Of Duke, Trayvon and Santayana

Blog Image 761144 - Flowers
Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans

Five years ago today, perhaps the greatest injustice since the Scottsoboro Boys were framed for rape was finally resolved.  It wasn’t a triumph, since the victims had been forced to endure a particularly searing crucible for well over a year.  But at least it was a mediocre form of  justice, which in this case, was better than no justice at all.

Of course I’m talking about the Duke Lacrosse Players, three young men who were falsely accused of rape by a black stripper who went on to rack up a series of convictions and is currently accused of murdering her boyfriend.

It’s a shame that they will always be known as “The Duke Lacrosse Players” or “The Duke Three.”  Their names were considered unimportant to the media vultures who looked at them as a three-headed hydra of privilege, bigotry and misogyny.   But they were good people who just happened to fit a profile.

A profile of race,

Of class.

Of gender.

No one marched in Love Park to demand that their rights be vindicated.  Not a single cable news network ran prime-time marathons seeking justice for them.  President Bush didn’t say that if he’d had a son, the boy would have looked like them.

I write this to remind all of us that while the Trayvon Martin case is clearly steeped in race (and anyone who denies that fact is deluding themselves or looking to become an editor at NBC where they tend to engage in creative editing,) let’s not forget what happens when you start whipping up the hysteria without having all of the facts.

George Zimmerman is in no way an innocent victim of circumstance, unlike the completely blameless Duke boys.  He shot an unarmed youth, and whether he did it because he was apprehensive about Trayvon’s race or because he was a wannabe cop without the credentials but with the firepower, the man needs to be held accountable.  Anyone with a legal background and an ability to read statutes knows that’s the case, even if their politics prevent them from admitting it out loud.

But it seems that very little has changed in five years.  Journalists still rush to judgment because it sells papers and airtime.  Race hucksters care more about getting their faces on camera than about the carnage in the streets.  Some parents count more than others (I don’t remember the parents of the Duke Three being asked to speak before Congress about false accusations of rape.)

And with each passing day, I am eerily reminded of Santayana’s warning:

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

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