“[T]he concept of racism has been reduced to intention instead of a systematic societal problem, [so] people like Barber can get away with equating people who are loaded with privilege with victims of a racist system like the Scottsboro Boys. And that’s why it’s so damn frustrating when white liberals insist on making racism about someone’s intentions instead of the effects of their actions.”
Monday, February 05, 2007
I am proud to be a liberal. I’m against the war. I'm for gays being allowed to get married because I think gays should have the same rights as straights. I want statehood for Washington, D.C. because I think that people living there should be represented in Congress like citizens in the rest of America. I want a system of healthcare for everyone in this country. And I believe that under the law we all have the presumption of innocence. Part of the definition of being liberal is being “open-minded." That goes double when considering the guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime. I never thought I’d have to say that, but after following the Duke case for almost a year I do.
My problem with Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon started with a blog she wrote attacking LaShawn Barber for comparing the three Duke lacrosse defendants with the Scottsboro Boys. She wrote:
Everyone carries around social theories in their heads. It’s a kind of shorthand everyone uses to make sense of what they experience. At some point in my upbringing, before I actually knew what a social theory was, I had decided that facts trumped theory when dealing with specifics. It seems like Marcotte missed that.
I remember as a child from New Jersey in the early sixties visiting my grandparents in Mississippi. We were in a big park in Jackson, the state capitol. I was running around working up a sweat and needed a drink. I saw a huge line at one water fountain so I went over to another fountain where there was no line. You can guess. I had used the "Coloreds Only" water fountain. My grandmother was mortified. She tried to explain to me the terrible thing I had done. I said, "It's the same water, isn't it?" She had no answer. My grandmother's social theory had lost out to my thirst.
Marcotte, apparently, has come to a theory of racism that would not allow for the comparison of the Scottsboro Boys case with the current case because African Americans are systematically oppressed and the well-to-do defendants in the Duke case aren’t. But there were comparisons to be made between the two cases. I sent an email to her to point out that the accuser had embroidered her false story with racist elements. And the DA, Mike Nifong, had knowingly used claims that the men had committed a racist hate crime when he knew (as we now know) that no rape had occurred, pandering to the anger of a constituency he needed in order to win the May primary.
I went to her website the next morning. She had announced proudly that she was throwing away emails about the Duke case as soon as she realized that they were favorable to the accused. I guessed that was an acknowledgement of my email. A little more poking around found another post, presuming the players’ guilt (the infamous “waiting in the airport“ piece). It was clear that she had made up her mind about the case and had done it without any facts.
She had made broad, presumptuous statements about the players based on… her social theories. There was a blog entry, about the O.J. Simpson case, but her regulars there were commenting on the Duke case as well. I made a few posts as did “Emmy,” another regular on the Liestoppers Board. Our posts, not in any way rude or inappropriate for the discussion, were immediately deleted while original posts that misstated the evidence in the Duke case remained. In short, Marcotte wanted to preserve the theoretical purity of her clubhouse, facts be damned.
The irony of this incident, along with the posturing of the Group of 88 and others, is that this case could have been a lesson in how racism works. How Mike Nifong used racially charged images that went back to the antebellum South to inflame African American voters in Durham is the very same mechanism of fear and hate used by David Duke. The accuser’s lies about the racialist atmosphere in her false rape story are the same kind of lies that got many a black man lynched in our country’s sordid past. Let’s not forget the angry demonstrators demanding “Castration” in the first weeks of this case, or that Victoria Peterson, a “community leader” and political ally of Nifong, was openly calling on protesters to burn down the lacrosse players’ house.
When Marcotte says, “it’s so damn frustrating when white liberals insist on making racism about someone’s intentions instead of the effects of their actions,” how she can pretend to speak about a case she clearly has no knowledge of? She presumes intentions of the defendants based on demonstrated lies that not even the accuser is standing behind anymore, and yet seems not to understand the effects of this false prosecution, or her continuing trumpeting of it.
We are almost a year into this fraud. Anyone following this case with an open mind knows that no gang rape occurred and that the charges are false. Nifong, recused, is facing charges by the State Bar (their amended letter containing almost three hundred examples of his violations). The public now knows enough of the accuser’s history of mental illness, criminality, drug abuse and her work in the sex trade to understand how this woman may have thought she could get away with telling the story she invented. It’s painfully true that men have used what has been described as the “nuts and sluts” defense (either a rape victim wanted the sex or she is crazy) when trying to counter a rape charge. But in the instant case we have a woman with a demonstrated history of severe mental illness. She was hospitalized for it for a week in 2005. We know of her wild and unsubstantiated story of the “Creedmoor gang rape.” We’ve heard about her accusing her husband of attempting to murder her, a!gain unsubstantiated. Two sources (The New York Times and “Sixty Minutes“) report that she is bi-polar and the latter reports she is prescribed strong medicines to control her manic behavior. We know about her bizarre behavior the night she stole a taxicab from a strip club and tried to drive over a policeman when she was cornered. Glimpses into her medical records show a history of drug abuse. She admitted to police she misused a prescribed muscle relaxer with alcohol on the night of the alleged rape. We know she only claimed rape that night when she was about to be involuntarily locked up in the local drunk tank.Anyone following the case with an open mind knows that she lied about the gang rape itself. There is no physical evidence that anyone at that party raped her, there is no witness to any rape, all probative evidence disproves a rape occurring, and the accuser has contradicted herself too many times to be believable, much less be the only source on which the charges are based.
But Marcotte has apparently insulated herself from all this as witnessed by her “waiting in the airport“ blog entry.
Marcotte also seems incapable of seeing the damage that this case will cause race relations, or how future rape victims’ credibility will have to overcome the image of Precious lying to the police. Or even how this case will probably fiscally impact the residents of the City of Durham.
Marcotte has constructed a social theory of race, class and gender which she refuses to allow to be in harmony with the facts of this case. I doubt that she could actually discuss the case intelligently, which is why she won’t and why she censors opposing views on her blog. One way to avoid appearing ignorant is not talking about what you don’t know. Another way is to know the facts. Marcotte chose neither.
Racism may be a system in Amanda’s world view, but it is also a series of individual actions and intentions. One may graph out racism, but it helps to identify the dots. And it does nothing to argue against racism while recirculating the racist lies told about the defendants in the Duke case. Trying to smugly reinflate this case or in any way use it to advance the cause of equality and fight racism is just not going to serve those purposes. Since I actually care about these things I can only hope that Amanda will do the right thing and open her eyes.
Bob in Pacifica