Must be nice…

21 09 2006

Must be nice to be able to hire lawyers who can pay people to call around and make a jury pool reflect on reasonable doubt before a trial even begins. I wonder what would happen if most criminal defendants had access to that kind of service?

Check out the newspaper article below from the Herald Sun which describes how the lacrosse defense team has paid a research firm in based in Tokyo to call at least 300 Durham residents with an hour’s worth of questions regarding how they feel about the prosecutorial handling of the case.

Read the rest of this entry »

7th Carnival Against Sexual Assault

19 09 2006

The 7th installment of the carnival against sexual assault is up over at Abyss2Hope. Go check it out. This time it features a collections of personal stories, posts about media & raising awareness, solutions, and others. Thanks Marcella!

Information on Lesbian Sexual Assault

18 09 2006

Thanks to BFP for posting this important information over at Women of Color Blog!

Via San Francisco Women Against Rape

Did you know that…

* women can be raped by other women?
* women can sexually assault other women?
* violence occurs in 1 out of 4 lesbian relationships?
* lesbian domestic violence often includes lesbian rape?
* lesbian rape is almost always unreported?

Why don’t we hear more about this?
Because many people define rape as penetration by a penis, woman to woman rape is not acknowledged or is not taken seriously. But in fact, it is estimated that 1 out of 3 lesbians have been sexually assaulted by another woman. Read the rest of this entry »

Rape as an instrument of War

18 09 2006

It’s important to recognize the connectedness of sexual violence and imperialism, racism, and war. The background story on the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by U.S. military mentioned below states that the mother recognized that her innocent daughter had somehow “attracted the attention” of the military men at a checkpoint. It also reads that these men, on military time and with military-issue equipment, planned and plotted their assault on this girl. And, certainly, it was with military-issue guns that they murdered this family. The story also states that, mostly likely as a form of retribution, Iraqi insurgents killed 2 of the fellow service-people stationed alongside the men accused of the rape and murder. The superiors of the 5 men who stand accused attempted to cover up the actions
This says several important things to me: 1) If not for this Imperialist occupation of Iraq, the men would never have been in Iraq,with means and access to commit these heinous acts. 2) If not for this Imperialist occupation, these men would not have been filled with so much disdain and loathing for the people of Iraq that they could wittingly torture, terrorize, and rape and murder innocent people. 3) If not for this Imperialist occupation of Iraq, the nation would not be in such upheaval and distress, making it that much easier for this kind of violence to occur. 4) If not for their terrible acts, insurgents wouldn’t be killing even more U.S. military out of retribution.

Steven Green, the central man accused of the rape and murders, was “honorably discharged” from the military just before the news of this violence hit. Apparently, he was deemed ”

U.S. military names soldiers charged in rape, murder probe

Additional Wikipedia information on this story…

Duke Professor Karla Holloway – on the aftermath of the lacrosse incident

18 09 2006

S&F Online

The Scholar and Feminist Online
Published by The Barnard Center for Research on Women

Issue 4.3
The Cultural Value of Sport: Title IX and Beyond
Summer 2006

Coda: Bodies of Evidence
Karla FC Holloway

When things go wrong, when sports teams beget bawdy behavior and debasement of other human beings, the bodies left on the line often have little in common with those enclosed in the protective veneer of the world of college athletics. At Duke University this past spring, the bodies left to the trauma of a campus brought to its knees by members of Duke University’s Lacrosse team were African American and women. I use the kneeling metaphor with deliberate intent. It was precisely this demeanor towards women and girls that mattered here. The Lacrosse team’s notion of who was in service of whom and the presumption of privilege that their elite sports’ performance had earned seemed their entitlement as well to behaving badly and without concern for consequence.

