On the Lacrosse Case. Once More. With Feeling.

I am a Duke alum. I am also, at this point in time, a Duke employee. My views do not reflect the opinions of anyone, other than myself (that’s in case someone wants to get me fired for saying what I am about to say). This isn’t meant as a personal attack on anyone, or an attack in general. I don’t bite. Hard.

My main concentration at Duke was in English. My second concentration was in Slavic Languages & Literature. I am a humanities person by heart and,  perhaps, by biology (the neurons inside my head light up and do funny dances when I re-read Bulgakov, for example). I am a fan of high-falutin’ academic mumbo-jumbo, of allegory, post-modernist mind-games, and words like “construct.”

When news of what supposedly happened at the lacrosse house in March reached my delicate ears, I foamed at the mouth. I was furious. It seemed so obvious – the lacrosse team had been out of control. Some of these kids had a reputation. So many of us had heard stories. The Chronicle ran an article alleging that teammates had made racist remarks concerning a black fraternity. It was waiting to happen.

A bunch of other stuff came to the surface – my own experiences with sexual  assault, the experiences of my friends, the many very real issues that we have to live with today: the poverty in Durham, the relative wealth of the majority of Duke students, race, gender, rape, rape rape.

The lacrosse case is now officially a debacle. For months now, I have been trying to articulate my own  complicate thoughts on its continuing development, and I think I’ve got it:

You can’t unravel the horrors of modern-day life with sloppy attempts at “justice,” just like you can’t fix a deep and delicate wound with a giant sledgehammer.

Much of the discussion surrounding the case has disheartened me. As a former Duke student I try, and sometimes fail, to avoid taking things personally. The rift between students and  professors has been particularly hard to take – not because anything has been directed at me, but because the assumptions that have been made are, I believe, hurtful to university culture as a whole. Self-critique is important – but not when it’s encouraged with a sense of mistrust. The mistrust was there long before that party in March – perhaps it’s good that it has, at least, risen to the surface. Although without any meaningful discourse on the subject (and I mean real discourse – not just articles directed solely at one’s peers, or blanket allegations in the press) – things will only deteriorate.

A number of people seemed almost eager to have the students found guilty – all this after a shoddy line-up too, never mind the more recent developments, following which no one appears to have spoken up. A multitude of people who have talked about the privilege of Duke students often forget to mention that they themselves are privileged as well. To be associated with Duke, on a high professional level, that’s amazing privilege right there. We’re all in the same boat here, I think. We can and should rock it, but overturning it won’t be constructive. 

And now there is the silence following the more and more obvious developments in the case. Silence from almost everyone,  except for Dick Brodhead.

Like Brodhead, I believe that Nifong is, at best, incompetent. I also believe that said incompetency has played right into the hands of every sexist, racist asshole who’s ever cared to express their opinion on modern society. As a Duke feminist who is, at this point, strongly critical of Nifong’s actions, I have to struggle so that my voice may not be appropriated by them. Sometimes, I struggle in vain. Other times, people see the word “feminist” and leave me the hell alone.  Good riddance to all that. But the sour taste in my mouth remains. People like me have gotten it from both sides – and the process has been educational. Getting slandered and destroyed for one’s views, because of one’s nuanced position is no fun, and guess what? This sort of thing comes from both the “guilty” and the “not guilty” camps. Very, very educational indeed.

The accuser’s story is difficult to deal with. As pissed as I am at Nifong, I still want to shout that it’s OK that to be inconsistent – rape fractures the mind, making it difficult for a person to remember things exactly. And yet, the recent removal of actual rape charges, due to the fact that the woman can suddenly no longer recall whether or not she was penetrated with a penis, after insisting that she was coming many, many months later – is troubling. I don’t wish to attack the accuser personally – but it looks like my earlier suspicions were not merely random.

I am someone who will always give rape victims the benefit of the doubt, but to a reasonable point. Right now, I am befuddled, to say the least. The obvious question to ask is “why would someone make a false allegation”? Although I believe this sort of thing is a whole lot more rare than some of the web’s most passionate misogynists, the question is an interesting one, and there are a number of possible answers, among them: anger, psychological trauma, serious mental health issues, etc.

