Thursday, April 13, 2006

Duke University: It's Not About the Rape

(Photo of Durham County District Attorney, Mike Nifong)

You've probably heard about the contraversy surrounding Duke University following allegations that a black "exotic dancer" was gang raped at a party by members of its lacrosse team (You can read some of the latest about this story here). The usual suspects (no pun intended) are rallying on their respective sides of the color line, with accusations and counter-accusations. One side says the rape happened, the other claims it didn't happen. The media says day after day that the rape case has contributed to "racial tensions" as if everything in Durham between blacks and whites was just dandy before this all happened. Various "leaders" seize their chance for more air time on the cable networks. Here's what I think, even if all that happened was that a couple of "exotic dancers" went to a party, shook their "thang" got paid and went home without incident, as a Baha'i I could only view what happened that night as problematic. Long before any alleged assault took place the evening was an assault on the nobility of both the dancers and the "boys" who hired them. Why is no one talking about the fact that we live in a society that exploits women's bodies for profit, especially poor women and women of color? Why are we not talking about the psycho-spiritual impact on the men who "consume" the female body as a product to be bought and sold? What happened at Duke that night, rape or no rape was a tired rerun of a drama that has been played out day after day for far too long, privileged elites exploiting other human beings for their "entertainment". That people of good will allow their brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God to play out this drama over and over with barely a word of protest is the real scandal. It is the acceptance, implicit or explicit of such fundamentally oppressive relationships that contributes to the moral environment in which rape and sexual assault become a predictable outcome.

Throughout history, the masses of humanity have been, at best, spectators at the advance of civilization. Their role has been to serve the designs of whatever elite had temporarily assumed control of the process...Bahá'u'lláh has come to free humanity from this long bondage, and the closing decades of the twentieth century were devoted by the community of His followers to creative experimentation with the means by which His objective can be realized. The prosecution of the Divine Plan entails no less than the involvement of the entire body of humankind in the work of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development. (Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 113)