Blogs > Cliopatria > "Thank Your Grandpa For My Cotton Shirt"

Mar 31, 2006 11:40 am

"Thank Your Grandpa For My Cotton Shirt"

There are many powerful responses to the story of Duke’s lacrosse team now available, including Ralph Luker’s here at Cliopatria. I do not have a lot to add to most of them save agreement with the anger and disgust being expressed.

One small detail that continues to stand out for me, however, is the report that one of the men yelled at the victim, “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt” when she and another stripper hired by the team attempted to leave due to the frightening and racially abusive behavior of the men during their initial performance. The report of the comment doesn’t come from the account of the victim, but from a neighbor who observed the team yelling abuse at the women when they tried to leave, before the rape occurred. It coincides with what both of the women have said about the racially charged remarks made to them inside the house during their performance.

I think that reported remark is very likely something that was actually said. It stands out to me not just for its stomach-churning racism, but because of what it says about historical consciousness and collective memory.

Scott Eric Kaufman made some interesting remarks recently about a radio host who was fired for saying that Condoleeza Rice was a “big coon”. The thing that Kaufman and others noted was that the context of the remark raises some really complex questions in that the speaker was trying to say that were Rice to be appointed NFL commissioner, this would be a big COUP for her. Not only was it the proverbial slip of the tongue, he immediately was mortified by what he’d said: “Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that”. As Kaufman observes, this came after the host had praised Rice as a “fantastic” potential President of the United States as well as a great candidate for NFL commissioner.

In the discussion of Kaufman’s entry that developed, some commenters followed on his observation that the reaction we have to this incident invokes a particular theory of language’s relationship to the unconscious, an assumption that the slip in this case reveals an underlying, concealed racism in the individual speaker, for which that speaker must be punished through losing his job. You could argue instead that the slip reveals a collective white unconscious, an accursed inheritance, and that the criticism of the speaker is not so much for his individual sin as a way to discipline and suppress that secret sin, to continue to pile dirt on its grave in the hopes of someday seeing its moldering corpse decompose into the dust of far-gone history. I think Kaufman is right that there is something empirically and humanly unfair in responding to this instance as a case of hateful, programmatic individual intention.

Even if you can make a case that there needs to be zero tolerance for what was said on the radio, you have to make that case as a kind of collective action problem, about how you change the relationship between language, consciousness and practice. As Kaufman and several of his commenters note, neither do you want to just brush this off as political correctness in action, because something potent and powerful is revealed in that slip: it is less a slip than a rip, a furtive, ashamed peek at the ruined foundations underneath the finished constructions of the present.

“Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt” is in contrast a demonic revel in those same ruins. There is no mystery here about intent or agency. But there is still a historical unconscious at work, and that’s what really draws my attention most in this case.

I would be willing to wager a good deal that if the sick little punk who said those words was sitting in a course on American history at Duke and was asked to stand up and provide a narrative of the history of slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, he would profess ignorance, or provide a kind of respectable potted Cliff Notes version sufficient to pass the US History AP but no more. Maybe his professed ignorance would be relatively genuine, or maybe it would be the suppression of the story he thinks he knows but also knows he cannot tell, because it’s not real or accurate history, only a shambles of racist tropes. In any event, he didn’t live it, not any of it, not even the events of the last fifty years which brought that history into the central consciousness of American national identity: the struggle for civil rights and racial justice, the cultural tableau of mainstream historical programs like “Roots” or “The Civil War”, the culture war of the eighties and early nineties and its address to race.

Where does that come from, then, that ability to shout in drunken, racist, misogynist rage, with the intent to deliver maximum pain to another human, “Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt”? It doesn’t come from direct experience, likely doesn’t come from direct ideological or dogmatic indoctrination, it doesn’t come from the formal study of history or even traceable dissemination of historical representations in particular texts.

