Thursday, April 13, 2006

Race, Class, Power, Privilege, Sticks, Balls and 2 Exotic Dancers

I have the Duke lacrosse team on my mind recently. I am disgusted by the stories of their behavior at that party. As a mother, I have spent hours thinking about what I would do if Bigfella is ever involved in a situation like this. I trust that if Bigfella ever finds himself in such a mess, it would be as a bystander, not a perpetrator. But, of course, there is no guarantee. And, despite what the DNA is showing, I believe with all my heart that a crime did, in fact, occur. Frustratingly, I have heard many people lament the fact that the lacrosse team was subjected to unfair treatment since all white members were subjected to a DNA test, regardless of whether or not they were at the party.

As a woman, I believe accusers. Too many sexual assaults go unreported for me to believe that anyone would gain anything from a false accusation. Especially in this situation. If I were a single mom, stripping my way through school, why on earth would I open my life, my children's welfare and my education to the scrutiny and judgement that comes with such an accusation if it were not true?

As a mother, I want to believe that *my* son will never be capable of such things. *My* son will be a kind, sensitive, emotionally aware young man with strong feminist leanings. But, I do know that all of those lacrosse players are somebody's son. At some point, all of them had mothers who nursed them at their breasts, wiped their little bums, snuggled them close in the pre-dawn twilight, cried when they were injured, and nurtured them to become the boy-men they are today. I doubt any of those mothers thought their sons were capable of such monstrosities either.

As the white mother of a black male, my confidence is shaken. I know that my son will be viewed as a sexual predator by many misguided, hateful, ignorant racists. I fear that he may one day be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he will not have the same experience with the criminal justice system as those lacrosse boys.

In recent years, I remember seeing a story on CNN about a college town quite similar to Durham that is facing a decade of rapes, all connected by DNA. The serial rapist had been described as a "medium complexion, average build African-American male between 5'6" and 6'2"." In their quest to capture this man, the police had been stopping all African-American males who fit the description, and asking them for a DNA cheek swab. Despite the fact that approximately 95% of the black males in the town fit this description, the police were stopping college students, folks who had not been in the community at the time of the first attack, folks who were 8 or 10 years old when the first attack occurred. There are marked differences between how the lacrosse boys were treated and how the black male students at the second campus were treated.

There are so many intersecting issues here: race, class, sexuality, power, privilege. I am not sure what the final resolution of this investigation should be, or will be. I just know that the team should be glad that the only thing that has happened is the cancellation of their season and the resignation of their coach.

As this story unfolds, my heart goes out to the accuser. I hope she finds the strength she needs to continue raising her boys, going to school and healing so that she can put this entire disaster behind her as she emerges a stronger person.


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