The latter piece was a chapter in a book called Race in the College Classroom, which addresses what one reviewer termed three “core concerns: how the race of an instructor (or her decision to address race as a subject of study) affects her authority in the classroom, what effects the decision to address this ‘uncomfortable’ topic has on one’s teaching evaluations and future prospects in the academy, and what models are available for faculty wishing to pursue an ‘antiracist pedagogy’ in the classroom.”
Ho writes that her “next research project will focus on gossip and the ways in which various communities of women in the U.S. have used gossip as productive modes of communication, affiliation, and empowerment.”
From this background, Ho offered her perspective on the lacrosse case. Commentary is interspersed.
Today I heard that Mike Nifong, the disgraced D.A. who mishandled the Duke Lacrosse rape case, apologized to the three men he originally accused and said that there was not substantial evidence to link them in the rape case. And as various magazine and newspaper articles, and even a book written by the former Duke Lacrosse coach all emphasize, these young men were all victims of ‘racial profiling’ and are, instead, innocent of the charges brought against them.With all due respect to journalists and even to Mike Pressler, it seems to me far more significant that, after a comprehensive investigation, the Attorney General of North Carolina termed these young men “innocent of the charges against them.”
And in the wake of this media storm, I’m not sure what to think with respect to the woman who brought these accusations against the men. I certainly feel sympathy for her, because regardless of whether she made up her story or she was, indeed, sexually assaulted, she more than likely did not bargain for the reception she received at the house party in which the lacrosse players were present and she more than likely did not think when she was a little girl that she wanted to earn extra money to support herself through college by taking off her clothes for drunken college boys.The portrayal of Crystal Mangum as a naïf is a touching one, if almost entirely contradicted by the evidence. The Yaeger/Pressler book quoted Durham attorney Butch Williams (an African-American), who mocked portrayals such as Ho’s for making Mangum look like “Sweet Polly Purebred, who met some hooligans that took advantage of her.” Williams was blunt: “C’mon, kids. She wasn’t this little poor North Carolina Central student working the fields. She was a whore.” H.P. (“Fats”) Thomas, the former security manager at Mangum’s strip club who, like Williams, is African-American, described Mangum as “more of a hooker than a stripper. She was stripping as advertising for hooking.” Given her emotional instability, he added, she was a ticking time bomb: “That could’ve been any one of us. These boys just ended up with the wrong stripper. Forget white or black for a minute. That could’ve been any one of us.” If that portrayal sounds familiar, it should: it corroborates Kim Roberts’ March 22, 2006 statement that Mangum wanted to return to the lacrosse house to make more money.
It’s unclear what Ho meant by asserting that Mangum was looking to “earn extra money” as a stripper, since sexual work appears to have been Mangum’s sole profession, not something she did on the side. Anyhow, I suspect that many people would consider it hard to “find sympathy” with someone who made up allegations that could have resulted in three innocent people going to jail for 30 years.
If she did lie, well, then that’s a topic for another post--because it is damaging for women to lie about rape—there are so many women who are raped every day, many by people they know . . . So if this woman did lie, well, she’s doing a lot of damage for a lot of people.Don’t let an analysis of the facts get in the way of the desired topic to address.
But putting aside the veracity of her story—
Again, let’s put aside the facts and move on to analyze the case through a preferred ideological perspective, the preferred option of Rev. William Barber and the Group of 88.
—the larger problem I have with the exoneration of the Duke lacrosse team is over issues of race, class, and sex. There are the facts of the largely white team members and the two women, one African American, the other half-black, half-Asian.Of course, the players requested white strippers. Should, then, the team have turned the strippers away when the players discovered the escort service sent non-whites?
There is [sic] the overheard racist remarks outside the house (“Thank your grandaddy for my cotton shirt”) and the racist comments that the women reported went on inside the house.Actually, Kim Roberts never claimed that “racist comments” went on inside the house. And even Mike (“nothing happened”) Nifong has now conceded that nothing untoward occurred inside the house. Ho also appears not to have noticed that Roberts long ago conceded that she initiated the racially charged exchange outside the house, with a racial taunt of her own.
There is the privilege that comes with wealth and with attending an elite university like Duke and with playing for an elite sport like lacrosse.Ho appears to have access to the bank accounts of the families of the 47 players on the 2005-2006 team. Ho also did not indicate what sports college students could play without exposing themselves to allegations of elitism.
And then there’s the fact that this group of young men, athletes, who ostensibly represent their school, didn’t think twice about hiring women to take off their clothes for them.There’s also the fact that women’s groups at Duke “didn’t think twice about hiring men to take off their clothes for them”; and that thousands of college students engage in tasteless behavior during spring break.
What I’m trying to get at is that regardless of whether or not these men sexually assaulted this women—I don’t feel the Duke lacrosse team is fully exonerated. Yes, they may not have perpetrated rape, but are they totally innocent of the white privilege, the class privilege, the very male privilege that they wear as casually as they wear their uniforms?At least Ho is candid: regardless of whether three of its members “perpetrated rape,” the 47 members of the lacrosse team cannot be “fully exonerated”—although, it appears, Devon Sherwood is more exonerated than his 46 teammates.
And Duke students who support these players, do they stop and think about the larger picture—that rather than seeing themselves as embattled victims of a corrupt legal system—as victims prosecuted by the media, perhaps they need to really think about what it means to have the privilege of attending Duke University or any four-year university—of having a college degree, something only 25% of the US population has. Shouldn’t Duke students, lacrosse players and non-lacrosse players alike, owe it to themselves to question the kinds of privilege they walk around with and the ways in which subtle promotion of white male superiority gets produced around not-so-innocuous parties involving dark skinned women taking off their clothes at the command of white men?Again, Ho deserves marks for candor: as they saw their classmates being victimized by an unethical prosecutor who (as even he has now admitted) had no case, Duke students apparently should have stood aside, and allowed Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and Dave Evans to be sacrificed on the altar of privilege.
Ho confirms the depressing fact that the Group of 88’s mindset is hardly confined to Duke.
[Update, 1.28pm: I should note that the above link to Prof. Ho's site no longer works, since she has made her blog open only to invited readers--as, of course, is her right.]