I’ve been teaching this semester about the history of West African societies in the era of the slave trade, and we recently read Anne Bailey’s new book African Voices of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Bailey at several points takes up the complex methodological and epistemological problem that tends to frustrate oral historians trying to study the memory of slavery in West Africa, that in many West African societies it is still a powerful insult to associate a contemporary person’s lineage with slave descent. This is partly because such an association still constructs forms of social power even today, but it is also partly because the memory of the slave trade is itself so traumatic and shameful within those societies.

What Bailey notes, and Africanists are well aware of in regard to many issues, is that societies do “memory-work’ in the secret spaces of the unspoken and unrepresented. These might be literal social spaces: secret societies in West Africa, or a gang of privileged male athletes in a North Carolina university. One has to suspect that this wasn't the first time that the Duke lacrosse team had wallowed as a group through the bilgewater of explicit racism.

But that work is also done through and in collective spaces of a thousand fragmented representations and texts: silent speech, blindness in plain sight. Things that everyone knows, and knows how to feel about knowing, but that cannot be found anywhere clearly or in a concentrated fashion. That knowledge is sometimes an innocent thing, in fact, most of the time it is. In my History of the Future class, I’ve been trying to point out to the students that even though most of the representations of the future we’re studying are now wholly “retro-futures” no longer in active circulation, the residual tropes are so integrated into so many cultural and social locations that they still “know” what it means when they see an automobile with a bubble top and rounded edges or a flying car, when they see a boxy humanoid robot or a geodesic dome. They know without knowing that those things are “futuristic”, even if they are no longer part of what we reasonably expect the future to be.

That Duke student had the same kind of knowledge of slavery’s accursed history, and its cancerous infestation within the American soul. He knows it without knowing he knows it, without meaning to set out to know it. It was his choice, his intention, to use what we all know and feel to hurt, his choice to be unforgiveably cruel. That was no slip of the tongue.

We do not bear the collective guilt of having that narrative within our minds, because we do not collectively choose to make it a curdled and vicious part of our hearts. That was this person, those people, them. But we all do need to do a different kind of memory work, now and always, to make silences speak, to excavate the ruins, to trace how the puzzle of collective memory gets assembled from pieces. That is the work of historians: popular and academic, everyday and scholarly, in our classrooms, in our books, in our dialogues, in our ordinary human business. At this moment, we should be reminded of the urgency of that work.

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Frederick Thomas - 4/12/2006

Ha! Ha! You did that one with grace. Touche!

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2006

This retired Republican takes umbridge at being called an "overaged commie."

Frederick Thomas - 4/12/2006

Answer the points, Mr. Luker. How like your childish style to try to change the subject when you lose.

And by the way, the source of the twenty + incidents of false hate crimes in leftist academe is the LA Times. Slander them, why don't you? (Whoops! They are on your side!)

You lose again. It might help if you read the article next time before flipping your lip.

Big boys? Hah! Perhaps in self-perception. The problem with you overaged commies is that you are intellectually inbred.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/12/2006

You continue to be a source of disinformation. Tim Burke's post was not removed from HNN's mainpage. It appeared in the week of 3 April. The week of 10 April now appears at the top of the mainpage. You appear not to be embarrassed by your own ignorance. I'd recommend that you stay over on the and freeper sites and not come over here and try to play with big boys.

Frederick Thomas - 4/12/2006

...this one is perhaps the most stupid and transparent, but all were based on black students' perjuries against whites, which are wept over by idiot leftie organizations.

For some of the others:

Face it, Mr. Luker, these travesties of justice exist because you lefties love to hate white males, and will believe ANY c*** as long it is against your favorite target.

By the way, why do you think this article was pulled off the blog? Like maybe because it is embarassing and racist? Its outre europhobic tone convicts anyone who would support it of venomist racism.

Contemplate that a while.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2006

Fred, Fred, Fred, You continue to ignore the fact that Tim Burke's post was not about the accusation of rape or even about the allegations that might have or might yet lead to criminal charges. Instead of discussing Tim's post, you continue to insist on discussing your diversionary matters. It is because you continue to ignore what Burke actually said that he, Jonathan Dresner and I have repeatedly suggested to you that you should go find a site where your concerns are being addressed. This isn't the Soviet Union, but the rest of us want the discussion to be about Tim Burke's post, not about your racism.

