Kathleen Parker

In my eyes I done seen some crazy thangs in the streets Gotta couple hos workin' on the changes for me ...

-- Lyrics from ``It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp,'' 2006 winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song, by Three 6 Mafia for ``Hustle and Flow.''

The air is so thick with irony and hypocrisy these days, it's hard to find oxygen to breathe.

On the same day that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declared the three white Duke University lacrosse team players innocent of the alleged rape of an African-American stripper, MSNBC canceled its simulcast of the Don Imus radio show for a racial slur against the mostly black Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Two athletic teams -- one mostly white male, one mostly black female. Two examples of race and gender colliding. One rogue prosecutor; one rude shock jock.

Obviously, there's no comparison between the two cases in terms of consequences. While the Rutgers gals suffered hurt feelings, Imus lost his television gig and his radio show, the three Duke men potentially faced 30 years in prison and District Attorney Mike Nifong faces ethics charges.

But the two episodes do share the complicating and distorting factors of race, sex and politics.

And of course, they both share the opportunistic involvement of those two rogue race-baiting reverends, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Both not only came to the aid of the Rutgers basketball team, but grabbed the microphones before the accused Duke players had their day in court.

In Imus' case, neither was willing to accept the radio host's apology for his unfunny racist remark aimed at the basketball players and both worked, successfully, to get him off television airwaves.

In the Duke case, we will succumb to suffocation, I suspect, if we hold our breath waiting for Sharpton and Jackson to apologize for feeding the racist frenzy that condemned those three young men whose lives were nearly ruined by innuendo, lies, an out-of-control prosecutor and a complicit media.

We will also collapse onto the fainting couch waiting for an apology from Duke's ``Group of 88'' -- the coalition of arts and science faculty who took out a full-page ad in the Duke newspaper commending students who demonstrated and distributed a ``wanted'' poster of the lacrosse team. The 88 also promised to ``turn up the volume'' on the administration in dealing with the crimes of these ``farm animals,'' as English and Afro-American Studies professor Houston Baker described the lacrosse players in an e-mail to the mother of a team member.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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