Do the Duke rape case and the Imus controversy suggest that we are fighting the last war when it comes to race relations? With respect to Imus, where is the larger threat to the self-esteem and treatment of African-American women? Is it in the lazy attempts at "humor" of an aging shock jock or in the lyrics of about 98% of hip-hop? Who is going to have a greater impact in the African-American community? Imus or 50 Cent? After all, where does the term "ho" come from? It is not an epithet that was coined by white racists.
In the Duke case, everyone rushed to man the customary barricades. Here is the real threat to African-American women: racist frat boys. 88 Duke faculty members fell over themselves to proclaim the larger truth that the allegations supposedly illustrated. Even now, the exonerated young men are wrapping themselves in political correctness. We have, they say, lost sight of the presumption of innocence and how much worse must that be for people without resources.
There is reason to be concerned about disparities in resources in the criminal justice system. But, even allowing for that, what happened in the Duke case is that Michael Nifong assumed the role of a 21st century racial demagogue. For those of you in Milwaukee, he played Michael McGee, Jr. He got himself reelected by playing to racial fears and resentment - in this case, those of black voters. In the end, he overreached but our public offices are full of those who play the race card with more skill and success.
And, he illustrates once more, a cardinal principle of public policy. Distrust prosecutors who like to see themselves on TV.