Frederick Thomas - 4/11/2006

This is not the Soviet Union, Mr. Luker. Here you have to prove guilt, not innocense.

As to the rest of this, let me guess: You think that the players should be accused of rape and their lives ruined for hiring a stripper, or for one of them writing a stupid email? Your POSTS are dumber than that kid's email! (Admit it, you lost.)

Mr. Dresner, my views on WW II are that there is still too much victor's propaganda in our history books masquerading as history. Mr. Miller thinks otherwise.

I also am of the opinion that Mr. Burke's polemic was made of 5 parts guilt, both general and specific, and 5 parts emotion, and all of it was against those kids. You supported it, ergo...

Jonathan Dresner - 4/11/2006

Mr. Miller's objections to your views on WWII are neither minor nor childish, nor, as we have pointed out repeatedly, did any of us prejudge the criminal guilt of the lacrosse players involved. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, I think you owe us an apology for repeatedly trolling this discussion.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2006

Mr. Thomas, You are, indeed, a fool. The DNA tests don't prove innocense. The Duke lacrosse players initiated this embarrassment when they hired strippers for their party. I noticed that you hid away when the e-mail death threat sent out by the Duke lacrosse player became known. But, don't hide your light under a barrel. Lest we forget, keep reminding us that you are a reactionary bigot.

Frederick Thomas - 4/11/2006

All of the so ethical posters who were eager to prejudge the Duke Lacrosse team should hang their heads, and not just for publicly being proven fools.

The damage to these young men's reputation is permanent, as is the damage to their lacrosse season, the lacrosse coach's career, and to Duke University, even though none of their DNA was on this stripper, and even though the marks on her body were there when she arrived, and were photographed with a time stamp camera.

Now the DA, who faces election in three weeks, is terrified of dropping charges before the election. There are many blacks in his electorate who would want this matter prosecuted against this team regardless of the evidence. Their crime? Being white.

Now the NAACP goes suddenly silent after pronouncing the guilt of these kids, and leftie newspapers and CNN are struck dumb. It's a perfect rehash of the Towana Brawley episode-a perjurious effort to shake down white males for money, aided and abetted by the media, and it stinks.

If we are really, really lucky the bimbo will be prosecuted for perjury, but that would be bad for the prosecutor holding his job, so do not look for it.

By the way, Mr. Miller, I note that instead of proving your point you resort first last and always to childish little smears. The reason you do not spar with me any longer is that you never come out ahead. Perhaps that is the beginning of wisdom.

Jonathan Dresner - 4/9/2006

Mr. Thomas,

Typically, you've responded to something I didn't say. Regarding lacrosse, I said it's a fine sport which suffers from "small balls don't show up on TV well" neglect, to which you responded Re: Maryland lacrosse: agreed most of those guys are gents. Can't say the same for all of the Long Island lacrossers.

I didn't say anything about the character of the players, geographically or otherwise. It was a commentary on the nature of sport popularity, not sportsmanship, and I have close personal ties to Long Island, myself.

As for the rest of it, your view of "credibility" will probably ensure that you never serve on a criminal jury...

Ralph E. Luker - 4/9/2006

Fred, When you decide to discuss the substance of Tim Burke's post rather than merely exhibit your prejudices and ignorance, you may have something to say. Otherwise, shut up!

Frederick Thomas - 4/9/2006

Thanks for a well-made point.

Credibility comes from a clean criminal record, ethical reputation, etc. I do not believe that those factors are in the lady's favor, given:


lewd public behavior-lap dancing, stripping, etc for money. A jury may not be as open minded as academe that this is a job sought by ethical women.


-car theft
-resisting arrest
-drunk driving 2X limit
-reckless driving
-menacing police officer-automotive
-damaging government property

These also show a predisposition to resort to criminal behavior following an inadequate tip for a sex act.

I would not want to be her defense attorney. He will be in for some long days.

Re: Maryland lacrosse: agreed most of those guys are gents. Can't say the same for all of the Long Island lacrossers. I understand that the guy who wrote the nasty email may be one of them.

