Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rape and Privilege: The Duke Rape Case

Working nationally to empower young men to be allies in ending men’s violence against women we are frequently asked about the Duke rape case. The case should by now be familiar – an African American exotic dancer has injuries consistent with having been raped and sodomized after working a party put on by white members of the elite Duke University Lacrosse Team. The intersections of race, class and gender oppression in our society have been discussed from the very beginning. The arrest of a 3rd suspect, David Evans, and his response to the arrest, has made these discussions even more visible. In a short statement on Monday, the headmaster of the $25,000/year private high school that Evans attended in Bethesda, Md. said "The allegations coming from Durham today are inconsistent with the character of the young man who attended our school". This statement, not just in content but its place of origin as well, must have been chosen carefully by Evan’s defense, and has been repeated ad nauseam by the mainstream press. By implication they are saying – “wealthy white men that get good grades, play sports, and dress and act respectfully don’t commit such acts of violence.” The opposite is in fact the norm in our society.

As an organization we don’t believe it is important to make a statement about the guilt or innocence of the Duke Lacrosse Team players. It doesn’t matter to our work – whether or not rape occurred at Duke, it frequently happens on campuses around the country. Almost all of us have survivors of sexual assault in our lives. We have certainly all witnessed the disrespect and dehumanization of women, and men that don’t fit into gender stereotypes, on T.V., on the playing field, in the office and in our homes. It may be seemingly benine commentary, but it establishes a hierarchy that leads to physical violence.

So yes – this case is being dealt with drastically differently because of the Whiteness of the men accused and because the woman accusing is a woman of color. Yes - there is debate about the DNA results, and the lacrosse players claim innocence. But by focusing on this acute incident we should only hope to illuminate the chronic reality of rape and racism in our culture. From here we can talk about what all men can do, as allies, to end men’s violence against women, and to work for equity and justice.

Patrick Lincoln Share

1 comment:

  1. Great post. It's so crucial to keep highlighting those intersections between race, class and gender as they relate to privilege.

    I'm also thrilled that MCSR has started a blog. I think this is the future of any prevention program - leveraging emerging technologies and trends to convey messages to an increasingly tech-savvy audience. Keep up the good work!