Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Fruits of Entitlement

Still sick and very hazy, so I apologize for not being more on the ball with posting on the Zoo meet-up and for not having sent several of you emails I owe you. But this is something so awful and needing such immediate action that it cuts through even my cold-induced fog.

I learned about this horrifying story--the result of a toxic mixture of entitlement and race, gender, and class issues--via medievalist. On March 13, white members of the Duke University lacrosse team allegedly strangled and raped at least one of two black women they hired as exotic dancers for a party after shouting racial slurs at both women and threatening to rape them with a broomstick. The woman who's spoken out is a single mother of two who is working for an escort service in order to pay her way through college at the neighboring, historically black N.C. Central University. The lacrosse team has closed ranks and refuses to offer any information about the incidents: Durham authorities have had to order DNA tests for all team members in order to discover who was directly involved in the crime and are asserting that they'll also bring charges against those who stood by and did nothing.

Rachel of Alas, a Blog is urging other bloggers to post about this in order to make sure the news gets out. "Why?" you might ask. Because, as Rachel points out, major media outlets like ABC are glossing over the most heinous aspects of this hate crime, and as Word Munger notes, are reporting on how it negatively affects Duke's lacrosse team "at the height of its season." Yeah. Because that's what we ought to focus on here.

Apparently, this is far from the first illegal incident at the house where the lacrosse players lived. Duke had gotten so many complaints about this house and other off-campus party houses that it simply purchased them--rather than having to deal with the town-gown issues that arose over them--and rented them back out to the misbehaving students. Q Grrrl comments over at Rachel's place about many prior events at the lacrosse house, reporting

I lived across from the main lacrosse house for 7 years — and I can no longer count my calls to 911. In fact, a call I made a few years back resulted in 67 citations for underage drinking — the coach didn’t bat an eye. Similarly, I know that at one point, campus women were aware of sexual assault and harassment by lacrosse players. The house they lived in was repeatedly toilet papered — and once, upon seeing the black-clad women tp-ing the house, I asked why. Their reply: to warn other undergraduate women that a woman had been assualted while at a lacrosse party.

The Univ. has always rather palidly responded to the actions of the lacrosse team(and other student partiers).

So. There are things we can do about this, folks. To quote Rachel:

I encourage people to put up the story on their blogs, and put pressure on the University to investigate the team and level some sort of disciplinary actions, and of course this legal system also needs to do its part to put these men behind bars. I think one way people in the blogosphere may be able to help, in addition to agitating for the full force of the law to come down on these men, is by setting up some sort of fund to help this young woman pay for college (if anybody knows how this can be done).
I know blogging communities have been able to set up PayPal funds to help others before: would anybody who knows more about the logistics be willing to do something along those lines? I'm down to the last $23 in my bank account, but you can believe I'll kick some money in once I get my paycheck for next month.

Meanwhile, here's contact information for Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead. Let's inundate him with letters telling him precisely how much this image of predominantly wealthy, young white men verbally and sexually assaulting working-class black women does for Duke's reputation. Let's make sure he knows how much of an outrage it is that Duke has helped to so indulge these children of privilege that they believe they're entitled to treat people with less socioeconomic power as their punching bags.

Blogs can be powerful tools for getting the word out on issues like this, powerful organizers of grassroots activity to make the world a better place. Let's prove it.

And, for those of us who are university teachers and administrators--or who mentor young people in other ways--may this serve as a reminder of why we cannot allow students to persist in the all-too-prevalent sense of privilege many of us are witnessing in the classroom. It may seem far-fetched to compare students who expect to get high grades for poor work to students who expect to rape women with impunity, but the sense of superiority some of Duke's lacrosse players demonstrated last week doesn't come from nowhere. We have a moral responsibility, both to our students and to our society, to make sure that young people understand that they are not above reproach and that they do not deserve to be treated as exceptions to the rules by virtue of who or what they are. It's a smaller leap than we might think from students who believe classroom or university policies don't apply to them to students who believe the law doesn't apply to them, either.

P.S. I will second Pinko Feminist Hellcat's promise to put the verbal smackdown on anybody who dares to imply that the women involved share any portion of the blame for what happened that evening. "No" always means no. Even if you're a sex worker so desperate to support your kids and get an education that you'll go back into a house full of dangerous assholes to do it.