Re: Race card. If you wish pre-exoneration from racism, then fine, you have it. Just please don't make it so easy to think that you put EAMs at an ethical level such as was castigated so heatedly by Mr. Burke, and which I detailed above with quotations.

Racism such as Ward Churchill's or Congresswoman McKinney's or perhaps some leftie posters here, is still racism.

Richard F. Miller - 4/8/2006

Gentlemen: I have also had the experience of sparring with Mr. Thomas, but will spar with him no more. You can find my reasons on post #85769.

Substantiation about matters labeled opinion is welcome but not necessary. But where substantiation is offered and later proves a fabrication, the conversation is over, forever--especially on a site that offers a forum for historians, however unhinged.

Timothy James Burke - 4/7/2006

I've been very polite, Mr. Thomas, but you are evidently not interested in talking about the particulars of the post I actually made. This case is being discussed at many online venues: my recommendation to you is to find one where your arguments are more readily fitted to the prevalent claims being made.

Jonathan Dresner - 4/7/2006

Her convictions were not for perjury, nor is there any evidence in the article that she's ever foresworn or misrepresented herself. It is not "relevant evidence" and that fact that you think it is is indeed evidence of your judgement in these matters.

I grew up in Maryland, one of those mid-Atlantic hotbeds of lacrosse: it's a fine sport which suffers from "small balls don't show up on TV well" neglect.

I haven't forejudged anyone in this case: I've noted that Tim Burke wasn't talking about what you were talking about (which he himself confirmed), and nothing you've presented here has been on point or helpful. Pulling your private "race card" in defense is not going to help you.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/7/2006

Fred, Fred, Go away before you are banned for imbecility.

Frederick Thomas - 4/7/2006

Faced with relevant evidence of prior convictions calling this stripper's credibility into serious question, you two gentlemen deny deny deny reflexly then scurry from the argument, throwing a childish ad hominem over your shoulder. Doesn't say much for your ", logical and ethical knowledge."

The jury in this case, if there is a case, will give this woman zero credibility. She will be lucky if she escapes a charge of false swearing.

Meanwhile you two continue with your mindless automatic prejudice against European American males, whom you seem to hold guilty of all of mankind's woes, absent evidence. You two guys had the whole team convicted without a bit of proof, didn't you?

Were you cut from the lacrosse team, lose your girl to a blond guy, or what? Or is it simply envy?

Jonathan Dresner - 4/7/2006

I disagree, Ralph. I think the article citation proves a great deal about the legal, logical and ethical knowledge of Mr. Thomas. None of it's good, I'm afraid, but it's a data point, nonetheless.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/7/2006

What you cite proves nothing. Retire, Mr. Thomas, before you humiliate yourself even further.

Frederick Thomas - 4/7/2006

"...screaming racial abuse at a black stripper because he doesn't feel sufficiently gratified in relation to the payment he has made to her...."

Mr. Burke, you may owe all the privileged white athletes of this world, and for that matter all the whites males generally a big apology.

Barry DeCicco - 4/6/2006

IIRC, on another thread, Frederick Thomas turned out to be a Holocaust denier. That, alone, would be good reason for not responding to anything that comes out of his mouth. In this thread, he has further proven his unsuitability for polite (even normal heated) discourse.

Do not feed the energy creature.

Timothy James Burke - 4/4/2006

I have to say that I have a pretty serious issue with this kind of diversionary approach to debate. E.g., rather than discuss the issue at hand, asking, "Why don't you condemn X or Y instead?"

The reason I have an issue with this is that in an uncharitable interpretation, it represents an attempt to keep discussion about some specific case from proceeding. Even seen charitably, it is a kind of attention deficit disorder: it puts an impossible burden on every single instance of conversation.

