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Saturday, June 16, 2007
My Apology to Mike Nifong
I am not long on sympathy. I have little to no sympathy for OJ Simpson, Kobe Bryant or Pacman Jones, each of whom has suffered public and professional ($monetary$) reprobation despite not being convicted of the crimes for which they were accused. I do not quibble with those who, because of the media reports, believe wholeheartedly in their guilt.
I have a similar absence of sympathy for the Duke Lacrosse team and can’t quite come to grips with ESPN having a half hour special two days ago about them. The same media outlets wiping their tears now were the ones reporting that they had a reputation for excessive on-campus rowdiness and belligerence and that they were having a party (parties?) generously laced with alcohol, minors, and strippers. (Was Pacman invited?) The same woman to be believed when she says she did not see the other girl attacked in any way, though she could not account for her whereabouts at all times because she was, um, working, also said they had a confrontation after the boys began yelling something about a broomstick.
Somehow others invite the bad that happens upon them. They are not excused for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Personal responsibility is the slogan of our day. But the Duke Lacrosse team gets a pass. No one had to get raped at that party for Duke to legitimately suspend that team for the year. Precisely that type of animal-housing is supposed to be the bane of college athletics, and sports generally. Beyond their guilt or innocence, why the sympathy?
Which brings me to why I have sympathy for and am apologizing to Mike Nifong. The reason he is being publicly pummeled, and in my mind the reason why he was before the North Carolina ethics board, is because he did as civil rights organizations and feminist organizations have asked white men to do since I became interested in such politics: Disregard the low-mindedness of the media which promotes the idea that status and class and race have something to do with innocence and guilt, protect women from being raped and promote their coming forward by taking them seriously even when the only witnesses are them and the alleged broomstickers.
Maybe he did so for political reasons, to retain office in a majority black district. But such an accusation is not taken seriously when alleged by any other defendant. These defendants used their wherewithal to sell it. And if it be the case, the crime he is guilty of is overzealously protecting the district he lives in from alleged rapists. What other prosecutors are publicly or professionally skewered for this? Or does it not happen elsewhere?
So I want to apologize to Mike Nifong for the absence of support he has received from the same groups who used plenty of airtime to lambaste Don Imus and HipHop for disrespecting black women. Nifong is my white man of the week because he did what groups to which I belong asked him to do, and when the chips came down we did not have your back. We dropped the ball. So when will the next prosecutor take a case where it’s his word against hers? Not soon, especially if the alleged rapists have money and connections and look good in a suit and haircut to deflect their poor reputation and all the alleged victim has is … what, 15 minutes of Oprah Winfrey’s attention?