Skip to comments.In the aftermath of a social disaster
Posted on 01/05/2007 7:56:09 AM PST by freespirited
DURHAM - Last April I added my name to an ad published in the Duke Chronicle. The ad said that we faculty were listening to the anguish of students who felt demeaned by racist and sexist remarks swirling around in the media and on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house. The insults, at that time, were rampant. It was as if defending David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann necessitated reverting to pernicious stereotypes about African-Americans, especially poor black women. Many black students at Duke disappeared into humiliation and rage as the lacrosse players were being elevated to the status of martyrs, innocent victims of reverse racism.
As it turned out, 87 other faculty members were alarmed at this distressing side-effect of the lacrosse incident and signed the ad. I am positive I am not the only professor who was and continues to be adamant about the necessity for fair and impartial legal proceedings for David, Collin and Reade while also being dismayed by the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13.
A team of distinguished athletes at an elite and highly respected university hired two local women to strip at a house filled with men (including those underage) who had been drinking too much. That's sleazy, to say the least. That those women were women of color underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation.
As a professor at Duke, I felt shame when the media's account of the behavior in the lacrosse house came to stand for all Duke students and the institution itself. So many students, faculty and administrators here work hard to live down our unflattering old segregation nickname, "the Plantation." Yet after March 13, Duke again came to symbolize (seemingly for the entire world) the most lurid and sexualized form of race privilege.
The ad we signed explicitly was not addressed to the police investigation or the rape allegations. The ad focused on racial and gender attitudes all too evident in the weeks after March 13. It decried prejudice and inequality in the society at large. "It isn't just Duke, it isn't everybody, and it isn't just individuals making this disaster," the ad insisted.
The lacrosse incident is a textbook example of what Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson calls "social disaster" (a phrase used in the ad). "Social disaster" refers to complex power arrangements that underpin even minor events and give those events symbolic (and disturbing) meaning for society as a whole.
The lacrosse incident became one of the top news stories of 2006 because Americans saw the case as symbolic of many of their deepest social concerns. Race, gender, sexuality, class, athletics, the South, poverty, privilege, the younger generation: those are some features of the brew that captured the world's attention and fed its moral voyeurism.
Like the other faculty members who signed the ad, I constantly receive e-mails asking me to rescind my signature. Some people write out of real misery for their children, Duke students who are distraught that their friends may have been falsely accused and unfairly treated. They believe professors have sided against the lacrosse players, and they are outraged. If we had written what they suppose, we would deserve their anger. But we didn't.
I empathize deeply with these parents and friends. I regret the additional pain they felt when they heard about this ad. However, when I send them the actual ad, they are often surprised that it does not condemn the lacrosse players but focuses on larger campus and national concerns. I was touched, recently, when one mother concluded our thoughtful exchange by noting that she still didn't like the ad, but hoped that her daughter would have the opportunity to take a class with me someday.
On the other hand, most of my e-mail comes from right-wing "blog hooligans." These hateful, ranting and sometimes even threatening folks don't care about Duke or the lacrosse players. Their aim is to make academics and liberals look ridiculous and uncaring. They deliberately misrepresent the faculty and manipulate the feelings of those who care about the lacrosse players in order to foster their own demagogic political agenda. They contribute to the problem, not to the solution.
We are in the midst of a social disaster where 18 percent of the American population lives below the poverty line and a disproportionate number of those are African-American. We live in the midst of a social disaster where 30 percent of our students do not graduate from high school (making the U.S. No. 17 in the world). We live in the midst of a social disaster where women's salaries for similar jobs are substantially less than men's (and, as of this year, starting to go down again, not up). We live in the midst of a social disaster where we do not have national health care or affordable childcare. And we live in a situation where a group of white athletes at a prominent university can get drunk and call out for a stripper the way they would a pizza.
Who is that exotic dancer? A single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished historically black college. Of course the lacrosse story makes Americans of conscience cringe.