When I was a freshman at Duke, my RA told our entire group that there was a rape in one of the bathrooms of our dorm. A few years later, the “victim” turned to have been a liar. Someone out there was only lucky that the “victim” chose to pin the blame not on a specific person or persons, but a nebulous stranger. It turned out that she had mental health problems. These things happen. People ought to have the presence of mind to sort them out before they turn disastrous.

In this specific case,  the police looked at Dukecard records and, I believe (someone please tell me if I’m wrong here), footage from a security camera, and told the “victim” that she was obviously lying. The case was closed. Anyone see any contrast to Nifong’s attempts to ignore electronic evidence in the Duke lacrosse case? Anyone else bothered by this?

I know I am. Bothered, and scared, and worried about what’s really going on with the accuser, whose situation has obviously been appropriated by Nifong. I am beginning to believe that she was raped – by someone else. Someone with enough power over her to screw with her head. It’s a theory, anyway.

As for the team itself – I stand by the comments I made this summer: the players were boorish, the party obviously wretched, and the team should have been reigned in long before March 2006. None of this makes it OK for the players to go to court over something that they, it would seem at this point, did not do. This isn’t Stalinist Russia. The sentiment of “they’re rich assholes, let them rot” is fit for a gulag. I don’t personally know any of the accused – but I’m not going to jump to conclusions any more. They have not been proven guilty. They’ve already been punished for their privilege a hundred times over, in case anyone is keeping score. Their response, and the response of their peers, will probably involve retreating even more into said privilege. We are Dukies, we are happy to be Dukies, kiss our asses – I’ve leveled this sentiment at a number of people who have tried to put me on the defensive about having attended Duke. Communication is a two-way street, after all.

Duke is not a city on a hill. Sexism and racism are real – not figments of our hyper-active imaginations (us humanities people are so often accused of running wild). But groupthink is the death of all actual thought – and we shouldn’t be engaging in it just because it’s convenient, just like we shouldn’t rely exclusively on our own personal experiences to try to justify what is happening in Durham today.

There are lessons to be learned here. For example, I am getting more and more concerned about DA’s with agendas, and their power to destroy; I am imagining now hundreds of cases of poor kids,  the ones who can’t afford expensive lawyers, being railroaded in this manner, while we sleep and dream…

With thanks to KC Johnson. I don’t always agree with him – but I do appreciate his blog.

62 thoughts on “On the Lacrosse Case. Once More. With Feeling.

  1. oh my god…that is a stunning piece of writing.

    And it makes me happy that you named it after my favorite buffy epidsode 🙂

  2. Somewhat surprisingly, I agree with a quite a bit of what you wrote. However, I really have to take exception to:

    “None of this makes it OK for the players to go to court over something that they, it would seem at this point, did not do.”

    One cannot try them in the media, as the defense have attempted to do. Once they have been charged, it is morally (and legally, though I don’t really care about that) obligatory for them to have a fair trial. While it’s unlikely that any of them are guilty of rape under the rather absurd NC definition, there is no proof whatsoever that they are innocent of, say, kidnapping.

    A couple of interesting questions:
    – Why did Nifong get re-elected? I really don’t think it was because Durhamites thought he could say ‘fuck you’ to some Duke kids. Rarely are populations quite that cynical.

    – “They’ve already been punished for their privilege a hundred times over, in case anyone is keeping score.” How? They’ve retreated to their rich homes after their parents showed up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to bail them out. They will very likely lead perfectly fine lives, with some or other work colleague occasionally bringing up this case and everyone having a laugh about it. If not, they will be entirely supported financially by their extremely rich parents. How exactly have they been punished? Had they been poor, this would have destroyed them. Their privilege is the only thing that has saved them.

    – I agree with you regarding corrupt DA’s. What about the corruption of trial by media? While there is significant oversight of DA’s, there is very little regarding the ethics of defense lawyers. In the UK, there is an automatic media blackout starting from when a person is ‘likely to be charged’. While the press often gets a hold of bits and pieces of ‘facts’, there is no possibility of defense lawyers fucking around with the public mind in the way that has happened here. There is an issue of freedom of the press there, but I think this case would have been more fair under those rules.

