The Wall Street Journal draws an interesting parallel between the Duke rape case and the Scottsboro Boys case of 1931 (background on the latter can be found here).
Imagine this: In a Southern town, a woman accuses several men of rape. Despite the woman’s limited credibility and ever-shifting story, the community and its legal establishment immediately decide the men are guilty. Their protestations of innocence are dismissed out of hand, exculpatory evidence is ignored.
The Duke rape case, right? No, the Scottsboro case that began in 1931, in the darkest days of the Jim Crow South.
The two cases offer a remarkable insight into how very, very far this country has come in race relations, and alas, in some ways how little. For race is central to why both cases became notorious. In Scottsboro, Ala., of course, the accusers were white and the accused was black. In Durham, N.C., it was the other way around.
Thankfully, the wrongly accused Duke lacrosse players didn’t have to wait years to get some semblance of justice, but disgraced and disbarred DA Mike Nifong’s actions were still a slap in the face of American justice. Legal commentator/professional harpy Nancy Grace and the rest of the American media did no better than the racially-charged media of Jim Crow South over 70 years ago. What these cases demonstrate is that America still has two systems of justice — it’s just the players who have changed. Even though the Duke players came from privileged backgrounds, they were still guilty until proven otherwise. Trying to combat injustice with injustice is never a productive endeavor.
The reality is that the Duke community sold out any sense of justice in the name of crude racial animus — a racism that may be the opposite of what happened in 1931, but was no less unjust. America still has not learned the lessons of its racist past and still tends to see people as the color of their skins rather than the contents of their character. Until that changes, more travesties such as the Scottsboro Boys case and the Duke rape case will continue to happen.