There is also a different kind of social disaster in this incident, one that we didn't know about in April. I refer to a prosecutor who may well have acted unprofessionally, irresponsibly and unethically, possibly from the most cynical political motives. If it turns out that Mike Nifong has no evidence (as he insisted he did back in the spring), he will have betrayed the trust of an entire community and caused torment to these young men and their families. He will have added greater skepticism at every imaginable level to an already shaky legal system.
Nor is it only the lacrosse players who will be marked forever by this case. Will future rape victims dare to step forward after such a spectacle? Will African-Americans with legitimate grievances be willing to demand justice in the wake of this public debacle? On every level, this has been a social disaster.
That is why I signed the ad. It is an educator's job to bring the lessons of history to bear as we try to understand the full and on-going social implications of what happened long before March 13, 2006, and will continue long after. Studying this social disaster must be on the lesson plan for our future, no matter what happens next in this miserable incident.
Yes - what we need is socialism - it has always worked in the past...
What a self-serving load of drek.
Commentary by KC Johnson:
Commentary by a Duke engineer:
At least the dirt-bag DA had a reason for his actions.......however sleazy.
The university administration and all the frickin High minded professors, screwed the Lacrosse team just in the name of political "correctness".. NO F___ING EXCUSE, WHATSOEVER.
How come socialism does not work in countries that are majority black?
Exactly! What a bunch of me-first, egocentric trash!
Cathy N. Davidson
Interim Director and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. Devarney Professor of English Office Location: 203 JH Franklin Center
Office Phone: 919-684-8472
Email Address: email@example.com
Education and Interests:
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Northwestern University
Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton
Cathy Davidson has published numerous books, including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (Oxford, 1986; Expanded Edition 2004), Reading in America: Literature and Social History (Hopkins, 1989), The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters (Pocket/Simon and Schuster, 1992), Thirty-Six Views of Mount Funi: On Finding Myself in Japan (Dutton/Penguin, 1993; New Edition with Afterword, 2006, Duke U Press), and, with Linda Wagner-Martin, The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995) and The Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States (1995). In collaboration with photographer Bill Bamberger, her most recent book is Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (Norton, 1998). She is General Editor of the Oxford University Press Early American Women Writers series, past President of the American Studies Association, and past editor of American Literature. She was Duke University (and the nation's) first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies from 1999-2006, and is co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke. She is also the co-founder of HASTAC ("haystack"), the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory and on the Board of Advisors to the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation "Digital Media and Learning" initiative. Her current research interests include an essay on Olaudah Equiano and the controversy over origins, a MacArthur Foundation occasional paper on "The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age" (with David Theo Goldberg), and a study of the social and scientific history of learning disabilities. Cathy Davidson is also the Interim Director and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Representative Publications (More Publications) (search)
"Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself". forthcoming.
Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory. W. W. Norton, 1997. (With photographs by Bill Bamberger)
"Critical Fictions." PMLA (Sept. 1996).
C. N. Davidson and Michael Moon, eds.. Subjects and Citizens: Nation, Race, and Gender from "Oroonoko" to Anita Hill. Duke UP, 1995.
C. N. Davidson and Linda Wagner-Martin, eds.. Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States. Oxford UP, 1995.
"18 percent of the American population lives below the poverty line and a disproportionate number of those are African-American."
50% of African Americans drop out of high school. Of those left over 80% cannot read after all those years at school.
Should uneducated, un-moviated, lazy people live above proverity
And how hard can this be?
This is one of the most embarrassing essays I have ever seen coming out of a university, and I have seen a fair amount. Repeat after me, Professor Davidson: The victims in this affair are the falsely accused lacrosse players, not "misrepresented faculty" or the dancer who filed the false charges. Mr. Nifong, with a fair amount of early interference run by officials and faculty at Duke, has made their lives miserable. No son of mine would get away with ordering strippers while awash in booze, but that is stupidity, not a criminal offense.
It should be emphasized, and repeatedly, that there would be NO race problem at Duke, except that a politically ambitious DEMOCRAT DA wanted to create race problems to assure his re-election.
