Any discussion of race in America invariably leads to frustration and a profound feeling of futility. It's virtually impossible to have a meaningful dialogue on the subject.
While not exactly defending Don Imus' unprovoked, racist and sexist insults directed at the women's basketball team at Rutgers, some of my white friends have attempted to rationalize the comments by redirecting the conversation in the most predictable of diversions: changing the topic.
Instead of dealing specifically with Imus, they'll cite race-based insults hurled by black comedians and athletes. In other words, if Chris Rock makes fun of whites (or blacks) in a stand-up comedy routine, or if Charles Barkley says something silly on TNT, somehow this means Imus gets a free pass.
Hardly. Wrong is wrong, but context is important. When a comedian speaks in humorous generalities about the differences between races, that's considerably different from Imus spontaneously slurring a specific group of people such as the Rutgers players, who have names, faces, identities and families.
The anger directed at Imus is on target. Sure, the piling on from discredited figures such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson is absurd, but that doesn't excuse what Imus did.
We're quick to leap and uphold the honor of the Rutgers women by beating up on Imus. But I'm just wondering: Where is the outrage over the blatant injustice endured by three members of Duke's men's lacrosse team?
The three players were formally accused of rape and other trumped-up charges that finally got tossed away on Wednesday by the North Carolina attorney general, Roy Cooper, who held nothing back in criticizing this as a shoddy, shameless and baseless prosecution.
But these Duke players will always be stained by the mud of these false allegations. Before any of the facts came in, these players were essentially deemed guilty by the Duke administration, the local Durham, N.C., community, and the national media. So how do they get their good names back?
I want to know why the angry forces, white and black, that mobilized to take Imus down aren't heading to Durham, N.C., to condemn the despicable wrongdoing that threatened the very freedom of the Duke players. Is this because they're white males who come from affluent backgrounds? It shouldn't matter; they are still victims.
Early on in this process, the New Black Panthers, a black hate group from Atlanta, traveled to Durham and made threats against the three lacrosse players. And the woman who filed the false charges against the Duke players is black. So how come Sharpton and Jackson aren't in North Carolina, speaking out against blacks who harmed the reputation of three white athletes? Must be a selective conscience. And the double standards are detestable.
I'm not playing down what happened to the Rutgers women. But they were victims of name-calling from a worn-out shock jock. And I believe that some good is coming out of this for Rutgers; because of the publicity, we've gotten an opportunity to learn a lot more about the players. And they're an impressive lineup that includes an aspiring doctor, a future veterinarian, an accomplished musician, an actual Girl Scout and strong academic backgrounds.
And the three Duke players? Well, they'll get on with their lives, except that the word "rapist" will follow them forever. And I ask again: Where is the outrage?