Thursday, April 20, 2006

No snappy title, just frustration

Like many Duke alums, I have been following the lacrosse team, uh, situation? fiasco? freakshow? with a mixture of revulsion and dread about what else is going to happen. There has been a lot written, and I don't want to rehash everything, but a few points keep coming up for me:

  1. Given all I've read about the lacrosse team's history and habits, I am profoundly grateful that I didn't know they existed when I was there.
  2. As I read about the ever-emerging inconsistencies in the accuser's story, and the fact that she ID'ed someone with "100% certainty" who now appears to have a pretty good alibi, I am growing increasingly irritated that she is the current face of sexual assault. Reporting a rape is traumatic and frightening enough already. The publicity and (valid) questions are only going to make it less likely that the next woman who is assaulted will get the support she needs.
  3. Given 1 and 2, there is no way anyone is coming out of this smelling like roses. An awful situation all the way around. DA Nifong has encouraged a runaway train.
  4. I am embarrassed that I hadn't thought about this, but The Happy Feminist makes excellent points about the security guard who asserted that the woman wasn't raped. How is a rape victim supposed to act? As THF says,
    The guard's opinion is further fascinating to me because it illustrates very clearly the problems rape victims face. The guard for some reason felt herself qualified just by looking at Doe to determine whether Doe had been raped-- and felt no hesitation about essentially labeling her a liar.
  5. I am incredibly annoyed that I can't get any good offseason recruiting/NBA defection news for basketball because my favorite board is completely taken up by discussion of lacrosse.

Here's my real issue, though. I am frustrated that this case will now define Duke for many people. I grew up in North Carolina, and I was influenced from a very early age by everyone who told me that Duke was for people who were rich, Yankees, white, jerks or, usually, all four. I always cheered for the Duke basketball team (except for that one embarrassing year where I wanted to fit in at school), but I kept those Duke stereotypes anyway. When it was time for me to choose a college, I ended up going to Duke because I had a tuition scholarship there and I couldn't justify spending so much money on another school if I could go there cheaply. It would have cost more to go to UNC. So I went, and I spent my entire freshman year on the bus to Chapel Hill to visit my high school friends there. I believed that I knew what the typical Duke student was like, and I let myself begin to feel quite isolated.

My sophomore year, I became more involved in the Duke and Durham communities, began to make more friends, and was shocked (shocked!) to find out that all of the stereotypes I cherished weren't actually true. Yes, there were jerks at Duke, and yes, something like half the school bought into the fraternity/sorority system, but I finally realized that meant at least half of the school didn't spend their entire life at kegs. I became very involved in community service, found a major that I loved and met my husband and a close circle of friends who came from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Duke ended up being incredibly good for me - I was challenged academically, I began many transformative relationships and I found out how rewarding it was to give my time to help improve the city in which I lived.

Now, everyone hears Duke and thinks, "Rich white boys from the Northeast raping poor black mothers who have to strip to go to school."

One of the things that has made this such a flashpoint is obviously the makeup of Durham, and the fact that is equally divided between blacks and whites. I've always wondered if racism is more defined in the South because we all actually live together. It's easier to "see" less racism when cities are more segregated. There is also clearly building tension between the school and the town. When I was there, Duke students rarely moved off-campus, so when you did, it was because you wanted to be part of the Durham community. Now, apparently it's more common, and the students that are off-campus aren't exactly there as ambassadors, they're there because it's easier to drink. I hate to think that all of the work Duke has done as an institution to try to be a good neighbor and partner with the community will be torn down by a group of drunken idiots.

On a personal level, though, I hate knowing that the small-minded people who had me convinced I was going to a school full of one type of person are having those beliefs supported and vindicated by this story. Yes, the lacrosse players are Duke, but so am I, dammit.

No comments: