Race card | VailDaily.com

Race card

I am a former prosecutor and I teach “Perspectives in sexual violence” as a law professor in Boston.

Pamela Mackey dropped what has been described as another bombshell in the courtroom during the last hearing. In response to an argument from a crisis center lawyer that the victim’s records should remain confidential to encourage victims to report rape, Mackey urged the judge to disregard the center’s position as “political.” Mackey then added, without apparent reason, that there is a “political” history in this country of “white women falsely accusing black men of rape.”

If cultural mythology is the guide, this incendiary comment may strike a familiar chord. But the truth is, there is absolutely no data or study that suggests white women disproportionately falsely accuse black men (or for that matter, men of any race) of rape.

To the contrary. False accusations of rape are rare and are no more common than false accusations of other types of crime. Some 80 to 90 percent of rapes occur between people of the same race, and white men commit more rapes than black men.

There isn’t even anecdotal evidence to support Mackey’s claim. Which is not to say a white woman could never make a false accusation against a black man. The “Scottsboro boys” case is evidence that it can happen, but that was fifty years ago. More recent stories of false accusations against black men either do not involve rape (Susan Smith falsely accused an unknown black man of kidnapping her children) or were made by men (Charles Stuart falsely accused an innocent black man of killing his pregnant wife).

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It is also true that mistaken identity cases can lead to the wrongful prosecution of an innocent man (a black man was released from prison last week in Boston after new DNA tests established his innocence). But mistaken identity cases are not uniquely caused by “white women.” Indeed, the Boston case was prosecuted on the mistaken identification of the male victim, a police officer.

Mackey’s comment nevertheless resonates with the public because it is rooted in real issues of racism and rape. When slave owners and racist Southerners were lynching black men, they needed an excuse for their barbarism so they falsely accused black men of lots of things – including rape. But these false allegations came from white men, not white women. The women rarely even made statements or had to testify because victims of lynching were not allowed trials or any form of due process.

Perpetuating the myth that black men were running around raping white women served the interests of Southern racists because it made black men afraid to walk around free for fear they’d be falsely accused – and it kept white women from walking around free for fear they’d be attacked by scary black men.

It also served to keep women and blacks from bonding around social justice issues and served instead to divide them – a problem that persists to this day and especially hurts the plight of black women who are doubly marginalized.

It was incendiary, racist and sexist for Mackey to exploit and misstate this ugly history. That she did so while representing a black man charged with an act of gender-based violence is not only ironic but should be insulting to anyone who cares about racial and gender equality. No single person’s liberty is worth the harm we all suffer when serious social prejudice is encouraged. Defense attorneys should face ethical sanctions for engaging in gratuitous exploitation of bigotry.

Obviously, Mackey is playing the race card in an attempt to infect the Eagle County jury pool by making the local population not only angry at her (and thus angry at her client), but also angry in a racially-specific way.

This could prove strategically advantageous to the defense. If folks in Eagle County react in the manner intended by Mackey, race prejudice and a strong dislike for the defense will be reflected in the results of Mackey’s jury-polling surveys when she gathers data to support her change of venue motion. Nothing works better to compel a judge to change the venue than evidence that the local population shows race-based hatred toward a particular defendant.

This defense strategy need not succeed. The good people of Eagle County have the power to resist this effort to paint them as racists. To do this, folks must remain vigilant in their commitment to judge Bryant fairly and they must make this clear to Mackey’s pollsters when they call.

The people of Eagle County have a presumptive right to sit in judgment of Kobe Bryant because the (alleged) crime happened in, and to a member of, their community.

The defense does not want a fair trial in Eagle. They want the state to have an unfair trial in Denver. But this result is not inevitable and is not controlled by Pamela Mackey. The people of Eagle County are in charge of their destiny in this case. They can let themselves get whipped into a frenzy about race and hand the defense a change of venue victory – or they can stand tall and refuse to let the ugliness of prejudice undermine their commitment to fairness for both sides.

Wendy J. Murphy


Are they kidding?

The CDOT deicer article of Sunday, Jan. 25, is a pretty desperate effort by CDOT, in my humble opinion.

The concept expressed by the quote, “Hopes a new ad campaign will convince them otherwise,” is truly repugnant in that we are being convinced to think that we do not hate the substance abuse of our lives – the inhalation of dust containing toxic heavy metals.

I have, upon occasion rebelled at such campaigns when they are as transparently fallacious. Myths such as these are being used to brainwash us to not hate something the public despises, and that some of us know to be a poisonous and deadly substance to the natural and human environment.

After a treatise titled “Some Documented Science About Magnesium Chloride” began circulating in Eagle County in the spring of 2003, many people concerned about the toxicity to human health, killing fish in waterways, and the dismal apparition of ghostly red skeletons of formerly healthy pine trees adjacent to the highways have evidently attempted to complain about the environmentally-deadly-poisonous mixture which always contains traces of toxic heavy metals. (The mineral deposits used to supply this material always contain trace heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, lead and zinc. (Refer to the second section of the treatise, which is available through Caroline Bradford of the Eagle River Watershed Council,and Suzanne Silverthorn at the Town of Vail.) This treatise was prepared for use by Trout Unlimited and the Black Gore Environmental Study Group.

Now, to spend money to sell the use of it to a mostly gullible public ignorant of the deadly long-term consequences, and ignorant of having to slow their speed on a snow packed highway, we have reached an all-time high in stupidity by CDOT.

Of course you should “Watch your speed when de-icer has been sprayed.” Driver training courses have taught reducing speed on slippery highways. “Fill-up with wiper fluid Š” is just plain common sense.

As to the oxymoronic quote at the end of your article: “But if one person slows down on a treated road or stocks up on wiper fluid, it’s worth it to us,” it should be obvious that you should have been awake and alert enough, and consciously aware enough about safe driving to have slowed your speed down on snow-packed highways anyway.

The “Treatise on Magnesium Chloride” has been e-mailed to about 85 persons and groups on the Eagle River Watershed Council list as well as having been forwarded to the Colorado State Water Quality Commission by Dr. Tom Steinberg.

I would challenge CDOT to answer the charges of toxicity, high chemical reactivity and nearly twice as strong a corrosion potential to bridge steel and culverts. About 15 CDOT maintenance supervisors and several district engineers received the ERWC e-mail, and their concerns are shown by evidently supporting a Madison Avenue-type advertising campaign with cute slogans.

I would think that the historical data showing that a majority of bridges in Colorado (mostly requiring replacing corroded reinforcing steel) are in a dangerous state of repair should be pulled-off the shelf and reviewed to see if bridge deterioration has increased in the last 12 years.

One section of the treatise deals with electrochemical-galvanic corrosion and points out that newly galvanized culvert attached to old culvert will increase the rate of corrosion in the older pipe. Remember the sinkhole?

Steve Zorichak


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