Friday, March 31, 2006

Social Injustice Is A Two-Way Street

A good deal of listserv discussion surrounding allegations against members of the Duke men’s lacrosse team in mid-March is very emotionally charged.

Those who know me know that my passion for Durham is based in part on its sense of place, its core values, its response to the injustice of stigmas and stereotypes. I don’t just apologize for Durham. My job is to help inform people about Durham so that, if they elect to visit, Durham can meet their expectations and they can contribute to reinforcing our sense of place.

But I guess I’ve thrived here for nearly two decades and hope to live here the rest of my life because I share this community’s deep-seated reaction to social injustice.

So I hope that those Durhamites who are emotionally charged beyond what is already an emotionally charged issue will permit me to express the following 10 beliefs:

· I believe social injustice is a two-way street. It impacts the privileged as much as the underprivileged.

· I believe that, in our concern for victims, we should be careful not to victimize others who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

· I believe our only hope in a civilized society is to believe in the system of justice. Even if and when it may be flawed, it’s better than any alternative including vigilantism.

· I believe the administrators at Duke are honorable people, wanting to do what’s honorable for Durham, students and Duke. Their motives are no more or less honorable than those of us incensed at anyone being victimized.

· I believe the stereotypes of Duke students as rich and privileged are inaccurate and unfair. Duke raises and distributes an immense amount of aid to its students.

· I believe both privileged and underprivileged people can believe and act as though entitled.

· I believe in DNA and technology to help us identify culprits and focus our indignation but, most of all, in a jury of peers with access to far more information than I have. I believe as many innocent people can be convicted as guilty people can go free.

· I believe our minds must remain open not only to whether something happened but also to who and where and when.

· I believe we need to deal with this as we would if we were learning about a group of black men at a historically black college in the 1930s, accused of victimizing a white woman in the days of white hoods and burning crosses.

· I believe in personal responsibility and that we put too much responsibility on cities, counties, public schools, police departments and universities to “police” personal responsibility when it really belongs with the individual.

I’m proud of a community that is passionate about social injustice. I just believe it’s a two-way street.

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