Thomas Sowell

The worst thing said in the case involving rape charges against Duke University students was not said by either the prosecutor or the defense attorneys, or even by any of the accusers or the accused. It was said by a student at North Carolina Central University, a black institution attended by the stripper who made rape charges against Duke lacrosse players.

 According to Newsweek, the young man at NCCU said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted, "whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past."

 This is the ugly attitude that is casting a cloud over this whole case. More important, this collective guilt and collective revenge attitude has for years been poisoning race relations in this country.

 It has torn apart other countries around the world, from the Balkans to Sri Lanka to Rwanda. Nor is there any reason to think that the United States is exempt from such polarization.

 At one time, the black civil rights leadership aimed at putting an end to racism, and especially to the perversion of the law to convict people because of their race, regardless of guilt or innocence.

 Today, this young man at NCCU represents the culmination of a new racist trend promoted by current black "leaders" to make group entitlements paramount, including seeking group revenge rather than individual justice in courts of law.

 This attitude poisoned the O.J. Simpson case and it is now polarizing reactions to the Duke University case. Racial polarization is a dangerous game, especially dangerous for minorities in the long run.

 Tragically, the way the Duke case is being handled, it looks as if District Attorney Michael Nifong is pandering to these ugly feelings. Legal experts seem baffled as to why he is proceeding in the way that he is because it is hard to explain legally.

 It is not hard to explain politically, however. The District Attorney may well owe his recent election victory to having tapped into the kinds of racial resentments expressed by the young man at North Carolina Central University.

 Now Mr. Nifong is riding a tiger and cannot safely get off. His bet best may be to let this case drag on until it fizzles out, long after the media have lost interest. His extraordinary postponement of the trial for a year suggests he understands that.

 In the meantime, the taxi driver who provided the first airtight alibi for one of the accused Duke lacrosse players has been picked up by the police on a flimsy, three-year-old charge, supposedly about shoplifting. He was held for five hours for questioning -- reportedly not about shoplifting, but about the Duke rape charges.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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