Monday, July 23, 2007

INNOCENT: "If only" letters (Post 1)

Remember the letter the racist Professor Houston Baker, then at Duke, now at Vanderbilt, wrote last March endorsing the lies Crystal Mangum and Mike Nifong were telling about white male students at Duke who played on the school’s lacrosse team?

After reading Baker’s letter Dick Brodhead, Duke’s President, calculated it was in his best interests to say nothing critical of Baker while reckless member of the media and Duke’s faculty, echoing Baker, trashed and endangered the students with racially inflammatory mob cries.

But Duke’s Provost, Peter Lange, did respond. He told Baker he was "disappointed, saddened and appalled" by his letter which Lange termed a “form of prejudice.”

With that as background, KC Johnson recently told readers at Durham-in-Wonderland:

Below is a copy of the open letter penned by Baker on March 29, 2006—but with one modification. Every mention of “white” in the letter is replaced with “black”; every mention of “black” is replaced with “white.” I have put the modifications in bold so they are clear.
KC's "slightly modified" letter is here.

With what KC did in mind, I’ve decided to take actual letters published in the Raleigh N&O and Bob Ashley’s Durham H- S and do the following:

1) --- post the letters exactly as they appear in the papers’ achieves but change the names, home towns and tags identifying the writers;

2) --- at the end of the post identify the actual letter writers and their home towns.

3) --- offer brief commentary about “the writers” to whom I facetiously attributed the letters.

Let's begin - - -

On April 20, 2006, four days after the Raleigh News & Observer published a front-page story telling readers the accuser was a “petite, soft-spoken” woman who’d earned an “A” in a “hard course” at NC Central; and three days after Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were handcuffed and taken to jail, the following letters appeared in the N&O:
I have no idea whether or not the Duke lacrosse players are guilty. What I do know are their names, ages, where they are from, what they look like and what people who know them think about them. I've seen pictures of the homes in which they grew up. I know about their education at Duke and what numbers they wear on their jerseys.

What I do not know is the name of the accuser.

Why is this fair?

Women who are victims of rape are repeatedly told they have nothing to be ashamed of, but yet it is your newspaper's policy not to identify them.

I know of young men who have been falsely accused of rape and it's not fair that their names and addresses are published in the paper. Don't tell me it's to protect the safety of the accuser.

For all we know, the arrested players may not be guilty of the crimes in which they are charged.

If they are indeed found innocent and these charges turn out to be a big lie, what does that mean for men whose reputations have been permanently, publicly ruined while the accuser gets to hide behind contradictory newspaper policies?

What an absolute mess!

Diane Catotti
Durham, NC

The writer is a member of the progressive Durham’s Peoples Alliance and an outspoken supporter of DA Mike Nifong


It is ridiculous that so many people in Durham think that the Duke lacrosse case is "typical" of "rich white/poor black" relations in this area.

If these men are guilty of the crime, they deserve prison, but let's not kid ourselves that rampaging elite college students is the problem that Durham faces.

Young black women are much more likely to be the victim of a violent crime at the hands of another black person, according to statistics.

Durham should not be distracted from resolving its horrifying gang issues by resorting to cheap race-baiting and uninformed exaggerations.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Goldsboro, NC

Rev. Barber, a graduate of Duke’s Divinity School, is state president of the NAACP.


OK, folks, now who were the real letter writers?

Sarah McDade of Raleigh is listed for the first letter; Dave Sims of Raleigh for the second.

I tip my hat to both. They spoke up for good sense and civic values.

If only Diane Catotti, William Barber and other people in leadership positions at Duke and in Durham and North Carolina had done that last April. They could have helped prevent a lot of the harm done to individuals and our community. Instead, they contributed to the harm.

Catotti and Barber can still help improve things, but they'll first have to give up their prejudices.

I always hope but I'm not holding my breath.

You can read more about Catotti here and Barber here.