Saturday, May 26, 2007

INNOCENT: Prof’s Wise Lesson

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007
Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson posts today:

As the men’s lacrosse team prepares to take the field in today’s Final Four, another unfortunate sports column, this one from Mike Wise of the Washington Post.
“With all due respect to those ‘INNOCENT’ bracelets worn around Durham this year,” Wise writes, “this isn’t ‘To Kill a Mockingbird II.’”
With all due respect to Wise, here’s North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper: “We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations….[We] believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.”

In short, each and every person who wore an “innocent” bracelet—which, Wise neglected to mention, contained the numbers of the three accused players—was vindicated by Cooper’s all-but-unprecedented declaration. …

The second part of Wise’s statement is even more intriguing. It’s been a while since I’ve read the Harper Lee novel, but as I recall, none of the novel’s characters claimed that the man falsely accused of rape, Tom Robinson, was (to borrow a phrase preferred by Duke administrators) a “choirboy.” Indeed, Robinson’s personal character wasn’t a major theme of Lee’s novel. Nor was the character of Robinson’s friends, or any people who happened to play on sports teams with Robinson.

Instead, To Kill a Mockingbird explored how an ambitious prosecutor fanned racial prejudice and brought charges against a man he knew or should have known was innocent; how the majority of the town allowed emotion to overcome reason and joined the mob; and how Atticus Finch and his family experienced this prejudice first-hand when Finch defended Tom Robinson, stood up to the mob, and argued that all people—even those who don’t represent a group politically popular with the local majority—deserve the same procedures before the law.

To me, those are themes that resonate given the experience of Durham over the past 15 months. But, as I said, it’s been a while since I read the Harper Lee book.

Perhaps Wise obtained a different interpretation from someone who has read it more recently than I have. After all, as Mike Nifong told the Herald-Sun last year, To Kill a Mockingbird is his favorite book.
KC’s entire post is here. He links to Wise.

Way to go, Professor. And Go Blue Devils!


Anonymous said...

I cancelled my subscription to the WP a few years ago. I respected this paper so much, I sent it to my kids when they were in University. A sad end to a great paper. Katherine Graham must be tossing and turning. Donny Graham is a great guy. Why is this happening?