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April 18, 2006

The Dividing Line

Derek Shackelford

As this country grows more diverse by the day, sensitive issues arise. Several of these issues have come to the surface over the past few weeks.

One that still permeates our culture is race. It can cause much conversation, or it can make the most loquacious talkers keep silent.

W.E.B. Dubois said that the issue would still be the dividing line at the turn of the century. It seems that this is very true when we take a look at our society today. Two of the most prevalent topics that garner our news media today are The Duke Lacrosse Team Incident and the Immigration Policy that is being formulated in the Halls of Congress.

The Duke story seems to surround a mostly all white team and two black female exotic dancers. There have been conflicting accounts of the incident.

The real focus to some degree has not been on the real issue, but on the race disparity. I would surmise that this case is not so much about race, but rather is one of gender and privilege.

For African Americans, the reality in this country is that the criminal justice system has been unfair to a large degree. Also, some African Americans draw on their own personal experiences in dealing with the issues of law; and some believe that the law may be one sided.

At the same time, one should not yell fire in a crowded theatre when there is no fire. As I said earlier, the Duke case is more about gender and privilege. It centers on young men and a female in an environment where the female is reduced to an object and not as a person.

Men, for the most part, have been given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rape or sexual assault. The prosecution has stated that it will proceed with criminal charges against some of the lacrosse players. The defense claims that DNA evidence has exonerated their clients.

This is where the privilege part comes into play; these student athletes have the economic capacity to mount a defense against all these accusations.

Yes, it should be stated that we live in an innocent-until-proving-guilty system. Unfortunately, many of us will make up our minds frequently based on personal experiences and not the facts. We listen to media accounts and surmise the guilt or innocence. All the while the issue of race will still be lurking in the background.

That is exactly where it needs to stay in this case - in the background.

This case is not so much about black or white but more of a case of right and wrong. Obviously, in that house that evening something went wrong. The right thing to do is to decide whether it was criminal or not.

Hopefully through this prism of male - female relationships we can garner that no man or woman should reduce others to mere objects. Considering that this took place in a college setting, what must be understood is that college is not only a place to get an academic education, but a place where the education of life must be learned in order to understand the dynamics of men and women.

At the same time the Immigration policy of this nation is under deep scrutiny. Proponents say that we should be open to all that want to seek the American Dream. Opponents say that allowing people to enter into this country illegally will raise taxes and increase unemployment.

Politicians are very careful in dealing with this issue because it depends largely on the makeup of their district. Those politicians who have high Hispanic populations will be reluctant to vote against any immigration policy that is not inclusive. Politicians who do not have a large Hispanic voting block are more likely to seek to curtail immigration.

There are two things that ring loud and clear to politicians; money and votes. Politicians count very well. This issue should not be about counting but coming to a logical, fair solution that is good for everyone.

It seems that W.E.B. Dubois was right; race is still a dividing line.

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