    Finally, your tag of ‘unproductive’ on overturning the Duke boat is automatic and unjustified. What would happen if we kicked all the privileged white kids (ourselves) out and rebuilt from scratch a public and inclusive academic institution catering to the local populations? Would the community around us be better or worse off? That’s a real question, and I don’t think the answers come easily.

  3. This is a good articulation of much of what I feel about this whole debacle. The Duke lacrosse team as a group disgusted me all through my college career; I think it’s quite telling that someone could make this type of allegation against them and a big chunk of the university population said “Yeah, I could see that happening”. Painful though it was for Duke, I think this incident could have been a productive chance to re-examine ourselves and our relationship to our community. However, it’s obvious that whatever lessons there were to be learned from this will be swept aside by the furor over the DA’s bungled witch hunt. I honestly think that Duke Lacrosse would have hung itself with its own rope over this incident – which was outrageous, even if a rape didn’t occur – if it hadn’t been for Nifong.

    In a way, I deeply regret the “sympathizing” the players are now getting from the press and the Duke community. Obviously they shouldn’t be prosecuted on trumped-up charges, but I hate that they’re coming across as some kind of heroes. They massively misused their education, their lifestyle, their privilege, and their basic sense of human decency; as their peers, I don’t think we should give them a free pass.

  4. “There are lessons to be learned here. For example, I am getting more and more concerned about DA’s with agendas, and their power to destroy; I am imagining now hundreds of cases of poor kids, the ones who can’t afford expensive lawyers, being railroaded in this manner, while we sleep and dream…”

    Happened to my brother. In North Carolina, ironically enough.

  5. “They massively misused their education, their lifestyle, their privilege, and their basic sense of human decency; as their peers, I don’t think we should give them a free pass.”

    Agreed. Any suggestions for doing otherwise? Their wealth and privilege will pretty much buy them a free pass through this, and probably through the rest of their lives. Stopping that should be high on anyone’s priority list.

  6. Indeed. One more example of how capitalist economies provide just enough of their subjects with just enough resources to suppress dissent.

  7. That’s because said professors are still paying off their undergraduate educations as well as their Ph.D, my dear. Profs aren’t paid THAT well!

  8. Eh. Not necessarily true. Many profs come from enlightened countries where one can do all these degree at the state’s expense.

  9. Oh, I don’t blame anyone for anything. I just don’t like this particular brand of hypocrisy – “look at those spoiled Duke students.”

    I don’t like it for obvious reasons.

    😉

  10. right, but those profs don’t give a shit about rocking the boat, do they? Those profs are thereby excluded from my commentary, which refers back to Natalia’s comment, which referred to those “the professors who get paid well, and who sit in nice offices, and don’t want to rock the boat.”

  11. My comment wasn’t altogether critical – it was an assessment of the reality of the situation. And overturning the boat is very different from rocking it.

    You rock – you create new energy.

    Overturn things – and you risk losing lots of things, including the nice office.

  12. I really need to start thinking more and acting less…..they say civilization was based on conquering our instincts….I say some shouldn’t be suppressed!

  13. “I deeply regret the “sympathizing” the players are now getting from the press and the Duke community. Obviously they shouldn’t be prosecuted on trumped-up charges, but I hate that they’re coming across as some kind of heroes.”

    You are in “good” historical company. Most southern Democrats felt exactly the same way about lynched blacks and the civil rights movement. It was wrong, they said, but please don’t treat them as heroes. They were probably thieves and bums to begin with.

    Just curious, but are female teams that have stripper parties also loathsome, or liberated?

  14. I don’t think they’re “loathsome” people for hiring a stripper (and I don’t think that this is what Emma is saying).

    But neither are they heroes, certainly not to me. There’s a difference between choosing not to emulate someone and disrespecting them. I don’t emulate Madonna either – doesn’t mean I disrespect her.

    I have a whole lot MORE respect for them seeing how they’ve handled themselves, but then again, they also have good handlers. This is the PR age, after all.

  15. What do you mean ‘how they’ve handled themselves’!?!?! They haven’t! Their (very expensive) lawyers have told them to shut the fuck up and they did just that. Then the lawyers ran a huge trial by media. How is that respectable?!!?

  16. Word to what Natalia said. There’s a difference between saying “they’re innocent” and saying “oooh, those poor, poor boys who are being persecuted for NOTHING!” The latter is the treatment that I sense the lacrosse team is getting from a significant portion of the Duke community. While a rape does not seem to have occurred, there is certainly plenty of culpability to go around.

    For the record, mikem, as a former female athlete at Duke, I can say that male atheletes do not have a monopoly on poor behavior, but I don’t think that engaging in it makes women more “liberated”. Also, your counteranalogy is fairly ironic given the currents of racial tension that run through this incident.

  17. I read your paragraph and noticed that you gave a slight nod to PR, etc. My point was that this entire case was centered around expensive PR, rather than around either the truth or any legal matters. It wasn’t some minor side point. By the way, when exactly did I say that I support Nifong’s handling of the case? He tried to pull just as much media shit, but the defense has more money and more media access…

    You said you respect them more because of the way they handled themselves. What you are if effect saying is that following orders is in itself respectable. I couldn’t disagree more.

    Their parents’ money has allowed them to cover their disgusting behavior up. I would have had respect for them if they turned around and said ‘our sons are racist and sexist brutes, their behavior was disgusting and we’re going to give the bail money and legal expenses to NGOs committed to improving gender and race relations in the South’. That would get respect. They have conducted themselves like the dirty rich white Americans that they are. I expected nothing less.

  18. But Rann! Tell us how you really feel!

    Personally, I don’t think that any monologue that includes the phrase “dirty rich white American” is aimed toward improving ANY relations.

    If we’re going to sit around and judge the lacrosse players on reputation alone – then what prevents us from doing the same to the accuser? That’s the way it used to work – if a woman claiming rape was a single mother and an exotic dancer and had previously filed similar charges before – she would have been branded a slut and laughed out of the building, or worse. So now if a team of relatively wealthy kids throws a dirty party – we assume that they’re monsters who don’t deserve a defense. That’s not the way things should work.

    As for Nifong – he opened the door to this. He’s responsible. The defense bested him at his own game, as any good defense team would have tried to do. If you’re going to blame anyone – blame the justice system.

    People are going to fight for their families – it’s human nature. I wouldn’t let my kid go down for something I believed he didn’t do, even if he had screwed up by attending that party.

    And yes, I believe the accused players have so far handled themselves well in the public eye. This isn’t just because they have good handlers – Michael Jackson has had TONS of good handlers… At the end of the day, he’s still Michael Jackson.

    I expected them to get hysterically angry in public. I know I would have, in their position.

  19. Yes, that phrase is aimed at improving relations. Get rid of the dirty rich white Americans, and most other people would stand a far better chance of getting along. Divide and conquer has always proved a useful strategy for the ruling class.

    I’m not judging them on reputation alone. I’m judging them by their own behavior prior to this case, and their own admission of racist comments. And yes, for hiring a stripper.

    Nifong is not responsible for what happened to that woman. Nifong is not responsible for the LAX team’s behaviour. Nifong is responsible for fucking up the case. That’s it.

    I agree, families will stick together. However, the best thing for that family, and for the children (I chose that word very much on purpose), would be for those kids to sit and stew for a while in jail while their parents spend money on improving race and gender relations. The parents can’t see their own racism, so of course they can’t see their childrens’.

    As for getting hysterically angry: I assume what happened was that the kids were ordered to shut the fuck up. They did. That is obedience, not good (or bad) judgment. That doesn’t command respect.

    I never said that anyone with good handlers will obey them…but these are good little American Catholic rich white kids who do what their parents say when their parents come to bail them out and otherwise behave like the fucking brutes that they are.

  20. ***Get rid of the dirty rich white Americans, and most other people would stand a far better chance of getting along.***

    You should have your own TV show, man! “Rann Explains It All.” 😉

    ***However, the best thing for that family, and for the children (I chose that word very much on purpose), would be for those kids to sit and stew for a while in jail while their parents spend money on improving race and gender relations. The parents can’t see their own racism, so of course they can’t see their childrens’.***

    Riiight. I’m not going to respond to this.

  21. Really? You’re not going to respond? I’d like for someone to tell me why people who are racist by their own admission (they admitted making racial slurs, on the street, in a town that’s majority non-white) and stewing in their own privilege shouldn’t be left locked up to think about what they’ve done for a little while…

    And why do you think that their parents’ money was better spent on bail than on what I suggested?