Justice inevitably has an attendant social construction. And this parallelism means that despite what may be our desire, the seriousness of the matter cannot be finally or fully adjudicated in the courts. The appropriate presumption of innocence that follows the players, however the legal case is determined, is neither the critical social indicator of the event, nor the final measure of its cultural facts. Judgments about the issues of race and gender that the lacrosse team’s sleazy conduct exposed cannot be left to the courtroom. Just as aspects of their conduct that extend into the social realms of character and integrity should not be the parameters of adjudicatory processes, the consequence of that conduct will not be fully resolved within a legal process. Those injured by this affair, including the student and the other young woman who were invited to dance under false pretenses and then racially (at least) abused, as well as Duke’s campus and Durham’s communities, are bodies left on the line – vulnerable to a social review that has been mixed with insensitive ridicule as well as reasoned empathy. Despite the damaging logic that associates the credibility of a socio-cultural context to the outcome of the legal process, we will find that even as the accusations that might be legally processed are confined to a courtroom, the cultural and social issues excavated in this upheaval linger.

Perhaps the most critical, if not the most sustained response of the campus to the rape allegation and the series of incidents of misconduct and the lack of administrative oversight that it has exposed, has focused on the matter of culture. Duke University’s president Richard Brodhead commissioned a series of committees, one of them to review and examine the campus culture. The Campus Culture Initiative has focused on the fault lines – alcohol, gender, race, and athletics – the spaces of university life where problems of community and conduct visibly reside. If athletes with otherwise good grades use alcohol as their reason for laxity, for racial bias and gendered tirade, why is it that public media cultures, and other lay respondents within and outside of campus would elevate good academic performance and subordinate these issues of character? With no blueprint on how to interrogate these broad and deeply entrenched matters of culture, Duke’s commission of this investigatory committee arguably indicates its notice of the inequities and imbalances on the campus – where the “culture” of sports seems for some a reasonable displacement for the cultures of moral conduct, ethical citizenship and personal integrity. But “culture” is also the catch-all for the event, one that contains as much potential to replicate our failures as well as for engaging and sustaining a more progressive and democratic campus community. And it is not the first time Duke has positioned an institutional investigation of a problem of culture.

When, in the last year of President Nannerl Keohane’s presidency, a report on the status of women at Duke discovered evidence of cultural and social practices that disadvantaged women, a commission of women faculty and administrators, a group of women student scholars, and an alumni group of women (legates of the Duke Women’s College) were charged with discovering the “fix” to the problem. This flurry of restructuring and response came after a committee of women faculty, students, and administrators labored to uncover the gendered issues of disparate treatment and its consequences. As if a prelude to the events of spring 2006, the bodies that mattered, those who were the objects of inquiry, were also the bodies whose labor was required to fix the inequity.

At what cost?

How do we measure, value, assess, and document the energy of spirit, body, and intellect expended by those who endure the problems caused by cultures of both masculine and white racial disrespect? In its forms of verbal violence as well as physical, in its presumption that there are some bodies available for taunt and tirade, whim and whisper, the “event” is phased back into the subaltern spaces of university life and culture. Their sporting behaviors, on and off the courts, endure.

At the conclusion of spring semester the lacrosse team, minus three indicted (and one suspended) member, gathered to celebrate their reinstatement on Duke’s campus. Their reinstatement was accompanied by a code of conduct they inexplicably wrote for themselves. At this gathering, their interim coach (who had been, just three years prior, their former team member) vigorously professed his blanket judgment that those who stood indicted for the rape of a student from North Carolina Central University were innocent. As the day drew to a close, every indication was that the remaining team members’ athletic careers would continue nearly uninterrupted except for the scrutiny of the administration and their self-authored code.

The interim coach’s pronouncement was critical in weighing the significance of this event. In nearly every social context that emerged following the team’s crude conduct, innocence and guilt have been assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt. These capacious categories, which were in absolute play the night of the team’s drunken debacle, continue their hold on the campus and the Durham community.

After their reinstatement, things for the Duke lacrosse players edged as near to normal as the aftermath of the horrific affair could allow. And ironically, for the rest of the campus, everything else was curiously normal as well. Not so strangely – indeed, predictably – those members of a class who have been exposed to abuse or intolerance or inequity (on this campus, as in the nation, women and black folks) are called once again into service to help remedy the campus culture that these boys’ sports culture created and exploited. Our labor on newly invented committee structures and our availability for public and private consultations, conversations, and often intense confrontations persists despite and amidst the growing acclamation of support for the team.