And each and every African-American in that district should be aware that the man they most likely voted for is a race-baiter who is more than willing to create race hatred against them for his political power.
They should be reminded, over and over again, that voting for Nagin is no different than voting for a Ku Klux Klan leader for public office.
As it turned out, . . .
. . . that is exactly what they were!
This "educator" misunderstands "the lessons of history" and should be condemned for using this incident to further her political agenda masquerading as scholarship.
I turned down a tenure track position at an urban university (almost 20 years ago) because I did not want to deal with such people almost every working day. It was one of the best career moves I ever made.
The Professor sounds like another white man filled with guilt that he was born white. He has no problem condemning White students.
These men who hired the stripper were pretty stupid ,but the strippers werent excatly brain surgeons either. This woman who was assumedly raped obviously had another show that night also. Somewhere she laid around and allowed at least 5 men to spray her with semen without penetration.None of this matched anyone at the first party. A real lady like thing to do.
She too is a University student,but I dont hear him condemning her or her University.
I think you mean't to say Nifong, not Nagin although the same arguement could be applied universally to both.
Everything is a "social disaster" to these guys. Why not just ask whether justice is being done? That's all we're talking about here.
That's sleazy, to say the least. That those women were women of color underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation.
I think the young men are scum typical of what you'd expect to find in their situation but don't pull this power dynamics garbage. What if the whores were white? Don't you think that the ones making a business out of these actions are more to blame? At worst it's mutual exploitation and I don't consider that to be exploitation at all. It's greedy people who can't or won't involve themselves in healthy relationships.
No, you snivelling twit, the lacrosse incident became one of the top news stories of 2006 for the same reason that the Tawana Brawley incident became one of the top stories of 1987:
An ambitious politico (Nifong in 2006, Sharpton in 1987) took an outrageous, unsubstantiated allegation made by a lying, female member of the Black race against completely innocent males of the White race and made political hay out of it.
So sing the Jets! We all saw "Roots" and wrung our collective hands regarding slavery but living in the past is not the answer. Just ask Walter Williams and Sowell about the plight of Negros in American, (pardon the French!).
Why is the illegimatcy rate 75% in the Black community. Are they being denied values or have they chosen an "easy" lifestyle because they don't attend church and eschew family values?
Big problem that social disease!!!
'brainless lefty moonbat' hahahahha. You are too funny. I liked the 'blog hooligans' moniker myself. A nice by-line. Frankly, when I see the words 'social construct' and etc., I don't have to read further.
Interesting, tho, that the Moonbat 88 are in defensive mode. I suspect that they are about to be sued. Well, I hope.
"A team of distinguished athletes at an elite and highly respected university hired two local women to strip at a house filled with men (including those underage) who had been drinking too much. That's sleazy, to say the least. That those women were women of color underscores the appalling power dynamics of the situation"
The writer is a moral relativist. Drunk white kids and black strippers are appalling? Will she condemn the next group of painted up Cameron crazies, Tarheels or Wolfpackers who are puking drunk after a basketball game?
How about condemning the Black Panther's who threatened the white lacrosse players?
What about a bi racial couple on campus who only want to use each other for sex and get drunk before doing it?
Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria?
The Professor sounds like another white man filled with guilt that he was born white. He has no problem condemning White students.
Professor Cathy Davidson - think she's a woman, but who can tell?
From your link:
As protesters shouted "They must be the rapists" and "Out of the house, out of the town!" and published "fact sheets" containing lies and held banners that urged castration, and faculty members urged expulsion, and the district attorney made dozens of appearances in the media demonstrating chokeholds and talking about an assault in ways we now know to be completely false - an ad with 88 signatories in the campus newspaper. An ad that stated, in part, "To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard."
* When Durham police entered a dorm to "interview" lacrosse players without their legal representation present? Silence.
* When the New Black Panther Party came to town and wanted to "interview" the lacrosse players? Silence.
* When a member of our own law school and the chair of the committee tasked to examine the lacrosse team's behavior concluded that "The committee has not heard evidence that the cohesiveness of this group is either racist or sexist. On the contrary, the coach of the Duke Women's Lacrosse team has expressed her sense of camaraderie that exists between the men's and women's team; members of the men's team, for example, consistently come to the women's games. The current as well as former African American members of the team have been extremely positive about the support the team provided them." and that "the line-up ordered by the D.A. for the Duke lacrosse case violated local, state and federal guidelines"
* When Moezeldin Elmostafa was arrested in connection with a crime he helped police to solve, shortly after coming forward with evidence of innocence for one of the students? Silence.
* When a student elected to NCCU's student government organization stated that "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past"? Silence.
* When DA Nifong refused to hear evidence from David, Collin, or Reade? Silence.
* When DA Nifong was clearly caught in a lie regarding exculpatory evidence? Silence.
Why did she mention that some of the males were "underage"? Was it to sloppily imply that somehow underage sexual activity was involved, or could have been involved if things had gone on for more than eight minutes. Or was it to imply that prosperous white kids get away with underage drinking while black kids must stay within the law at all times. Give me a break. I would bet that the typical under-21 black male worries less about the legal problems with underage drinking than the average under-21 white male. Remember that movies caricature whites as being uptight and overly worried about legalities, while the blacks are cool and practical and more relaxed. It was so refreshing when I saw the one movie in existence that had a black couple that were scaredy-cats and constant complainers. Usually those roles are reserved for whites, and the blacks are cool under pressure.
You don't need their help-- you're doing a pretty good job of that yourself.
bump, you hit the nail on the head.
"Disappeared"? Wouldn't it have made the news if many black Duke students - especially the basketball players! - disappeared?
This person is illustrative of a large and intractable problem in colleges and universities across the country, that positions in much of the humanities, such as English departments, have become little more than cover jobs for political demagogues.
These political activists get to use the resources of tax and tuition dollars to fund their salaries and, since they claim that what are really political activities are encompassed by the scope of their academic areas, to fund much of their political activities as well.
The root of the problem is insufficient accountability; these people have burrowed into a self-perpetuating institution that is too far removed from those paying their expenses -- the taxpayers and parents who, if they had a more direct say in the matter, would by and large NOT willingly pay the way for these left-wing radicals to spread their message like a cancer in society.
Your comment = my thoughts exactly.
Why the need to invoke all manner of symbolism and hand wringing? As far as I am concerned, the Duke guys should be damn well able to hire a hooker (oh sorry, a "single mother") as easily as ordering a pizza. If she didn't want to strip for them, she could have declined, end of story. That she apparently fulfilled her contract with them and, I suppose (but do not know) they paid her. End of story. That they did is perhaps tawdry but it's orders of magnitude less tawdry than the economic destruction visited upon those kids and their families by Nifong.
Dear Ms. Davidson: Your essay, 'In the Aftermath of a Social Disaster', epitomizes a big part of what is wrong with todays academia. It is wordy, boring and unfocussed. I tried valiantly to read it, only to realize I could have written a shorter, punchier and far more engaging essay saying the same thing in half or possibly a third as many words. Your thinking, as displayed in this piece, is murky, meandering and self-serving. In case you hadnt noticed, the esteem in which Americans hold academics is plummeting. Your inability to express yourself clearly, succinctly and interestingly is one of the factors contributing to the slide. Your best hope of clarifying and sharpening both your logic and writing skills would be to engage in more serious, respectful debate with those who hold views different from your own. Much of academia today is more interested in curtailing opposing views than in engaging them in an open, honest way. So long as that remains the case, academics thinking will remain muddy, immature and dull.
That "poverty line", of course, being some 20 times higher than the median income of the entire planet.
If you're doing better than half the world's population, "disaster" is rather overstating the issue.
Mike Nifong brought these false charges in order to pander to the prejudices of people like this Duke professor, and thus sway their vote to him. And it worked. Now that the game is up, these people are using old demagogic excuses to basically say, of course we believed him, just look at the world we live in. So much for professors working in an institution of reason and applying critical thinking to an actual real world event rather than a philosophical construct. This condition is generally called having your head up your ass.
Nothing new here. Blind leading the blind. All men are
sinners. Ship of fools. Just the history of mankind in replay
Next social disaster please.
Wonder when the riots, "teach-ins", drive-bys, and the college
level class, on "gender, race, sex, badboys, and the Duke
When will the miniTV series, or movie come out?...I want
Lil Kim as the stripper, Kutcher, and Dicaprio as the
lacross badboys, Taylor Hicks as the DA, Brad pitt, and
Eva Longoria as the coach and his longsuffering wife,
and Cathy Davidson as the crusading journalist who unearths
the sordid details of this incredible event to the wondering
masses of the world.
As opposed to socialism's overwhelming successes in countries that are majority white?? Sorry, I can't think of a single one.
This professor wouldn't, by the looks of it, recognize critical thinking if it knocked her down in the hallway between lectures.
If our university system were not so dysfunctional, this "professor" would be occupying her natural place in society, which is asking customers if they would like one shot of espresso or two in that Grande Non-Fat Latte.
Self-serving professor ping!
Thanks for the ping, free!
I have heard it rumored that the main qualification for teaching in the Duke Political Science Dept is one must be a Marxist. I am not kidding, just seeking confirmation. Anyone know?
She is STILL not getting it!
I admire your analysis because it is so much more concise than mine. (You are dead right about the dysfunction; it is rampant in academia.) I will be interested to see if the professor replies to the email I sent her. If so, I may post her response. I doubt I'll hear from her, however; people like that seem to want to talk at us, not with us.
This is a bald-faced lie. "Similar" jobs include an engineer and a secretary working for the same company. Of course the engineer makes more - as would a female engineer make more than a male secretary.
There are many jobs now where women make MORE than men - University presidents is one, librarians is another.
Most jobs are paid by the job - the sex of the person filling the job has nothing to do with it.
These studies claim that since a secretary's job is "just as important" as the engineers job - she should make the same as the engineer.
That's like saying that a janitor at a hospital should make as much as the chief of surgery because the janitor's job is "just as important".
Not how these studies never say the "same" job - but only "similar" jobs.
Similarity is relative.
Liberals eat this stuff up.
Interesting, The left always use the play "The Crucible" to show how the "innocent" was targeted in the House UnAmerican Activities Committee hearings of the 1950's.
Unlike then when the accused turned out to be guilty the Duke case is more like the frenzy of the Salem Witch Hunts.
You are right. It is one of the biggest lies in the article.
When they do the same jobs and have the same education and experience, they make the same money. Men make more money than women overall because they work more hours, don't take time out to raise children and therefore have more experience, are willing to take jobs that require unpleasant duties like lots of travel, and are more likely to major in subjects that most people find difficult if not impossible to master (e.g. hard sciences and engineering).
That someone reciting such nonsense could be a full professor with an endowed chair is pathetic!
P.S. Notice, however, that she and the rest of the Gang of 88 did not feel compelled to plaster the University with a statement and other agitprop over this or the other alleged injustices she cites. For some reason, only the mere unsupported allegation of rape spurred these lefty racists to action.
When all else fails, condemn the conservatives, LOL!
They save us as their last hope.
Bingo. When they ever do get into a debate, they rarely respond directly to any points raised by their critics, but either try to dismiss their critics with pejoratives ("hateful, ranting hooligans") or just repeat their demagogic talking points.
Without access to our tax and tuition dollars, these cesspools of neo-Marxism would for the most part simply dry up. But until we can somehow manage to make our higher education system more accountable to those who actually support it, the best thing to do with these people is to try to expose them to the public and hold them up to ridicule. It would really take the talent of a Dennis Miller to do justice to this particular "professor."
Bovine excrement. The players had requested white or hispanic strippers, IIRC. Therefore, the fact that the "performers" were black becomes irrelevant, except to the race baiting crowd. If the team had requested black strippers - then race may be a factor on part of the players scenario that played out ONLY in the false accuser's mind.
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