  22. Natasha, will you please translate for your friend Rann Stalin’s favorite phrase “Лес рубят – щепки летят”. His communist approach (“Get rid of the dirty rich white Americans, and most other people would stand a far better chance of getting along”) would fit well with our old motherland. Does he feel sorry for that cab driver who was a pawn in Nifong’s game of improving race and gender relations (and getting elected in the process)? Does he feel sorry for tomorrow’s real rape victim who will have more difficult time convincing the cop that she is not pulling a Crystal Mangum; or for DA that is convincing the jury that he is not pulling a Nifong?

    On the second thought – I just noticed a link to Boycott Israel on his blog… He seems even more confused than Ms. Mangum in the fifth version of events. Oh well, never mind!

  23. Repeatedly in an arena like this I here of the fact of white male privilege. The irony abounds and right here on these pages. Natalia (if I may) quickly acknowledges that, as a Duke employee, her defense of the rights of the these “privileged” white males may get her fired. (Despite the obvious fairness of her defense.) She also complains that her campus still suffers under a patriarchal system. Yet eighty-eight of her fellow employees, all higher in authority than the accused white male student athletes, signed and published a vicious attack on the students, making repeated references to their race and gender and thanking those who were doing their best to raise racial and gender tensions. A sign, held by two women, proudly demands “CASTRATION” for the accused. A group of black racialists in paramilitary uniform assembles outside the student’s building (off campus) threatening the students. A wanted poster of all white players goes up on campus. The potbangers… and on and on.
    In an atmosphere I just described, we are to assume that being a white male at Duke carries a privilege that must be acknowledged.
    White male privilege and a patriarchal system are still the realities at Duke, and Natalia fears for her job?
    I have no doubt that your job is at risk, Natalia, and I thank you for standing up for a fair system of justice, even if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth to defend white males.
    And thanks for allowing me to post.

  24. Rann, I’m not one of those earnest people who are keen on debating and discussing angles that have become boring to them.

    Mike, I pretty much let anyone post – unless they’re a troll, which you are not. While I certainly hope that my job is not at risk, I do have to be careful.

    I don’t mind defending “white males” – my father is a white male. My brother, my cousins, my grandfathers (RIP) – all white males. Boyfriend – white male (well, he’s also an Arab, but, in the eyes of the government, he’s just as Caucasian as my relatives). But I rather think that I am defending due process and basic restraint: People before ideology, people before politics.

    If the accused acted in a demeaning or threatening manner, they should have been slapped with harrassment charges long ago, and then we could have all sat around and talked openly about what happened. The chaos and confusion that resulted from the rape charges have only continued to undermine relations in this town and beyond.

    A relative of mine was falsley accused of rape. The charges were dropped later, but he still had to leave town. His (relatively wealthy) parents arranged him to get a job in Moscow, but the management figured out as to what had happened in his past, and they “let him go” citing poor work performance.

    He wasn’t a particularly nice guy – he had a tendency to drink and bum around with the “wrong” sort of crowd, but he wasn’t a rapist or a monster. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time – at a party, actually. He never managed to get his life straightened out, descended into alcoholism, and died within about 8 years. It’s something to think about, for me.

    Anyway, I’m at work (but I’ve been on hold with a travel agency for the past 15 minutes, YES with the annoying tinny music in my ear, in case anyone wants to accuse me of neglecting my duties). Ta.

  25. “Лес рубят – щепки летят” – this expression literally means that when you cut down the forest, the splinters go flying.

    What it means in a more general sense is this:

    While people pursue lofty goals and/or major adversaries, the little people can easily get hurt.

    Ok, off to more work now.

  26. When these kids descent into alcoholism and die in 8 years, come knocking on my door, k?

    Something tells me I ain’t going to hear no knocking.

  27. Can’t say I’d care much. But really, I look for more interesting reasons to pop open the champers.

    Bubbly was great when it was announced that Reagan could no longer recognize his wife, for example.

    Thatcher kicking it would be a good one too.

    These kids are small fish.