The irony of this displacement is fully inscribed on the weary bodies of black and women faculty and students at Duke whose visible representativeness placed us, eventually, (after a team of white male administrators decided on the parameters of the university’s response) into membership and leadership roles of committees charged to remedy the damaging culture that was now in evidence. This responsibility emerged despite the fact that neither women nor African Americans were the ones who enabled, permitted, arguably encouraged, or facilitated the cultures of disrespect that had been tolerated. Because otherwise and after all, the Lacrosse team members were stellar academic performers as well as athletic players. Their moral misconduct seemed secondary to the fact – even a righteous ‘release’ – for those who otherwise performed so admirably. And even at this moment of transition of the event – to the courts to handle the charges of rape, sodomy, and assault, and to the university to handle the matter of culture – the team’s athletic agenda proceeds apace, and those most wounded by the event, by direct and indirect association, are left to manage the exploitation they have suffered as the consequences of this particular culture of elite sports and the protections of privilege.

The culture of men’s sports in particular, with its elevations and hierarchies, with its often brutal physical contact, and with its body-intense loyalties remains unindicted in this curious yet predictable aftermath of the men’s lacrosse teams’ documented record of demeaning, brutish, rude, and alcohol-ridden conduct. It is behavior that seems so attached to its winning season and its members’ successful academic performance that the very notion of the choices endemic to the culture of team mentalities and conduct – who plays, who does not, who makes the team, who is varsity, who is second string – has meant we have responded to this as just another form of choice. The ethic of sportsmanship means we have been overly tolerant as well of aberrant conduct as just another choice, merely a dimension of the ways and means of sports.

When Catherine Stimpson reminds us that “boosterism can be boisterous . . . victory will bring ecstasy and too frequently a bullying attitude of superiority [and] defeat will bring pain and too frequently a churlish and belligerent anger,” she indicates precisely the demonstrable after-the-game conduct that has been so destructive in this particular occasion. Stimpson notes how “defeat also tests the character of the fan, for the true fan must remain loyal even during the bad times.” She might well be speaking of the women’s LAX team, who went on to their post season play proclaiming to the media that they would write the word “innocent” on their sweatbands, and who finally decided that their fidelity could be expressed by recording on their sweat bands the jersey numbers of the indicted men. They were athletes themselves, as well as “true fans.” In a moment that called on more action than I had will for, I wanted to write to them to ask if they might, instead, consider writing the word “justice” onto their gear, a word whose connotations run deeper than the team-inspired and morally slender protestations of loyalty that brought the ethic from the field of play onto the field of legal and cultural and gendered battle as well.

I write these thoughts, considering what it would mean to resign from the committee charged with managing the post culture of the Lacrosse team’s assault to the character of the university. My decision is fraught with a personal history that has made me understand the deep ambiguity in loving and caring for someone who has committed an egregious wrong. It is complicated with an administrative history that has made me appreciate the frailties of faculty and students and how a university’s conduct toward those who have abused its privileges as well as protected them is burdened with legal residue, as well as personal empathy. My decision has vacillated between the guilt over my worry that if not me, which other body like mine will be pulled into this service? Who do I render vulnerable if I lose my courage to stay this course? On the other side is my increasingly desperate need to run for cover, to vacate the battlefield, and to seek personal shelter. It does feel like a battle. So when asked to provide the labor, once again, for the aftermath of a conduct that visibly associates me, in terms of race and gender, with the imbalance of power, especially without an appreciable notice of this as the contestatory space that women and black folk are asked to inhabit, I find myself preoccupied with a decision on whether or not to demur from this association in an effort, however feeble, to protect the vulnerability that is inherent to this assigned and necessary meditative role.

Until we recognize that sports reinforces exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those “othered” by their sports’ history of membership, the bodies who will bear evidence and consequence of the field’s conduct will remain, after the fact of the matter, laboring to retrieve the lofty goals of education, to elevate the character of the place, to restore a space where they can do the work they came to the university to accomplish. However, as long as the bodies of women and minorities are evidence as well as restitution, the troubled terrain we labor over is as much a battlefield as it is a sports arena. At this moment, I have little appreciable sense of difference between the requisite conduct and consequence of either space.


