31 March 2006

intersectional atrocity

one wonders how this story would be different if practically any salient fact about the (alleged) assaulters or the assault survivor were different. what would we be hearing in the media if there were a rape case involving a predominantly black team and a white woman? both white? both black?

around the blogosphere, i've heard all sorts of supposition: races reversed, these men could be anywhere from (a) dead to (b) paraded in orange jumpsuits and shackles. if all the parties involved were black, would we know about this assault at all? if all the parties were white, how much would we be hearing about class? (and how would my thinking change if i didn't have such an elementary-school concept of race in my brain?) the case turns my stomach more than it piques my interest in intersectionality, but i'm not entirely certain that it's good for me, or for anyone, to just-be-disgusted about this. if i were just disgusted it might appear as if this incident were somehow novel.

when of course it's not.

on how many dimensions is it not? well, there's a world history, in which our country participates, of the brutalization of women. and the specific american history of the brutalization of black women. and the common-though-not-universal phenomenon of social and economic disempowerment leading to sex work. and the idea that sex workers deserve what they get. and the finding that small groups of males who train for combat (of whatever sort) are more prone to brutalize women. and the bizarre privilege accorded college athletes everywhere in this country, and the bizarre misogyny pervading (men's) (college) athletics. the list goes on. this rape, to misappropriate some statistical language, is overdetermined.

what really gets me is the extent to which (and the manner in which) this sort of thing was just waiting to happen. the lacrosse team has been menacing its community (see the comments at the alas post linked below) for some time, but nevertheless was allowed by its coaching staff and the university to build a community of privilege, inside whose walls the assaulters (yes, i know, still alleged. let's deal in hypotheticals for the moment.) cannot and will not be "ratted out." there's an icky funk of entitlement surrounding this group, from its prep-school background to its neighborhood-terrorizing off-campus house to its "elite" status within lacrosse. they close ranks, they keep practicing, they hire lawyers, they go drinking.

thank God the city of durham is so angry right now. i don't think that duke itself, at least not the administration, is angry enough. what sort of institution feeds a subculture that malignant? probably one that celebrates its athletes (whether white or male or not) while slamming doors on the city it occupies. and why might it celebrate athletes while shutting out local communities? probably because it feels beholden to (rich, white) alumni money more than to its (poorer, blacker) neighbors. you wanna talk intersectional politics and university funding? talk fighting sioux.

i guess the idea is that, chilling racial counterfactuals aside, this story has a context that ought to be chilling in and of itself.

final word: the source for all updates on media coverage is justice 4 two sisters, which has a great compilation of local and national news sources, blog and print commentary. another good discussion is at alas, a blog. read up, kids.