In effect, even in the charitable version, what you're asking for is that every single attempt to discuss a troubling incident of speech or action be forced to convene a universalizing discussion of all such possibly comparable incidents, every single time the conversation begins. Even in the charitable view, this is an impossibility, and will always lay open the person starting the conversation to the charge that they have omitted some reasonable point of comparison. Suppose I mentioned Amiri Baraka alongside some drunken lacrosse team members at Duke--a rather asymmetrical comparison to begin with. At that point someone could complain (with more and more justice the larger and larger the laundry list of grievances becomes) that I have not mentioned Larry Summers, or the Nazis who marched at Skokie, or David Duke, or Trent Lott, or Robert Byrd, or Cynthia McKinney, get the point.

Short commentaries are best when they concentrate on single incidents. If you understood me to be making a point which did not apply equally to everyone philosophically, in one way you're right and another you're completely, massively wrong. You'd be wrong to infer that I think Amiri Baraka is an upstanding American whose various commentaries are completely ok with me: I object profoundly to a large range of what he has had to say over the years. But the history which produces Baraka is different. Not different in a way that is exculpatory of his comments, but DIFFERENT. That's what a historian brings to the table: a refusal to flatten out different histories, different pasts, the difference that sometimes makes a difference.

It's not just the memories and histories embedded within speech that makes that difference, of course. It's also context. Some of what Baraka has had to say is in my mind more offensive. In my opinion, he should KNOW BETTER. But some of it is radically non-comparable to a drunken privileged white athlete screaming racial abuse at a black stripper because he doesn't feel sufficiently gratified in relation to the payment he has made to her. But before we even get to context, where comparisons are hard enough, there's still history, and the history that produces the paranoia and racialization of Baraka's imagination is a different history than the one that produces a racial comment that invokes the degredation of slavery. If we have to get in the comparison game as far as those histories go, there is a moral and substantive difference. It's not one that excuses Baraka by any means, but it is a difference that makes the comparision deeply inappropriate and historically incomprehensible, that collapses the texture and meaning of history on the altar of false equivalence.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/4/2006

Well balanced here, Fred. As you've discovered, I'm not as kind or thoughtful as my colleague, Tim Burke, but I recommend that you embarrass yourself no further in this conversation.

Frederick Thomas - 4/4/2006

Mr. Luker:

You sound unbalanced. There is not a bit of ignorance, racism or anti-Semitism, only accuracy, which you cannot tolerate. Am I supposed to be distressed by your wacky assertions? Boo hoo!

When confronted with unpleasant facts, like your selective quotation technique, you deny like a dropout.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/4/2006

Unfortunately for you, I quoted you accurately and your own statements indict you. There's ignorance of history in your statement about "when slavery was practiced"; there's racism in the implicit assumption that all Southerners are white; and there's anti-Semitism implicit in your plea about people who are both accused and Jewish. I'd say that you need to lay off the sauce, take a break from HNN, and spend some considerable time with your priest-confessor.

Frederick Thomas - 4/4/2006

I guess you could not read my qualifier about the "media-academe lobby," or perhaps you left it out intentionally.

The truth is that the media and many academics, such as yourself, for example, can never admit that their favored programs do not work, and degrade blacks so severely that drugs, then crime become a common outlet.

But local TV programs in describing accused criminals, will NEVER say "a black male," or even mention "dark complexion," but they will say "white lacrosse players accused of rape," as happened here. They also will never mention the comparitive crime figures which show that blacks do most crime. Total bias, Mr. Luker.

And get yourself a fact checker. While some Northerners had slaves way back when, by the time of the civil war it was not so. The percentages mentioned are the census figures, and please don't quote me and leave out the central qualifiers, such as FREE WHITES, about 94% of whom did not own slaves. And stop the hysteria. I want to hear your mind working, not your adrenal glands.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/4/2006

"In my view it demonstrates an unfortunate tendency to convict any white accused of a crime against a black, but not the other way around, nor when a Jew is accused."

Well, Jeez, Fred, how would you then account for the percentage of African American men who are tangled in the penal system in America?

"When slavery was practiced, 94 percent of Southerners and 100 percent of Northerners were completely uninvolved in it."

Fred, your own false data convict you. A) they assume that Southerners were all white! B) white Northerners were up to their ears in slavery "when slavery was practiced" -- unless, of course, you think it was only practiced from 1860-1865! Duh!

Frederick Thomas - 4/4/2006 the rationale for HNN, and perhaps it is happening here.

This situation is special, but not in my view because of the hearsay remark mentioned. In my view it demonstrates an unfortunate tendency to mentally convict any white accused of a crime against a black, but not the other way around, nor when a Jew is accused. The media-academe lobby downplays those.

It also demonstrates that group think about genetic guilt is still going on in the media. No American white now living has ever held a slave. When slavery was practiced, 94 percent of Southerners and 100 percent of Northeners were completely uninvolved in it. Pardon me, but you would never know it by reading some of these posts.

Regarding hate whitey speech, Amiri Baraka has plenty of it (such as telling a woman who asked what she could do to help blacks, "you can die"). But he is tolerated and protected, I would guess, by most of the posters on this thread. That is racist, and it is wrong.

When you focus, your writing is quite elegant. I hope that there has been some progress on both sides, and that some appreciation of legal process and equity has been raised.

Timothy James Burke - 4/4/2006

Again, I'm not talking about that statement as a criminal offense, nor invoking "hate-speech codes" or anything of the sort.

What interests me about it--and yes, depresses and angers me--is the way that it contains a narrative about race and American identity in a very compressed but potent way. Think of all the things you could say to another person to insult them. Most of them are in some sense historically "neutral", or where the historical derivation of the insult isn't any longer particularly a reason why the comment is insulting. If I call someone a "bastard", neither I nor the person I'm insulting is likely to hear that as a remark about the dubious parentage of the person I'm insulting.

This comment is different. It's an idiosyncratic, non-cliched remark which means to hurt someone on racial grounds, and not merely racial grounds, but grounds which specifically invoke the history of slavery.

No one is going to be prosecuted for that remark, nor am I calling for that. I'm doing what I think historians ought to do: interpret the ways that history and memory intertwine and structure how we live in the present. I'm interpreting the statement alone in the context of its meaning, in the context of what it says about memory. My interpretation largely would stand even if it turned out that the person who reported the remark (the neighbor, who has no particular reason to fabricate it) was the originator of the remark rather than the lacrosse players. Because I do not argue in this entry that the remark says anything about what criminal charges the players should incur.

Now I would hope you'd at least agree that the comment itself, without buying any particular version of the circumstances, is a repugnant sentiment. Whomever said it, I hope you'd agree that the sentiment makes someone a "sick little punk", as I put it. I also hope you're not arguing that "boys will be boys", and that making a remark like this is a fairly innocent outgrowth of the nature of fraternity life.

I also do find it a bit odd that you're so aggressively asking everyone to reserve judgement about every single aspect of this incident and yet you casually make remarks like "the hate whitey speech you would probably find acceptable". Why are you so committed to circumspection in one direction and yet so willing to make wild assertions like this about others? Is this the first thing I've written that you've read? It is not very persuasive when someone admonishes that we should avoid a rush to judgement while dispensing wild-eyed judgements in all directions save the one.

Frederick Thomas - 4/4/2006

Mr. Burke:

Thank you for answering, which shows courage. I must still take exception to your remarks, however.

The quote which you see as being so damning may not ever be admissable in a criminal proceeding. According to the hearsay rule, such memories are notoriously unreliable, and they are generally inadmissable. For you to hang your entire justification on such hearsay "evidence" is a matter for you to consider very carefully.

You may also wish to ask yourself, just how different such talk is from what goes in in fraternities every day, fraternities which increasingly include black, white, brown and yellow, as my son's did when he graduated from Penn State a few years back? Black-white-brown etc speech goes all ways and is often crass, as was this, but usually said with a smile. I've heard a black kid say that while the white guys thought his grandaddy was in the fields, he was really in the big house doing the white girls, which got a laugh. Do you really want to arrest every kid who has said something crass? Or just the white ones?

But it is not the same as lynching speech, or physical threats, or for that matter the hate whitey speech you would probably find acceptable, but is no different than lynching speech. Frats are what they are, and they are surely NOT like DAR tea parties.

As of right now, NO evidence has been released under discovery, despite what Mr. Kirstein claims. Until it is, the only prudent tack is to allow the legal process to work.

S J - 4/4/2006

Agreed. Interesting post. If I were on that team, I would walk so fast, scholarship or no scholarship. How terrible would it be to be a member of that team and be associated with all of this garbage?

Steven R Alvarado - 4/4/2006

Time and investigations will tell.

Jonathan Dresner - 4/4/2006

I'm afraid Mr. Thomas would not be alone long....

Trevor Russell Getz - 4/3/2006

I wonder if it's possible to create two spaces to do 'memory work' on HNN. One for people who would like to carefully, concisely, and rationally discuss and critique the columns in question other folk's posts, and one for Frederick Thomas.

Timothy James Burke - 4/3/2006

I do want to point out, as Jonathan also observes, that I'm sticking to the reported racial slur, precisely because the rape allegations are just that, rape allegations which need a court hearing. In a way, everything I noted in my entry holds true no matter who said "Thank your grandpa for my cotton shirt", even if by some (in my judgement unlikely) turn it is a comment imagined or misheard by the person reporting it. It doesn't matter who said it or even why they said it: it's a racist sentiment. But more importantly for the deeper question, it's a racist sentiment that comes out of some deeper and more complex historical subconscious.

Jonathan Dresner - 4/3/2006

Let's be clear about something: Burke's commentary was not about the accusations of rape, but about the independently reported racial slur.

That kind of racism well deserves the opprobrium Burke applied. Mr. Thomas needs to read more carefully next time.

As for Mr. Thomas' other comments, I'll leave the spelling errors, misogyny and fallacies for someone else, if they so desire.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/3/2006

Mr. Thomas, You are nauseatingly ignorant. If you knew anything about the history of the country, the history of the South, the character of Duke's relationships with the Durham community, the fact that the woman's wounds were consistent with her story, etc, you might have something to say. Instead, you blather on as if you are not even embarrassed by your ignorance.

Frederick Thomas - 4/3/2006

...the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately Mr. Timothy Burke, of no particular legal or other qualifications, apparently, but of overheated imagination, just doesn't get that whole concept.

It does not bother him that the young woman in question makes money doing what a jury may well consider lewd provocative and obscense things, like showing her crotch to a bunch of drunk college kids, in a college environment which just reeks with casual sex, of which the whole world but this poor naive white boy Mr. Burke is aware. Sex on the college campus has to do with widespread horniness and a lack of social consequences, not race.

Instead Master Tomothy attempts to break the HNN record for consecutive non-sequiturs, hyperboles and bald assertions, such as:

"That Duke student had the same kind of knowledge of slavery’s accursed history, and its cancerous infestation within the American soul!!!!!"

(accursed? cancerous?)

"It stands out to me not just for its stomach-churning racism, but because of what it says about historical consciousness and collective memory!?"

(stomach churning? collective memory?)

"this incident invokes a particular theory of language’s relationship to the unconscious"

(give me a break)

Enough said. Mr. Burke is clearly a follower of the long deceased Rev. Cotton Mather, so drenched in his own original sin that these words just writhe out of him in expiation.

Perhaps Mr. Burke realizes that such an accusation by a stripper could just possibly be viewed as another Tawana Brawley episode, ie a potentially big payday for her. Could she perhaps be tempted by greed? Ya gotta admit it's plausible.

Perhaps she had consensual sex with a couple of these guys and is trying to clean up financially, or perhaps got pissed at something they did or said.

I would feel better about her credibility if she had not shown everything she has to probably thousands of horny college students. But never had voluntary sex with them? Sure.

In any case, what Mr. Burke has done is to essentially convict these kids, based upon their whiteness.

Who's the racist, Mr. Burke?

Jonathan Dresner - 3/31/2006

Indeed. Ditto.

Manan Ahmed - 3/31/2006

For this most thought-provoking post. Esp, your conclusion on our moral and professional duties.