1. I am grateful to Professors Robyn Wiegman and William Chafe for their generous and careful reading and response to early drafts of this essay, and to Janet Jakobsen for her intuitive and tremendously helpful review.

Love letter to my fellow normal, decent human beings: Stop Hating

11 09 2006

From from our brave hero at BioLog:

(I first wrote this blog entry on my now-defunct blog, Mere Survival, on August 20th. I’m reposting it here, coincidentally but appropriately, on 9/11. It was inspired by many things, but most recently by the nauseating mainstream media obsession with “probing” why young Muslims of color in the U.S. and the U.K. are “turning against the countries of their birth” in favor of “terrorism”. Nuanced analysis: none. Ignorant comments designed to inspire yet more fear, loathing, suspicion and hatred of Muslims, particularly brown Muslims: plenty.)

We are each of us born into a truly astonishing and frightening amount of hatred. Emerging from the warmth of the womb, we take in from our first breaths an insidious pollution. The ubiquitous, toxic hatred into which we are born is millenia old yet newly refreshed, newly created, newly enforced, and newly heaped up high upon the same ancient, toxic junkpile every single day, every moment. It is as invisible and as pervasive and as normal to us as the air we breathe. We might find that we wouldn’t even recognize the world or ourselves if we no longer hated others.

Even for those of us who are lucky enough to be born into loving families and communities, this love and protection is often upheld by maintaining fear and hatred of those people somehow “outside” the family and the community. As a result, if any one of us took the sum of the many, many relationships, connections, and interactions we have in our lives, it is likely that the number and strength of our loving relationships would be far outweighed by the number and strength of our hateful (hating, hate-filled) relationships. This is true even for the vast majority of us, including myself, who consider ourselves decent, normal human beings. We feel we generally treat strangers and friends alike with courtesy and kindness. We have rich, loving relationships in our lives. We have a general sense of what is ethical behavior and we abide by that behavior. And, at the same time, we direct venomous hatred towards our fellow human beings on a daily basis.

I include among these relationships those connections we have with the many, many people of whom we are ignorant. As Marilyn Frye writes, “one need only hear the active verb ‘to ignore’ in the word ‘ignorance’ to appreciate that ignorance is not a passive state”. We actively ignore others (those who are “not like us”) all the time, which means we render them invisible, crazy, evil, unfathomable, or dead. The effect of rendering a human being any of these things is ultimately the same – we strip them of their humanity. We cause them harm. We make them subordinate (lesser, worse, unworthy, cheap, slaves) to ourselves. We sever them cruelly, violently, and irrevocably from ourselves. We hate them.

One who has far more than enough to live and to satisfy one’s material and spiritual needs may not consider oneself to be hating a fellow human being who is forced to choose which one of their children will have to die because there is not enough food to sustain everyone in the family. An ordinary “liberal-minded” white person born and raised in the United States would not consider themselves to be hating black people – after all, they rarely think about black people at all, so how can they be hating? However, these are both examples of hate.

I mean what I say when I use the word “hate”. I mean to invoke the entire force and weight of the word, its intentionality, its activeness, the sense that it is an action directed from one person towards another. “Ignorance” and “apathy” do not mean simply “I don’t know” and “I don’t care” respectively. These words mean “I hate”. I feel strongly about steopping away from the passiveness that is used to (a) dismiss responsibility for and (b) belittle the severity of the damage done by ignorance and apathy. Quite simply, I want to say clearly and boldly that we as decent, normal people spend the great portion of our lives actively hating most other people.

I can see no better explanation for the utterly horrendous state of affairs in our world, which is marked by war, famine, slavery, oppression, and destruction upon destruction upon destruction. These phenomena are not caused by the actions of a small minority – maybe a few hundred or even a few thousand among six billion – of people who are “evil” and who hate everyone else. They are the result of the collective hatred of billions of ordinary people.

