Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Last week Johnsville News and KC Johnson wrote about a recent article written by Duke Group of 88 professor Karla FC Holloway.
Liestoppers parodied the Group of 88 “listening” ad here.
Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson have offered more scholarly critiques:
A Duke alumnus and friend of Liestoppers sent us a copy of a letter he sent to Professor Holloway last week. We publish it here as part of the “Our Collective Voice” series.
Dear Professor Holloway:
My wife and I both graduated from Duke. I have been following the lacrosse investigation very closely and have corresponded with numerous individuals about the events and Duke's response. I was very sad to read your article "Coda: Bodies of Evidence." The lacrosse scandal has been painful for all of us in the Duke community. What is particularly painful is the degree to which members of the Duke faculty have labored to condemn the lacrosse team with what at times appears to be a cruel disregard for the likelihood that no rape occurred. You address this in your piece by saying, "The appropriate presumption of innocence that follows the players, however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts." This statement appears strange for a number of reasons. First, the presumption of innocence obviously doesn't follow a defendent "however the legal case is determined." A defendent found guilty is treated as guilty. Michael Peterson is not presumed innocent while he serves a life sentence for the murder of his wife. Your statement suggests that you are equating someone charged with someone convicted. Second, whatever else happened at the party, I struggle to see how anything other than whether or not a rape occurred can be the "critical social indicator of the event." If there was a rape, the players committed a heinous act. If there wasn't a rape, they have been the victims of a vicious lie. Third, the support for the lacrosse players from people like me is not based on a presumption of innocence. It is based on the facts of the case. We are arguing that the players are actually and demonstrably innocent. The timeline of events is wholly inconsistent with the accuser's story, the medical evidence doesn't support the claim, and no witnesses corroborate the accuser's version of events. One of the defendants, Reade Seligmann, has produced conclusive evidence that he wasn't even there during the only time any assault could have possibly occurred.
Yet, you dismiss the evidence no rape occurred out of hand and argue, "In nearly every social context that emerged following the team's crude conduct, innocence and guilt have been assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt. Men's innocence means women's guilt." This statement is wildly unfair. The evidence presented has been based on a metric of time, space, and science. None of these has anything to do with race and gender. It is unfair to assert that those who argue the three accused players are innocent are therefore advocating black guilt and women's guilt. We are simply arguing that no lacrosse player sexually assaulted either of the two dancers at the party. No one of consequence is arguing that women as a gender are guilty or that African Americans as a race are guilty. This case shouldn't be about identity politics; it should be about what did and did not happen.
Your article dwells on the fact that there is testimony that racial slurs were exchanged. For you, this appears to be the single most important fact. It is indeed a regrettable one, but you have no reason to believe it was any of the three accused players who uttered the slurs. You seek to indict the entire team and all white males, particularly athletes, because of the inappropriate language of one or two people. In other words, you seek to attribute the conduct of one person to an entire group and declare the group guilty. This type of justice is not tolerated in any other context. Why is it acceptable for the lacrosse team?
Two Duke students and one former student have been charged with extremely serious crimes they almost certainly did not commit. If they are indeed innocent, then they have been the victims of a horrible lie, a merciless media storm, and callous condemnation from the faculty at their own university. Yet they are not included in your list of those "injured by this affair." In fact, I have seen almost no expression of public concern for their wellbeing from anyone in the Duke administration or faculty. How can this be justified? If, and when, they are "proven innocent," which is the standard President Brodhead has set for his support, will there be any regret for the one-sided condemnation? Or will exculpatory facts continue to be disregarded because they are relevant only in the courtroom and are not as powerful as "cultural facts"?
You also assert that "sports reinforces exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those "othered" by their sports' history of membership." I don't understand this statement. It's true that sports have a history of exclusion. But the breaking down of those walls is also a great part of our history. Like many young boys, I first learned of the civil rights movement through the Jackie Robinson story. My idols were Walter Payton and Michael Jordon. The athletic fields we played on took us to different cities and different neighborhoods to play in environments that were far more integrated than our communities and schools. Basketball is an event on campus at Duke that unites students of different backgrounds like no other activity. I am always proud to see the diversity of students in the stands with backgrounds obscured by blue facepaint and remarkable unity. Why is this not something that should be celebrated rather than condemned?
I fully recognize that there are ills and divides in our society that need to be remedied. I also recognize that you have a unique and tragic personal history. I do not mean to offend by writing this letter. I am near certain that there was no rape at the lacrosse party and I believe the three accused players have been the victims of an incredible injustice and a profound abuse of power by the Durham police and District Attorney's office. Surely you must acknowledge that this is at least a possibility. If it is a possibility, then there has to be a way to advocate of behalf of the players without being merely an example of "masculine and white racial disrespect." Those of us advocating for the players through letters and on the internet are trying our best to do so without being examples of this disrespect. It has been my hope for some time that members of the Duke faculty would similarly speak to defend the players. It has been greatly disappointing to me that this hasn't occurred and instead the commentary from the faculty often appears stuck in the first week of April. I ask you to reconsider your views or at least commit to reconsider as still more evidence of this injustice is revealed. In any event, I thank you for considering mine. I wish you luck in your other affairs.
Concerned Duke Alumnus