April 13, 2007

Would that more journalists saw things this way

ESPN.com's Jemele Hill apologizes to the Duke Lacrosse players wrongfully accused of rape (it's a long passage, but well worth the time and bandwidth):

My being a black woman, my knowing too many athletes who treat women like items to be purchased in a vending machine, and my witnessing enough athlete rape trials where accusers are overwhelmed by their fame and fortune -- it all tainted my perception and made me doubt your innocence.

I feel stupid now.

I could blame Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong, but that would be too easy. Oh, he's a lout, no doubt. He played upon the emotions of a community and its long-held hostilities, and put his reelection bid above morality and common sense. He played all of us and should be punished with nothing less than disbarment.

I could blame Jesse Jackson, who I have hoped for years would disappear to a faraway land where CNN wouldn't follow. As usual, Jesse showed up and showed out. He incited the masses and then left everyone else to sort out the wreckage. And if Jesse wants to gain an ounce of the credibility he no longer has, he would find the nearest camera -- and we know he's good at that -- and express sorrow with all the sincerity he can muster. But the day Jesse apologizes for causing a scene is the day Rosie O'Donnell wears a muzzle.

But if there is anything to be learned from Don Imus' fall, it's that real apologies are never accompanied by rationalizations.

So to Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, the three Duke lacrosse players whose lives were mangled by an unsupported rape accusation, I say two of the hardest words in the English language:

I'm sorry.

It's not enough, and I won't pretend that it is. For the last year, your lives and those of your families have been more difficult than any of us can possibly imagine. I'll never know what it was like walking around normal society labeled a rapist. I'll never know what it's like to lose everything -- your school, your program and your life -- because of one unproven accusation.

You deserve all of that back and then some, but unfortunately, you won't get it. You have every right to not trust anyone and think less of people. Duke University abandoned you. An overzealous prosecutor tormented you. A community, a nation, didn't believe you. Journalists everywhere, sensing ratings and salivating over the salaciousness of black strippers and white athletes, chose to keep you under attack.

Not that this is a contest to see who was wronged the most, but the Rutgers women's basketball team at least received justice, because Imus was suspended and dropped by MSNBC, which simulcasts his morning show. Plenty of people are outraged on their behalf.

But who is outraged on your behalf? What justice will you receive? Will the same networks that willingly aided in destroying your reputations now give you airtime to vent your frustrations? Will Jesse Jackson now offer the three of you a free scholarship like he did the "victim," since he helped assist in your battered reputation?

Maybe the only modicum of fairness you have received is that the News & Observer in Raleigh decided to print the name of your accuser. I don't normally advocate that the names of alleged victims be printed, but it feels right in this instance.

I know I'd certainly like to ask your accuser a few questions, even though she stood by her story as North Carolina's attorney general vehemently proclaimed your innocence. Does she understand she has tanked not only her credibility, but that of other women, too? Does she understand the next time a woman comes forward with an allegation this serious, all of our minds will scroll back to this case, and we will be less inclined to believe her? Does she know women with legitimate sexual-assault complaints will look at this furor and decide silence is best?

I can't deny that your race, gender and class have everything to do with how you were treated then and how you are treated now. Some people believe white men are exempt from sympathy and incapable of being maligned, so they will not swallow their pride and offer you the decency you should have received in the first place. Yes, you made an unwise decision to entertain strippers at a residence, but that just makes you guilty of being like 90 percent of college males.

Read the rest here.

Bravo to Ms. Hill, who put politics and BS aside in the face of what is right, and my best wishes to these three young men, who have learned a very painful lesson about race, class, and sex in this country.  I hope that they are able to pick up where they left off, and come to a place where people don't know their names except based on their accomplishments and kindnesses.

h/t Goldstein

Posted by caltechgirl at April 13, 2007 06:28 PM | TrackBack

"Bravo to Ms. Hill, who put politics and BS aside in the face of what is right, and my best wishes to these three young men, who have learned a very painful lesson about race, class, and sex in this country. I hope that they are able to pick up where they left off, and come to a place where people don't know their names except based on their accomplishments and kindnesses."

Well said. And kudos to Ms. Hill, for addressing the issues most wouldn't. I especially respected her for addressing actual victims who might choose silence out of fear. That happens too often already and our media isn't doing it's job (not that they ever have, really). Thank you, CTG, for doing the job that they chose not to, and for giving a voice to the REAL victims in this case.

Posted by: Mia at April 13, 2007 08:11 PM

Great post and great link. There is such a stark contrast between the uproar over the Imus/Rutgers incident and the lack of it over what these young men had to endure. That alone makes me stop and ponder what is really wrong with our society.

Here from Theresa's!

Posted by: Karin at April 14, 2007 10:16 AM

I'm glad she seems to finally get it and that she apologized. The fact that she compares the more than year long torture these young men have endured (and the continuing stigma that will follow them the rest of their lives - because there are so many who will always consider them to be guilty) with the fairly innocuous dissing of the Rutgers women's basketball team, is troubling. (talk about moral equivalence!)

Everyone raise their hand who thinks that the idiot Imus has labeled these women for life! (yeah, I don't think so either)

I must say that on reading the entire thing, I kept hearing an "Archie Bunker" accent. Honestly, if a white person had written this, they would be crucified for being an over the top extreme bigot and would most certainly lose their "journalist" job.

So, I'm conflicted. I do believe her apology is sincere though and that's something I can seldom if ever say about other liberals. It's a start.

Posted by: Teresa at April 14, 2007 11:24 AM

Wow - that was a great read. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Gretchen at April 19, 2007 09:40 PM