Injustice Has Spoken In The Duke Lacrosse Case

By Stephen A. Smith
Updated: December 24, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — When prosecutors dropped rape charges on Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players – all white – accused of attacking a stripper – who is black – we heard about it on television and the news wires.

There was no hype to speak of. No uproar worth mentioning, despite valiant efforts for attention by defense attorneys. No news conferences rife with ministers lamenting the moral schism that hinders progress in this supposed mosaic called America.

Predictably, there was no sign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, either.

Perhaps there should have been, though. For once, maybe the tide should be turned. Maybe mea culpas, tinged with hyperbole and accentuated by self-promoting individuals who have appeared to shed their titles as activists eons ago, should be placed on the front pages, apologizing to the three who were accused: Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

Not so much for presuming their guilt before all the evidence came in. Mainly for using it to promote a black cause without giving a damn.

We have serious problems all across America, but nothing compared to the kind that exists in the black community, and the perverse pleasure it evokes from those who watch from afar.

On more than a few occasions, when something insidious occurs involving an African American and a white person, race is automatically attached. Time is turned back. And the issue that provokes the very reflection that permeates our thoughts as a people potentially ends up wasting our time, dividing black and white America even further.

We still don’t know what happened to this 28-year-old from North Carolina Central University. All we know at this moment is that she was hired to perform at a party on March 13, that she accused three men of raping her in a bathroom.

We know that all the players immediately maintained, unequivocally, they were innocent – and that, as of Friday, the district attorney, Mike Nifong, has some serious explaining to do, possibly even to the North Carolina Bar Association.

Questions regarding Nifong should range from DNA evidence’s being withheld from defense attorneys to evidence that DNA testing arranged by the prosecution at a private lab concluded that genetic material from several men was found on the stripper’s underwear and body – but none from the players.

Now we’ve learned that the rape charge was dropped after this stripper told investigators she was no longer certain whether she was penetrated vaginally with penises as she had claimed earlier. Yet Nifong has not dropped kidnapping and other sex charges.

The black community has a bigger problem: Ourselves. Our sensibilities. And, primarily, our judgment.

Specifically from those who claim to be leaders in our community.

There is systematic disenfranchisement in America, but there’s one form that exists that has nothing to do with white America.

As my friend and colleague, Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star, astutely pointed out in his column on AOL Sports weeks ago, black people are contributing to their own disenfranchisement every single day.

Drugs are one reason. Ignorance of self, of one’s history, is another. But so is a lack of genuine appreciation for those who came before us and what they endured to get to this point.

You want to fight?

Rodney King was worth it because we saw the beat-down the Los Angeles police department put on him on videotape years ago.

Sean Bell, an unarmed 23-year-old murdered hours before his wedding day when New York police sprayed his vehicle with 50 bullets weeks ago, is worth it.

A stripper claiming she was raped by Duke students, suspect in ways crystallized by DNA findings, is worth an investigation by the proper authorities and even some media coverage.

But an issue like this is not worth another referendum on race relations.

Enough already. It’s time to wake up!

Long before we learned about race, we were taught morals and decency. We were taught not only to judge folks by the content of their character but to have character if we were to ever sit in judgment of anyone.

We will fall as a people if we don’t start reminding ourselves of this quickly. We’ll languish in self-inflicted purgatory. And, unlike our ancestors, we won’t be a position to garner sympathy because we won’t have any excuses.

Black America will have no one to blame but itself and those we allowed to lead us, operating with impunity on the strength of our ignorance and indifference to what they do, purportedly, on our behalf.

It’s time for a morality check. By every one of us.

Don’t look at the white man. This is a black man talking to you.

Merry Christmas!