years if ou do not believe the statistics.

Also, there have been over documented cases of rampaging blacks from teh riots in Virginia Beach during Freaknik, to the Puerto Rico Day Groping to the Rodney King Riots. If you look over the last 30 years I challege you to find something equivalent for whites. Maybe you can post a video of a group of whites dragging a black truck driver from his vehicle and beating him with a brick.

Also, the stop snitching is relevent in Baltimore because black criminals killed a black family by burning down their house for talking to the police. Just google Angela Maria Dawson to find out. I wonder if you can find the white on white crime equivalent?

betty said...

The worst thing said in the case involving rape charges against Duke University students was not said by either the prosecutor or the defense attorneys, or even by any of the accusers or the accused. It was said by a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution attended by the stripper who made rape charges against Duke lacrosse players.

According to Newsweek, the young man at NCCU said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted, "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past."

This is the ugly attitude that is casting a cloud over this whole case. More important, this collective guilt and collective revenge attitude has for years been poisoning race relations in this country.

It has torn apart other countries around the world, from the Balkans to Sri Lanka to Rwanda. Nor is there any reason to think that the United States is exempt from such polarization.

At one time, the black civil rights leadership aimed at putting an end to racism, and especially to the perversion of the law to convict people because of their race, regardless of guilt or innocence.

Today, this young man at NCCU represents the culmination of a new racist trend promoted by current black "leaders" to make group entitlements paramount, including seeking group revenge rather than individual justice in courts of law.

This attitude poisoned the O.J. Simpson case and it is now polarizing reactions to the Duke University case. Racial polarization is a dangerous game, especially dangerous for minorities in the long run.

Tragically, the way the Duke case is being handled, it looks as if District Attorney Michael Nifong is pandering to these ugly feelings. Legal experts seem baffled as to why he is proceeding in the way that he is because it is hard to explain legally.

It is not hard to explain politically, however. The District Attorney may well owe his recent election victory to having tapped into the kinds of racial resentments expressed by the young man at North Carolina Central University.

Now Mr. Nifong is riding a tiger and cannot safely get off. His bet best may be to let this case drag on until it fizzles out, long after the media have lost interest. His extraordinary postponement of the trial for a year suggests he understands that.

In the meantime, the taxi driver who provided the first airtight alibi for one of the accused Duke lacrosse players has been picked up by the police on a flimsy, three-year-old charge, supposedly about shoplifting. He was held for five hours for questioning -- reportedly not about shoplifting, but about the Duke rape charges.

Does this smell to high heaven or what?

The taxi driver himself is not accused of shoplifting. But two women who were passengers in his cab were. Since when are taxi drivers held responsible for what their passengers did before or after being in their cab?

What purpose can this harassing of the taxi driver serve? His account of what happened in the Duke rape case has already been corroborated by a surveillance camera at the bank to which he took one of the lacrosse players, as well as by other time-stamped records indicating where his passenger was during the time when he was supposed to be raping a stripper.

If the prosecution cannot discredit the taxi driver's statement in a court of law, what can they gain by harassing him? One thing they can gain could be to at least stop the cabbie from going on television again to repeat what he has said before.

If nothing else, the harassment can serve as a warning to anybody else who might feel like coming forward with testimony that undermines the prosecution's case.

Is this America or some banana republic?

Some people in the media saw this case from day one as a matter of taking sides rather than seeking the truth. They want to be on the politically correct side -- for a black woman against white men -- and the facts be damned.

If such attitudes prevail, we will indeed become a banana republic. Or worse.

betty said...

Comparing LAX case to that of Scottsboro Nine

I am a college instructor who teaches criminal justice and a criminal defense attorney. In my entire career I have never seen such a bizarre and unfair case as the one against three Duke lacrosse players.

I teach a class about a similar case in American history, the Scottsboro Nine. In March 1931, a group of nine black teen-agers was charged with rape on incredibly flimsy evidence in Scottsboro, Ala. The nine were originally charged with the rape of two white women. Even after one woman testified that she lied about the rape, the nine teens continued to face rape charges and the threat of death by execution.

In the Scottsboro case, the two women were part-time prostitutes, but that didn't matter, nor did it matter that at least one of the boys was known to be physically unable to have sex, and two of the boys were only 13. Like Durham, the real issue was race.

In Scottsboro, nine young men were wrongly charged and condemned because they were black, and today the Duke lacrosse players have, in my opinion, been wrongly charged and condemned because they are white and the alleged victim is black.

The one constant with respect to the two cases is racism. I often ask my students if it possible for blacks to discriminate against whites in the same type of mindless ignorance as the KKK or the way the mob went after the Scottsboro Nine. The answer I receive is yes, and my students point to Durham as proof.


Anonymous said...

You "ivory-tower bums" are pathetic! While I don't condone the crimes done by the people in-question, I do get tired of hearing and / or reading about how racism is a "whites-only" problem and that whites should be apologizing or bowing low before other races because of past negative behaviours and injustices that whites in the past have done.
For starters, racism is not just a whites-only problem. Every race, nationality, color, and creed of humanity has racists and biggots in their ranks. Its called "HUMAN NATURE".
I am Caucasian-American Indian. My wife is Mexican and our children are of course a mixture of the both of us. My family and myself have experienced more "racism" from the "people of color" (using the PC term) then we have from whites.
I find it odd that when another race commits a crime against a white person, that its just a crime; yet when a white person commits a crime against another race, its always labelled a "hate crime". Now for a country such as America which claims that it is "color-blind", I find that plus many other policies and beliefs of the "tolerance and PC crowd" in America to be hypocritical.
I am a combat vet, hold a Bachelor's degree and an Associates degree. I speak three languages and have travelled to most continents (except Antarctica) on this globe; and through my travels and exposure to many different peoples and cultures, I would have to say that America is the most racist country I've experienced. I have never seen a country which has so many different colors, backgrounds, beliefs, and nationalities that is as closed-minded as this one. Many Americans in this country regardless of their "color, nationality, race, ect.,ect. are race-mongers and/or race-baiters. America should be an example to the rest of the world of how different people can live together as one people under one flag united; but unfortunately, Americans choose to live divided because of superficial reasons like what "color God or what ever you hold as a god sprayed you with".
The true racists and haters in America are the media and intellectuals who like to keep the fires of discontent burning; thus keeping Americans divided.
Contemplate these things in your "ivory towers" before you start singling out a particular race of people to be scapegoats for the nation's problems.