billy jack bitch (or, blinded by the white...guilt)
although what i've got to say isn't directly concerned with rape and its relatives, let me begin by stating something obviously personal: i've never been sexually assaulted. and even if i had, i'm not sure i could write about the following with enough sensitivity. i don't think i('d) have the words.
also, i don't know anything about the law.
what if i told u that u're worth only half of what u be?
i imagine when the rape allegations of the duke lacrosse case became public, many women who were victims of sexual assualt--both reported and not--hoped that the accuser wasn't lying, or, if/when the case came to trial, her story didn't crumble under the burden of proof. as i previously mentioned, i've no direct experience with sexual assault, but as an observer, it seems to me that rape is an especially tender and complicated case to try; one that further exacerbates an already quite traumatic experience. having viewed media coverage of a few high-profile rape cases, i understand why someone wouldn't say anything, or perhaps later change her story.
i remember the evening i first noticed the media coverage of the duke case. (i can be kind of late when it comes to current events.) almost a year ago, i was on the phone when i saw an animated mike nifong on my television. as i listened to his fervent speech, i played out the whole race/class/gender/south/collegetown v. locals/etc. lines of argument and discussion through my head. and although i very quickly glanced at a few entries by some fellow bloggers, i kept mum. i've never been too great with immediate responses--especially with complicated situations. i knew i needed to be silent for a moment, and sort things out before saying or writing anything. and now that nifong has removed himself from the case, i think my thoughts have settled enough to take up some aspect of this topic.
admittedly, i haven't followed the case or the fall out too closely. over the last ten months, i've caught an update or two; i'm aware of how messily things have unraveled. however, i am also a graduate student, and if graduate school teaches you anything, it's that not paying close attention to something doesn't eliminate you from the conversaton; rather, it often places you (or should i say you position yourself) in the center of it...or so we think. that said, there are a variety of apetures in which to enter the conversation if one chooses. i'm sure many who have decided to engage in the conversation have very smartly said a variety of things that don't need to be echoed here. in fact, i'm guessing someone has already written something similar to what i'm going to write. forgive me if i very rudementarily repeat ideas here. i offer the fact that i've no real argument to offer as my excuse for writing so sloppily, loosely. so, please consider this a mere exploratory piece. i've no thesis i want to concretely place in the midst of the discourse. i just want to ruminate a bit.
how much of this can we attribute to white guilt, and the white privilege that inpires it?
would u come forth and tell no lies? would u come forth and talk 2 me?
though i've admitted to not really tracking this case, i did happen to see the 60 minutes episode where the parents of the lacrosse players were interviewed. as i listened and watched, i couldn't help but recall to kill a mockingbird, and the advice atticus gives scout relatively early in the novel, "you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around it." i could not, on this particular occasion, put atticus' theory into practice. i felt not one drop of sympathy for the parents, or their sons.
in fact, i was occasionally perturbed by some of the things i heard. i recall, for example, one of the mothers stating that any mother with a son should be alarmed that a woman could claim she was raped, and a man could be arrested on her word alone. she offered the fact that the accuser has apparently changed her story several times as something to buffer her assertion. of this claim and its "supporting evidence," i offer this retort: really? why, i believe the contrary. any woman period should be alarmed if we live in a world where her allegation(s) of rape--true or otherwise-- is not taken seriously enough for the man in question to be arrested, or at least interviewed by police. further, for all we know there may have been a variety of reasons this woman chose to change her story. it is dangerous to assume that one later "admits" to lying because one had, in fact, initially told a lie.
there was another moment in the interview that i found mildly appalling. one of the fathers--all of whom were relatively quiet in comparison to their wives--asserted that even if they are acquitted, none of their sons would be able to distance themselves from this event; that in the internet age everything is "googleable," and thus anyone--a future employer, for example--can easily do a basic search, and reassociate these men with this situation.
after listening to the entire interview, i internally translated all of what these parents said to essentially mean: what do you mean my white privilege card has been declined?
i'd like to think that i'm not so cloaked in my various identites that i cannot empathize with someone when a wrong has occured. nor do i rank my identities; i am all that i am simultaneously. yet, i couldn't help but think, "welcome to my/our world," when i heard these parents speak. it seems to me that the outcry we heard from these parents echoed that which has been ignored--if ever heard-- from disenfranchised people. yet, i mark the difference between "us" and "them" by the fact that these parents have the resources to vehemently defend and protect their sons. i'm no miss cleo, but i'd prognosticate that when the dust settles, if these young men are found innocent, they will all be just fine. if the white privilege card didn't work the first time, one can always swipe again.
what distortion could u let your pen forget 2day?
let me also state: i'm not interested in evening the score, if you will. i'm smart enough to know that if these young men were wrongfully accused, and subsequently went to jail that we could not chalk that up on the scoreboard as one for "our" team. i say all of this not only to admit, but to also provide clarity on my position as a viewer in all of this. for, if i'm not going to get into someone else's skin and walk around, i might as well divulge that there might be a leaf, a branch, a tree, slightly obscuring my view.
that caveat aside, let me return to white privilege. i comprehend the backlash that has resulted from the mishandling of the case. yet, let me offer a couple of suggestions: 1) white guilt played a part in the way this thing was handled; 2) we live in an environment that necessarily requires such a response.
at this juncture, it's no secret that the white and black populations in durham, north carolina are relatively equal; much of the latter group is poor. duke university is not an anomaly in this sense. despite recent gentrification efforts, places like columbia u., the university of chicago, usc, and yale are other examples of esteemed institutions of higher education located amongst or near poor (and often black) neighborhoods. descriptions of the relationship between the university and these communities often hint at the underlying racial and economic tensions between the campus and the "locals." these circumstances contributed to the setting in which we view this case. the black experience in this country as it pertains to this matter is rather obvious; i will not waste time with that here.
so, when this case was placed before mike nifong just before his reelection, i imagine he thought he needed to act quickly and assertively. as a result, perhaps he went before the media and acted irresponsibly by making claims that had yet to be corroborated, by being vehement in his speech about the guilt of these young men before he had the time to build a substantial case against them. and, in a way, perhaps he had to. the climate seemed to demand it.
what if i say u lie?
what might have happened if allegations of rape had been found to be quite obviously true, and nifong had paid little attention? what if he had treated it like any other case? i'd venture to guess that we would have had an even bigger problem on our hands. i am not suggesting that we start at 0-0, and move from there. perhaps when considering the other options, it was better--albeit unethical-- to make such public assertions, and then end up being very wrong. then again, i do not advocate moving from a (subconsious) place of guilt. that is just as disturbing as someone standing in utter disbelief because of an inability to insulate a loved one from the possibility of actually having to prove their case.
i do not end this exploration by saying we forget about history. however, i think this may serve as an instance where attempting to overcompensate for past wrongs distracted one from being (socially) responsible, and that does a disservice to everyone. now, maybe that many more women will choose not to come forward with rape charges, and media programs will continue to suggest that we tacitly support a reinstatement of white privilege. so then, i'm suggesting that with history in mind, we act more prudently. my point, if i have one, is that in this instance, the politically correct white guilt is not the antidote for white privilege. we have, in fact, created an environment that demands radical behavior on both sides in order to awaken us from our numb state. and, because these things must happen quickly, it is not until much later that we realize that perhaps we've rallied around a cause that has many more problems than we initially conceived. as a result we become even more weakened and numb.
perhaps we should listen to mrs. dubose, and proceed from there.
please access another experience.
Labels: random bullshit
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison