Sunday, April 09, 2006

White Privilege: The Benefit of Being White When Accused of Rape

Imagine this: Three black members of an HBCU's football team are accused of raping a white woman. The police issue a search warrant two days later, and subject the entire team to DNA tests. Meanwhile, the players/suspects roam free on the streets. Sounds good, but its not likely to go down that way given those facts. Now let's switch it up a little. The players/suspects are white members of a prestigious university's mostly white lacrosse team, and the victim is a black woman. Does this change the outcome? Sadly, it does.

This is the story from Duke University that has made national headlines. A black woman has accused three members of Duke University's lacrosse team of rape. The alleged incident occurred on March 13, 2006, and the victim reported the incident in the early morning hours of March 14. Two days later, the police obtained a search warrant for the house where the alleged incident occurred, finding several items the victim stated were in the house. Also on March 16, 46 of the team's 47 members (the lone black team member was ruled out as a suspect because, well, he's black) submitted to DNA tests. Those results are expected to be out this week. Meanwhile, Duke's lacrosse team continued to play two games (on March 18 and March 21) before forfeiting two games. Finally, on April 5, the University cancelled the remainder of the team's schedule this season.

With the DNA results coming out this week, I felt it appropriate to discuss this issue. I can't say whether or not a rape actually occurred (well, I can, but that's not the point of this discussion); but I can say, with some certainty, that the story would be different if the suspects were black, and if the victim was white. We already have evidence of that; remember The Scottsboro Boys and Emmett Till (and Emmett Till was only accused of whistling at a white woman, not raping one)? Yes, those events may have occurred at a time when racism was more tangible and visible than it is now, but I think too many of us become complacent because we don't see as many outright acts of racism as we used to.

White privilege, which I think helps to explain why the members of this lacrosse team continue to walk the streets (specifically, the three members the victim identified by name), IS racism. Let's say it again: WHITE PRIVILEGE IS RACISM. And although many white folks like to claim that white privilege is nonexistent, we know -- or should know -- different.

Along with the rest of the country, I am interested to find out the results of the DNA tests. In the meantime, I can only continue to wonder how this story would differ if a white woman accused black students at North Carolina Central University of rape.



Anonymous said...


Setting up "rich white boys" is also RACISM.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Notta. As a matter of fact, in the hypothetical she proposed, the black students don’t even have to be from an HBCU. If three black players at the University of North Carolina allegedly raped and sexually assaulted a white woman, there would have been an immediate investigation and expulsion from the university…not to mention the criminal charges that would have been filed. Now factor in that this white woman is a student at some nearby university and a mother of two…white people would have a field day and you would hear familiar themes such as Kobe, O.J., black rage and hyper-sexed black men thrown out for “discussion” on every cable network.

One theme that is being thrown around by some sports journalists (see Jason Whitlock of ESPN: is that this has more to do with “men behaving badly” rather than race. Whitlock is one of most compromising Negroes in sports journalism, so I try not to take what he says to seriously. However, since he is one of the few black journalists in sports media that has an opportunity to have his opinion heard, I believe we have to look at his comments critically. To be fair, he’s not the only person in the media that believes this has more do with gender than race. What bothers me is that men (and some black men) don’t realize that black women can’t separate being a woman from being black. It’s not an either/or for black women. Even if racial slurs were not at the heart of these allegations, the woman involved is still a black woman and the alleged perpetrators are white men, so that automatically means race is a factor based on the history of white privilege, entitlement, subjugation and supremacy in this country. When you factor in the alleged racial slurs and combine them with alleged acts of sexual assault, this event is EQUALLY about white and male privilege as opposed to one over the other. We as black men have to recognize that black women are black first and women first, and the two cannot be separated for them. That also means recognizing our roles in perpetuating male privilege, which has double the destructive impact on black women because negative behavior and words are coming from one of their own. Black men have to ask ourselves are we part of the problem or solution when black women face race and gender oppression occurs?

I want to end my editorial with another critical view of the media regarding the Duke Lacrosse story. I have to recognize that I too have been drinking the kool-aid of the media by focusing on the Duke Lacrosse team. There was a woman who was actually raped and/or subjected to unwanted sexual behavior. By focusing on Duke athletics and the impact on the Durham community, we have lost sight of the fact that a woman (another human-being) was or believes she was violated in a way that most men cannot imagine. I want to bring this to everyone’s attention because I genuinely believe that if the woman involved in all of this was white, we would receive the human side of the story. I know that we have to protect the accuser’s identity in these situations. However, the media has historically provided human stories to bring attention to violence against women and hammer home the fact that lives have been impacted. (See Kobe’s accuser’s portrayal in the news before they found 3-5 different semen stains from people other than Kobe in her underwear). In my opinion, the news coverage in the Duke matter is just another example of how black women and their experiences continue to be marginalized in this country.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the thrust of Notta's post (that a reverse-race scenario would be playing out very differently), I also think it's important to withhold judgment until the person (or persons) is convicted. I felt the same way during Kobe's trial -- I didn't feel comfortable labeling him a rapist before he was convicted.

So, I think that the way in which the Duke scenario is playing out is actually pretty fair, given that we don't know for sure what happened. There are enough inconsistencies on both sides that I'd like to see that play out before I leap to judgment.

Curry said...

In response to the last comment ..

I don't think this is about prejudging what actually happened in this case. From the previous points, the issue is more about lack of balance between white men being accused of crimes & black men being accused of crimes, particularly sex crimes. Using the Kobe Bryant case as an example, that woman’s' word alone brought an entire indictment against Kobe Bryan. And that's the point of this whole thing. Why couldn't that black woman’s' word alone been enough to have those 3 men arrested? An entire month!! Why is her past being brought up to slander her credibility before a court room is even in site?

This is classic & un*friggin*believable!!! Again, the women who accused Kobe … There was a full blown trial underway before the DNA evidence proved that she was a bit, um, how do you put it, benevolent with her women parts. WE have to prove ourselves innocent; THEY have to be proven guilty!! Amazing … I think I’ll whistle at a white women on a crowded public street & see how quick they can find a tree with my name on it. This disgusts me .. I'm done.

thespookwhosatbythedoor said...

Thank you Curry! I agree with you 100%. What pisses me off is how the media refuses to call this woman a victim. They refer to her as a stripper-- and publish facts about her criminal background that aren't even slightly relevant to the case. During the entire Kobe Bryant fiasco, the media never referred to his accuser as a whore. Even after it was revealed that there was semen from 2 or 3 different men in her underwear.

And sadly, some black people fall right into the same trap. When the first set of DNA results failed to match the DNA of any of the players, I heard blacks on one of the radio talk shows suggesting that she was liar. As if those animals couldn't have 1) used condoms,or 2) used objects. In fact, the reason they were probably so comfortable saying that the DNA results would not turn up a match is because they knew that they didn't leave anything behind.

But thankfully, the victim has the support of the Durham community, and justice will hopefully be served. If not, they need to go ahead and give those white boys some street justice.