A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
An Open Apology To The Duke Lacrosse Team
SAN ANTONIO — “Paging Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, please pick up a red courtesy phone. Attention all media pundits, columnist, blowhards, schizophrenic penners and dedicated scribes, we are all needed in Durham, North Carolina to atone for an egregious wrong on three young men and turn our attention to a very guilty young woman who has put a nation into the cross hairs of racial discourse.”
My fellow journalists and somewhat astute talking heads, we owe Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans an apology for professing them guilty when they were indeed innocent.
But since I don’t think any of my colleagues will do this action, and I know that Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton won’t even do what is right in this situation, let me be one of the first and few to say, ‘Gentlemen, I’m sorry. I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt in this case.’ Over the past 13 months or so this case has been pushed to the back burner and others have stepped forward. In its heyday I wrote a few scathing articles, filled with the natural anger of seeing a society that allowed privileged White men take advantage of a poor Black girl.
Yeah, I’m admitting it. My articles were as prejudicial as they came but then again (and this is not necessarily an excuse or admission) with the way African Americans have been treated in such instances over the past few centuries, it was sort of a relief to see the other side of the tracks feel the heat, the embarrassment and shame that Black America faced during slavery, after slavery and what still goes on to this day.
Did I feel good about these three young men getting a first hand history lesson on what it feels like to be railroaded by a ‘racist’ system? As embarrassing as this may be and as repentant as I am in falling for the okie doke, yeah it felt damn good. For probably the first time in a long time, White America now felt the pain that my community has been dealing with for years.
Maybe Finnerty, Seligmann and Evans have a good understanding why many in the Black community are having a hard time giving them an apology. This community gets angry any time one of its own is falsely accused, wrongfully incarcerated or brutally taken from us.
When it comes to certain segments of this country, racism and images of the Ku Klux Klan and abductions ring loud and clear even to my generation and beyond. For the most part, these young men will never understand the pain, the humiliation or other feelings that countless Black families have felt when their young men have been accused of raping a white girl and everyone knows it is a lie.
A relentless prosecution of a lie is something that happens every day for many Black men in this country and unlike these three Duke players, these young men cannot afford the best counsel available to defend them on these charges.
Does this make it right? Of course not. And it isnÕt right that a website would go so far as to publish the name of ‘Jane Doe’ along with all of her personal information. Whether she is wrong for falsely accusing these three young men or she genuinely believed the incident happened, it is just wrong to publish such information.
I am a big proponent on protecting the names of such victims, whether they lied or not. I’ve said so years ago in an article entitled, “The Sports World Has An Ethical Issue About the Coverage of the Kobe Bryant Trial” (refer to this web link: http://www.blackathlete.com/Basketball/nba072303.html).
In that story I wrote: “The media circus has officially started and already a trial of the victim has begun. Let’s be perfectly honest on one point about this trial. Nobody can remain anonymous in this day and age. If the Eagle County DA thought they could hide the alleged accuser’s identity he is sadly mistaken.
This information is already out in the public arena and there is so much information about the alleged victim that includes pictures, a phone number, an e-mail address from the college she attended and even tax information on her parent’s home in the area.
In other words, D.A. Mark Hurlbert is going to face the daunting task of not only trying Bryant in the court of law but now the court of public opinion is primed and ready to start weighing in on what it thinks. Already a website that calls itself ‘Binary Report’ is out to discredit the young lady. You can bet your last dollar that defense attorneys will use whatever information they can to discredit her”.
Written on July 23, 2003, those words were as pertinent then as they are today. In the Duke story, there are individuals and dare I say, even media professionals, who want to give some sort of vigilante justice by publishing the Duke accuser’s name, address and anything else.
If I wrote it was wrong in 2003 to have the BinaryReport.com post the Colorado victim’s name, address and show ‘aerial’ footage of where she lived in Eagle, Colorado, it is 100 times as worse in this day and time for a website such as dilby.com to do the same. This website has done no good whatsoever and has only hurt Ms. Doe, the players and even Michael Nifong (yes they published all of his information as well).
Whatever my feelings are about how this case went down or the feelings countless others, the mere fact that an individual or company would do no one any good. As much as I think it is important now for Ms. Doe to realize that she has become a part of the American social fabric of racial injustice and reverse discrimination, that is simply not my call and nor should it be for that of any other person who may wield a slight bit of power in influencing the thoughts of other citizens.
And all of those thoughts come from the mere fact that personally I think that these young men and their families needed to have become a part of American history as well so that they can now tell others just how wrong being falsely accused can be and work towards making sure that the justice system is for everyone.
Yes, even with everything I wrote above, a small piece of me did get a little it of satisfaction seeing these young men suffer very familiar fate that countless Black men have done before and after them.
However that does not make it right and that is why I am willing to write an ‘open’ letter of apology to these three men. If no other writer in this country has the guts to pen something of a heartfelt apology, I want these three young men, their families and their friends to know that at least this African American sports writer is willing to give a heart felt apology.
Now I cannot do like Don Imus and have a face to face meeting with these young men and their families maybe if they read this op/ed on the web or hear about this op/ed on the various radio shows I appear on a local, regional or national stage, at least they know that there is someone in America who can admit their mistakes, ask for forgiveness for their actions and then move on to try and make the world a better place.