For example, non-Jews who were “decent people” refused to turn Jews in to the Nazis. But what if they were Jews that these “decent people” didn’t know? Or Jews who had done them some harm in the past? What if they were not Jews, but Muslims? Homosexuals? Islamic fundamentalists? “Bitches” or “sluts”? Communists? Transgender? Blacks? “Japs”? “Terrorists”? “Criminals”? What then? Every generation has its object of hatred – all that changes is that a new flimsy veil replaces the last on the same scapegoat, the same repository for evil. For whatever reason, this old, tired trick seems to work. The flimsy disguise fools us every time, generation upon generation.

We are born into a truly frightening amount of hatred.

White supremacy, for example, exists and persists as a form of hatred – pervasive as air, deadly as gunfire. And you don’t have to be a KKK member to uphold it. The lifeblood of white supremacy is ignorance, apathy, and hate. White supremacy depends on the participation of – that is, active hating on the part of – millions of decent, ordinary people in order to continue to exist.

When the problem is framed in this way, new solutions become visible. Many of us decent ordinary people have every desire to love others. But because we recognize neither the thick, insidious hatred into which we were born nor the hate we actively direct towards other people, our efforts to understand, to communicate, to connect, to love across difference are often thwarted. That’s because we miss an essential first step: to STOP HATING.

Stop ignoring. Stop condescending. Stop dismissing people’s views as either stupid, crazy, or utterly incomprehensible. Stop believing that you can live other people’s lives better than they can – to paraphrase Audre Lorde, they cannot live without their lives. Stop “knowing” what is best for other people. Stop violently yanking them out of context, as if their beliefs, their behaviors, and their ideas dropped out of the thin air like meteors from another planet. Stop robbing them of their agency, their ability, their competence, their intelligence, their humanity, their lives. Stop pretending that they’re not watching you – look at yourself as they would look at you and do not immediately turn away from that new image of yourself. Do not dismiss the realizations, the truth, the ugliness and the flaws that that new image holds. Stop putting otheres into your rigid, stifling, preconstructed categories. Stop erasing their individuality, their uniqueness, by conflating their specific human self with a great mass. Stop acting like you deserve to live more than they do. Stop wishing them dead.

I’m amazed that I’m writing such basic requests of myself and of my fellow normal, decent human beings, but such is our condition. We are constantly wishing one another dead. We truly believe that the world would somehow be perfect, or at least a great deal better if we could just excise “those people” from the human race, just eradicate them from the planet. Most of us are not murderers. When asked to describe ourselves and our lives, we don’t remember actively wishing death upon anyone. But we believe that the world would be better if certain people were dead. We remain silent and complicit with behaviors and worldviews that kill. And we believe that we should be able to satisfy our smallest wants at the cost of the food, the water, the air, the shelter, the land and the simple peace that is necessary for others to continue surviving. Stop hating.

The Dalai Lama wrote something that astonishes me more and more the more that I think about it: “We inhabit the same universe because we share a common karma.” This implies that something essential to our development as beings requires us to inhabit this planet together. It means that, unfathomable as it may seem, every last one of us actually belongs here. It implies that we are not a random group of living creatures, we are a particular group of creatures thrown together, and there is some clue hidden in our togetherness, some great riddle that will take the collective energies of every last one of us to solve.

I have struggled my entire life to unlearn the hatred into which I was born and to stop hating my fellow human beings. I see this slow, constant, steady, and conscious recognition of and uprooting of hatred from my heart as a necessary first step to authentic connection and love. I have a hard time with it, despite effort. I don’t necessarily believe in a God who is transcendent to nature, so I don’t pray much at all. But when I do pray, it is often to gain strength and wisdom to create new habits, to dispel my ignorance, to stop inflicting hate and pain on other people. “Though I am born into hate, shaped by hate, steeped in hate, taught to hate, and actively hate, let it stop now. Let it stop here. Let it stop with me.”

Getting Real

10 09 2006

Please see this well written, comprehensive, and informative document shared by Shirrell Thomas with SAFE of Harnett County regarding Black women and the fight against AIDS. We plan to offer more on this topic at our January 2007 WOCC Retreat and WOCI 2007.

Peace and miracles,