In their increasingly desperate attempt to redeem their reputations, the Group of 88 has succeeded only in digging themselves a bigger hole. The latest example came in an article published yesterday in Diverse, in which Group members rationalized their actions in a way that appeared detached from reality.
Reporter Christina Asquith’s scrupulously fair article featured quotes from four Group members (Wahneema Lubiano, Karla Holloway, Mark Anthony Neal, and William Chafe) but did not cover up the arts and sciences faculty’s performance from last spring. She noted, for instance, that “even as DNA tests came back in the players’ favor and evidence surfaced of prosecutorial misconduct, at least a dozen Duke professors weighed in via op-eds and essays presuming the guilt of the players as a symbol of more widespread problems on campus.” Asquith also spoke to several of the Group’s critics—including Steve Baldwin, FODU’s Jason Trumpbour, and me.
Some of the Group’s more peculiar claims:
Chafe complained to Asquith that his March 31 Chronicle op-ed has been misinterpreted, since it “didn’t have any reference toward the guilt or innocence of anyone.” He suggested that, as a history professor, he was duty bound to provide a historical context to help the campus consider the lacrosse case.
Of course, Chafe could have chosen any number of historical contexts to frame the discussion. He could have, for instance, chosen the Tawana Brawley case—the classic example, before events in
But Chafe made another selection. He suggested that the whites who lynched Emmett Till represented the appropriate context through which to interpret the actions of the lacrosse players.
Can Chafe possibly suggest that contextualizing the players’ behavior by citing the perpetrators of one of the worst cases of lynching in American history did not imply “any reference toward the guilt or innocence of anyone”? I’m not sure which option is more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter; or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.
Wahneema Lubiano, principal author of the Group of 88’s statement, explained the statement’s origins in the following manner:
Black students were being told, “There isn’t any racism or sexism, and if you talk about that, you’re attacking the lacrosse players.” Every time we raised it, people told us to shut up.
Intensive media coverage began on March 24. The statement appeared on April 6. What evidence exists that black students, or any other critics of the lacrosse team, were being told to “shut up” during this two-week period? To take some examples:
- March 27: As these photos make clear, African-American students were well represented at anti-lacrosse campus protests. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
- March 28: Lacrosse player Bo Carrington was surrounded by an angry group of African-American students as he walked across campus. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
- March 29: The AAAS forum that allegedly produced eight of the eleven anonymous student quotes in the Group of 88’s ad took place. Black students certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
- March 30: Lubiano and African-American professor Houston Baker (joined by another extreme critic of the lacrosse player, Peter Wood) dominated a faculty meeting devoted to attacking the team. Lubiano, Baker, and other lacrosse critics certainly weren’t told they had to “shut up” here.
Can Lubiano seriously contend that in the two weeks before the ad’s appearance, black students were told to “shut up,” or that the most extreme critics of the team among African-American faculty members did not dominate campus discourse? I’m not sure which option is more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter; or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.
Asquith writes that “some professors, like AAAS professor Mark Anthony Neal, say they were careful not to jump to conclusions about the players’ guilt. Neal, specifically, posted a blog article that took Blacks to task for dismissing crimes against Black women. But it hasn’t insulated him or other professors from criticism.”
Yet here is Neal, in his own words, from April 13:
Regardless of what happened inside of
610 N. Buchanan Blvd, the young men were hoping to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed. If these young men did in fact rape, sodomize, rob, and beat this young women [sic], it wasn’t simply because she was a women [sic], but because she was a black woman.
At the time, of course, Mike Nifong was portraying the “crime” as not only a sexual assault but as an assault motivated by race. In his statement, Neal asserted that the players wanted “to consume something that they felt that a black woman uniquely possessed.” (The players, in fact, had not requested black dancers, and had been told the agency would send one white and one Hispanic dancer.) And Neal appears to have accepted wholeheartedly Nifong’s suggestion of a racial motive.
Does Neal really maintain that his accepting Nifong’s suggestion that race played a role in the players’ hiring of the accuser did not constitute rushing to judgment? I’m not sure which option more frightening: that a tenured Duke professor would intentionally mislead a reporter, or that a tenured Duke professor would make a statement that appears to have no basis in reality.
Chafe added, by the way, that critics of the Group of 88 are part of “a whole industry out there seizing on the opportunity to pillory a group of faculty members as leftist, racist, elitist, avant-garde Marxist people.”
If, in fact, such an “industry” existed, one wonders if Bill Chafe is actually serving as a covert operative in its service. His comments to Diverse portray him, yet again, as a caricature of an elitist willing to advance his personal agenda on the backs of his own institution’s students.