I have gotten email upon threatening email to rescind what I said last year about the Duke Women’s Lacrosse Team and their uninformed support for the accused rapists in the Duke rape case. The case that was mishandled, manipulated and finally dropped on Wednesday.
I usually ignore emails that intend to *put me in my place* but I think we owe it to our supportive readers to say something outside of “black strippers are lying whores” and the “we won” mentality that seems to have overtaken the public imagination with the dreaded interplay of rape and race.
I just want to say first and foremost, I still stand by what I say and have said. It does look bad for people to support accused rapists, at that point we didn’t know the facts either way. Furthermore, women of color are in fact OFTEN sexually assaulted and usually the criminal justice system and/or the media either overlook it or mishandle it. Women of color often have a higher burden of proof that they are not lying about rape. Case in point (as Amanda and others stated ): when the lack of DNA evidence was announced — before we even knew whether the players were innocent or not — people were quite quick to accuse the accuser of being guilty of lying. So be it.
The charges were dropped. Does this mean that they are innocent? None of us actually know what happened that night. Sorry, unless you were there, you don’t know what happened. Now for the rest of you that have such a die hard belief in the criminal justice system and evidence, well quite frankly I pity you. This is a system that arrests a disproportionate number of people of color, subjecting them to unfair trials, inadequate representation and longer sentences (in a prison system that resembles slavery) SORRY, I don’t trust the courts. When you’re a woman of color who’s a sexworker, up against white kids with money that can afford *good* lawyers, the outcome is not looking so good.
They were not found to be innocent, the charges were dropped from lack of evidence. Moreover, innocent until proven guilty only applies to certain people. Ideally, it would apply to everyone but *a lot* of people are guilty at arrest, just for being who they are and where they are. We are not operating in a vacuum, but within a long history of corruption and injustice in the supposed justice system. So, if these guys were in fact falsely accused, they got a taste of how black men are treated EVERY DAY by the criminal justice system.
And what is the outcome of all of this? The general public now believes that black strippers ARE in fact lying whores and the worst thing that could happen to a strapping Duke lacrosse player is that his lily white reputation is marred by false accusations. Beyond this being a terrible precedent set for women that bring up rape accusations (still something underreported) to never ever report rape again, the racist and sexist reaction from the media and public have been to say the least profound.
I have gotten emails reminding me about not only the details of this case (because you know I can’t read), but how the possibility that this black woman lied shows us that blacks, in general, are liars who play the race card. And strippers are also liars who deserve to be raped.
Why do I say all this? Because the details of the ACTUAL case are only tangentially relevant here. What is relevant is that certain folks are very quick to jump on the offensive when there is a little bit of evidence that perhaps a black woman lied about a rape. You know because people NEVER accuse (random) black people of crimes that they did not commit. I mean, seriously.
So what is the moral of the story? That much of the American public does in fact hold very racist and sexist beliefs and when given the opportunity to air these sentiments, goes ahead full force. It is this same culture of racism and objectification of people of color in most sectors of our society that would create a situation where a black woman would potentially lie about a rape (which we don’t know if she did). And the same culture that would allow for the subsequent manipulation of her story for political gain.