The two Duke indictments handed down late Monday - and a handful of inconvenient facts about race, sex and class in the South - have demolished some of our cherished stereotypes and busted the merchants of victimhood.
Ever since news surfaced last month about the alleged rape of an exotic dancer by three members of the Duke lacrosse team, we've been treated to the usual litany of laments from the usual suspects. So familiar is the script by now that most Americans could ad-lib without cue cards.
Where there's a female victim, there's usually a feminist spokesperson making the case against aggressive males. Where there's a black victim, there's usually a black reverend making a case against racism.
Enter the Rev. Jesse Jackson - who has been performing the same gig for so long, he's become a caricature of his caricature - trying to keep the memory of slavery alive.
"The history of white men and black women, and the special fantasies and exploitation, is old and ancient," said Jackson, commenting on the case. "The historical pattern of this behavior arouses so many fears and conjures up so many bad memories."
No one wishes to minimize the pain of slavery or the trauma of rape, whether at the hands of a 19th-century plantation owner or a modern-day lacrosse player, but let's be clear. The historical pattern of Jackson's behavior is what keeps those fears aroused and conjures up bad memories.
If Jackson were an honest dealer in the race card game, he'd have to mention that those ancient fears, though perhaps once justified, are no longer factually relevant. The U.S. Department of Justice's 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey, which breaks down crime victims and perpetrators by race, indicates that the vast majority of violent crimes, including rape, are intra-racial. Blacks tend to attack blacks, and whites tend to attack whites.
There is no current trend of white men raping black women, in other words. In fact, though sample sizes are considered too small to draw any solid conclusions, the most recent figures show that among white rape victims, 15.5 percent of those rapes were perpetrated by blacks, while 0.0 percent of black victims were raped by white males. (Zero in this case is a rounded figure meaning that the total number of black women raped by white men is between 0 and half of 1 percent of the total.)
Not that anyone's counting. But if we're going to talk about race and crime, we may as well rely on facts rather than ancient memories that serve only to sensationalize and emotionalize what is already a painful episode in Southern history.