  28. Wow, you guys descended into nonsense without my help.

    All I can say is, I’m pissed because the cafeteria guy accidentally made my grilled cheese sandwich with rye bread. Gross.

  29. Heh. This is just too much fun, observing a defeated Stalanist spit nails and show their inhumanity over Reagan and Thatcher.
    When you’re done, you can always celebrate Cassius Clay’s Parkinson’s symptons.

  30. Oh please, Rann. The dirty rich Americans remarks… the loathsome remarks about Reagan and Thatcher together, both of whom are credited with defeating communism.

  31. So Natalia, any comments about what I pointed out about “white male privilege” at Duke?
    Also, do you feel that a white male is made to feel as valued as others at Duke? Are his rights to not be insulted based on his race and gender as valued by Duke staff as others? Would a feminist instructor who made insulting comments about men in general be quickly censured like a male instructor who did the same?

  32. Huh. So Mike, you think the only people who oppose capitalism/reagan/thatcher are stalinists? Or that all commies are stalinists? Or that Stalin was a communist?

    Man, do you have something to learn about the world.

    By the way, I don’t know how old you are, but tell me, do you think you’d have been happy if you were around when Stalin died? I would have been quite delighted myself.

  33. dude, name calling and insults never furthered one’s point much less resolved an argument.

    Rann, you have quite a bit to learn about people in general. I wonder how Natalia feels about this type of discourse on her blog, I don’t believe her thoughtful, insightful commentary calls for this type of chauvenistic idiotic discourse.

  34. when did I call anyone on here names exactly?

    whereas mike called me a ‘Stalinist’, as did someone else

    blah.

    Enough of this crap.

  35. Gee Rann, you celebrate neurological disorders in others and I’m supposed to feel bad because you’re just a Reagan-Thatcher hating anti-capitalist and not actually a communist?
    I guess if I celebrated Castro’s palsies, you wouldn’t assume I was a capitalist.
    And I’m old enough to remember when American leftists were abject apologists for Stalin. So much so that when Stalin allied with Hitler, American leftists rallied to Hitler’s side.
    Also, I guess we can put that Stalin was not a communist (let me guess, a neo-con?) in with the notion of the privilege that white males enjoy at Duke. That is, something you have to believe on faith and ideology and not by observation.

  36. Rann – you *are* a Stalinist; and frankly, I don’t understand why you feel insulted about it! I wouldn’t be insulted if I were called Reaganist – it’s just a fair description of my beliefs.

    Why you are a Stalinist? Because it is Stalinism to define people’s guilt by association with the class they belong to. If they are “Rich Americans” – then they are guilty. When Stalin occupied the Baltics, my great-grandfather was guilty of owning a business – and he died in Gulag.

    You are also a racist. Why? Because it is racism to define people’s guilt by association with race (or, in European context, with national origin) they belong to. “Get rid of dirty white rich Americans” – and the world will be a better place. When Hitler occupied Baltics a year after Stalin, my great-grandmother was guilty of being Jewish – and she died in ghetto.

    It is peculiar that the two reasons for you to pop champagne is physical ailments of people you don’t like. I was thinking about it today – when I heard about Art Buchwald’s death! His disgusting, communism-celebrating cartoons were staple in “Krokodil” (Soviet “satirical” magazine with vitriol towards the West). However, the old man died – and it certainly didn’t bring any joy to my heart.

    Stalin’s death was different. A lot of people were joyful because they secretly hoped that heir loved ones will come back from prisons; and Jews were joyful because they hoped that they will be able to avoid mass deportation after “Doctors’ case”. Miraculously, both hopes came true.

    People with Soviet experience are very sensitive to Stalinist methods of rounding up members of enemy class – exploiters, “kulaks” (farmers), “rotten intelligentsia”, cosmopolitans (Jews). Natasha, despite her self-declared feminism, became skeptical very early. Hats off to her for that. It is that style of show-prosecution that makes Nifong direct descendant to Vyshinsky. And you, Rann, the descendant to the “signatories” (‘We, as every Soviet citizen, wholeheartedly support the most recent actions of our party and government… “)

  37. Thankfully, you two oldies, who really do believe that myself and Nifong are descendants of Stalin, will fade away. Unfortunately, there will always be idiots like you around. As for me, I’ll go find something more interesting to do than debate you extremists.

