April 12, 2006
Racism 101 at DukeBy Peter Bradley
The negative DNA tests in the alleged Duke University lacrosse team rape case raise the specter of yet another possible hate crime hoax. The timing of the case just before a local election for district attorney, racial and class polarization in Durham, North Carolina, and the heavy hand of on—campus feminism have all politicized the issue to an extraordinary degree. Justice has taken a back seat.
The sport of lacrosse does not usually earn front page headlines. But that changed with the racially—charged allegations of a black exotic dancer. The woman, who has not been identified publicly, claims she was gang raped by white lacrosse players at Duke University who had paid her and another stripper to perform at a party. She told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three white men who yelled racial slurs at her.
The reaction from the media, local politicians, school officials and black race activists was swift and predictable. Duke President Richard Brodhead announced he is canceling the rest of the lacrosse season. The nationally ranked team will forfeit the rest of their games. Coach Mike Pressler resigned. DNA samples were taken from 46 of the 47 team members (the one black player was not required to give a sample).
The Duke 'Progressive Alliance' posted mug shots of the white players around campus with the headline 'Please Come Forward.' Students held a 'Take Back the Night' rally* and banged pots and pans outside the house of President Brodhead and the house where the attack allegedly took place. The players moved out of the house out of concern for their safety.
Before the results of the DNA tests came back negative on Monday evening, most of the amateur detectives hyping the case had already convicted the whites. The general theme was that the alleged rapes represent 'white skin privilege.'
Not mentioned in most of the articles, protests, teach—ins and 'dialogue' about the incident was the possibility that it could be a Tawana Brawley—type hoax. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was 'very confident' that the rape occurred but has yet to file any charges. Nifong, who is facing the voters in 21 days for election to his office, and who is contemplating a run for mayor in the heavily black city of Durham, had said he will pursue the case even if the DNA results come back negative. Yesterday, in a community forum at historically black North Carolina Central University, the school attended by the accuser, he said: "My presence here means this case is not going away."
Lawyers for the players have stood firm throughout the ordeal. Attorney Joe Cheshire says the whites will be owed an apology after the specifics of the case come out. If he believed his clients were guilty he would most likely have tried to cut deals to reduce the sentence (the three whites face a minimum sentence of 16 to 20 years if convicted).
Another defense attorney, Kerry Sutton, said that numerous e—mails written in the hours after the woman said she was attacked support the players' claims that nothing happened that night. Sutton believes the woman fabricated her claim and 'quickly got in over her head with the story she's telling.'
Lawyers for the players also point to a 911 call that conveniently came in just minutes after the attack was said to have occurred. It came from a black woman who claimed someone at the party shouted racial slurs at her and a friend. Cheshire thinks the caller was the second stripper. She alternatively told police they were driving and walking past the house.
The white players have maintained their innocence all along. The only public statement by the players read:
It has now been almost a month since the alleged attack. If the lacrosse players actually had witnessed a rape, it is likely that at least one among the 46 would have come forward by now, if only to cut a deal for himself.
The DNA test results seem to conclusively prove that the woman's claim is a hoax. The police took DNA samples from all over the alleged victim's body, including under her fingernails, and from her possessions, such as her cell phone and her clothes.
'They swabbed about every place they could possibly swab from her, in which there could be any DNA,' said Cheshire. Because DNA could come from not just bodily fluids but from skin contact, the absence of DNA evidence from the lacrosse team seems dispositive.
Hate Crime Hoaxes
Though not mentioned by the media, hate crime hoaxes are quite common in America, especially on college campuses. The Los Angeles Times claims there have been over 20 phony hate crimes on college campuses from 1997—2005, but even that number seems low.
The first and only serious study of hoax crimes was conducted in1995 by independent scholar Laird Wilcox. In a self—published booklet titled, Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America, Wilcox documented hundreds of hoax crimes and analyzed who commits them and why. Wilcox found that blacks are the worst offenders when it comes to staging phony hate crimes. While some perpetrate hoaxes to get insurance money or to cover their own misdeeds, many, particularly on college campuses, stage them to generate sympathy for their racial agenda.
As someone who follows hate crime hoaxes, the Duke incident — and the response — is strikingly similar to recent hoaxes at other universities. The following are just a few example:
The facts of the Duke case, coupled with the prevalence of hate crime hoaxes on college campuses, should have at least raised a few question marks. The fact that there were no real question raised by the media, academics, politicians or Duke administrators speaks volumes about racism in America. The white lacrosse players will certainly not receive the apology they are owed, and continue to remain in the DA's crosshairs, as he trolls for votes among Durham's black electorate.
*Reader Oliver Sherouse, Duke '09, writes: