We know about Mike Nifong, and it looks like he's going to get his comeuppance. Yet the question remains: Why would a seasoned prosecutor like Nifong flout the rules in so many ways in the Duke case? Why would he publicly describe the Duke lacrosse players as "rapists" before that had been established in a court of law? Why would he suppress DNA evidence that the defense was entitled to see? Why, in short, did he go so far before the facts were in?
One of Nifong's public comments provides a clue. He says he wanted to protect the town of Durham from the reputation of being a place featuring "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl." From this we see that Nifong suffers from delusions of grandeur. He sees himself as the Custodian of Durham's Reputation. He views his job as the White Protector of the Black Race. If he simply saw himself as a prosecutor doing his job in a difficult situation--with competing claims and counterclaims--he wouldn't have made such an ass of himself.
Nifong seems to be suffering from Recovering Southerner Syndrome. This is the ailment, first named on this blog, in which Southerners feel so guilty about slavery and segregation that they perform undignified backward somersaults to prove that they are "not really Southern." When they encounter something Southern--like white Southern frat boys at a party--their mind immediately conjures up images of segregated water fountains and they draw their swords and go into Crusader Against Racism mode. Viewed in this way, Nifong saw himself as a kind of white knight slaying the dragons of Southern bigotry. Nifong was not alone in this: dozens of Duke professors reacted to the incident in exactly the same way.
The only problem was that the facts didn't bear them out. The Duke players apparently weren't planning a rape or a lynching; they were merely misbehaving in the manner of "boys gone wild." That’s not how gentlemen are supposed to behave, but it isn’t discriminatory and it isn’t illegal. So the presumption of white bigotry was entirely wrong in this case. The world is different now and the old civil rights models don't necessarily apply. I suspect that MIke Nifong is not the only fellow who is going to learn this lesson the hard way.
So Nifong is going to resign, and maybe get his license taken away too. Now what about the mau-mau artists at Duke, influential figures on the faculty, who whipped the campus up into a racial hysteria? What happens to the people who helped to create a mob mentality against students, rendering their lives miserable for more than a year, when their guilt was never established, never even probable, and now they have been shown to be innocent?
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