(Note: I had orginally planned to post this entry early last week, but delayed due to the Virginia Tech tragedy.- DB)
During the week following Easter two distinct but (in my mind) related announcements were made: CBS announced that Don Imus would no longer be aired on their radio stations and the Attorney General of North Carolina announced that rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players had been dropped. A great deal was made of the Imus case and its relationship to other “shock jock” radio hosts, as well as rappers and liberal commentators who have made equally offensive statements and yet are still on the air. At the same time, the CBS show “60 Minutes” aired extensive interviews with three Duke lacrosse players. However, to my knowledge no commentators noted the serendipitous connection between these two events.
A cynic might say, “Well the white guys came out even. They won one and they lost one.” I think it goes deeper than that. Like many people, I was glad to see Don Imus taken off the air, and I could not help but notice the irony that Don Imus is only one among many commentators who engage in various forms of destructive and degrading speech. One can only wonder how quick MSNBC and CBS would have been to fire Imus if the sponsors had continued to back him. But here is the connection I see to the Duke case: Imus was fired for his sexist and racist remarks and the Duke players got in trouble with the law because they were engaging in sexist and racist behavior.
As a Duke University alum, I closely followed the Duke lacrosse case. Throughout the last year, to my knowledge neither the players nor their parents have publicly commented on the fact that the alleged rape occurred at a party where a bunch of well-to-do white college guys hired a African-American stripper to “perform” at their drunken party. The fact that there was a party and that the young woman was hired to come there has never been disputed. The players and their parents, so intent on proving their innocence, failed to note that there never would have been a rape case if there hadn’t been a party in the first place. These guys may have been victims of politically motivated district attorney, but they were also eager participants in behavior that clearly demeaned and degraded others. As much as they talked about the difficulty of “rebuilding their lives,” they have come out relatively unscathed. One of them is already working on Wall Street, [and the other two are playing lacrosse at other colleges]*. Please forgive me, if the tears aren’t flowing.
*[NOTE: I was in error when I stated the other two players were currently playing lacrosse at other colleges. As the one comment-er said, they have not done so yet. Duke has offered to allow them to return, but they will probably go elsewhere. In all likelihood next year they will be playing for other schools. I stand corrected. D.B.]
After Don Imus was fired, the president of CBS said that the media giant had to “change the culture” that would allow such statements to occur. The culture issue goes much deeper than a few degrading words. The culture issue goes to the fact that the media will use and abuse others when it suits their purpose or makes them money. The culture issue looks at the way the rich can exploit the poor and come away unscathed (What if a black lacrosse team had hired a white stripper; would anyone have cared if players had been unfairly charged?). The culture issue reveals that there are different sets of rules for those who have access to money, power and high priced lawyers, and those who do not.
I for one, am sick of the hypocrisy, and will do what I can (as a well-to-do white guy from Duke) to highlight the fact that racism, sexism and just general human meanness is immoral, unethical and intolerable in any form.