    Ciao.

  38. ***Also, do you feel that a white male is made to feel as valued as others at Duke?***

    I think it depends on what said white male wants out of his Duke experience. If he sticks to the frats, pulls B’s in econ, and dates bulimic beauties from the country club, I think he’s likely to coast through his Duke experience.

    But if he wants to expand his horizons a bit – he might actually run into problems.

    I’m not a white male, and I’m not even a WASP, and I can only speak from my own experience, but I can tell you this much:

    Certain people are very nice to my boyfriend because he is an “oppressed Arab.” They invite him to their parties, they recruit him for their causes, etc. They don’t like the pasty girlfriend (me) next to him. With me, they aren’t keen to say hello, they don’t want to make eye-contact. They also hold me to a completely different set of standards – Boyfriend and I are both “preppy” dressers, I guess, but if I wear, say, a Burberry scarf – I’m a spoiled pig. If Boyfriend breaks out some designer shirt or other, they’ll probably assume he was “oppressed” into buying it, and pat him on the head.

    It’s condescending, demeaning, and plain weird.

    I have other stories, but like I said, I work at Duke now. I don’t want to get screwed.

  39. Natasha,
    What does being white male have to do with Duke experience? Both Sakharov and Bull Connor were white males – yet they couldn’t be any different. I thought the whole notion of civil rights movement was to judge a person not by the color of his skin, but by his character. Granted, I’ve never lived in the South, nor did I attend an American university (although my son is freshman in California college – so I see some things first hand). Clearly, many professors don’t think that “scientific communism” – the course in Soviet universities – is oxymoron.

    Natasha, the observations in your second part are amazing! When you are invited to the parties and showered with attention, it is very difficult to realize that people don’t give a shit about *you* – only that you are a typical representative of the group that they philosophically support (“philosophically”, because their definition of the group is always homogeneous and may differ from reality). *You* see it (and I assume your boyfriend sees it), and you call it like it is. But isn’t feminist “patting women on the head” equally condescending, demeaning, and plain weird?

  40. I’m a feminist who doesn’t pat women on the head, and neither do most of my feminist friends.

    As for the race thing – I think that in America, it’s a very peculiar phenomenon for an outsider to witness. I’ve lived here for 12 years now, and in the South, no less, and there is a whole lot that I’ve absorbed almost unconsciously that I need to start making sense of now. Because when you come, and you assimilate, you take things things for granted and don’t really try to understand them, until something as enormous as the lacrosse case smacks you in the face. And then you really have to wonder, “What have I learned? What do I know?”

    And so I’m doing that now – it’s an ongoing process.

  41. Natasha, you remind me of my favorite niece (cousin). She came here at the age of 9 (from Bobruisk, of all places); first in her family went to college, and is now in a very prestigious grad school. She is trying to reconcile being very smart and very left (my tongue-in-cheek comparison, of course – not hers). Now, 15 years later she is also wondering “What have I learned? What do I know?” Apparently, this Russian tradition of self-analysis, dating to Oblomov, wasn’t left at the border.

    Good luck in your ongoing process…

  42. Oh, and about the race thing… I was growing up Jewish in the country where the tensions between Latvians and Russians were quite tangible. So, I was an “outsider” witness a peculiar phenomenon. However, neither side was seeking “victim” status (Latvians, of course, were blaming Stalin and Soviet Union for aggression, but they readily admitted that Russians suffered even more).

    And living in California, where you interact with people of at least four races (Asians, Latinos, Whites and Blacks) on a daily basis – it’s much easier to treat people on the basis of their character. So, I admit, I feel resentment about bringing race into lacrosse discussion. Who cares if Crystal Mangum is black? Did anybody care if Kobe Bryant’s accuser was white? Did OJ kill Nicole because Ron Goldman was Jewish?

  43. Here’s something interesting:

    While Kim Roberts has said that one of the lacrosse players she was arguing with called her a “nigger,” she didn’t identify this person as one of the lacrosse players currently indicted.

    Hmmm.

    So whoever he is, he’s not the one being charged with any offenses.

  44. It’s worth noting that she herself admitted that she was the first to hurl the racist remarks, as in “little d*ck white boy” and the player responded in kind.

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