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Wednesday, April 5, 2006
Updated: April 6, 2:36 PM ET
Scandal isn't just about race

By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

It appears the truth, as it pertains to allegations of rape involving the Duke lacrosse team and a single mother/college student/stripper/escort, will get buried in an avalanche of racial politics.

That's too bad. Because whatever did or did not happen inside the house rented by the captains of the Duke lacrosse team, it is my belief race had little to do with the actions of the players.

This is a story driven by gender and privilege, not race. Unfortunately, we'll never get there. Already this story is being examined strictly through the prism of race.

Supporters of the accuser, who is black, claim that the university, the police and the district attorney are not dealing with the alleged suspects, who are all white, the way they would if the accuser was white and the suspects black.

"Somebody would have been arrested by now," is the popular contention.

The lacrosse players have their race-card-playing defenders, too. The latest edition of Newsweek magazine throws objectivity out the window and publishes a defense of the lacrosse players, accusing the district attorney of pandering to black voters in his district.

I'm sure Newsweek ran a similar story defending Kobe Bryant just two weeks after rape allegations were leveled against him. And somehow I seem to forget the sympathetic piece Newsweek ran on the Colorado football players accused of rape.

I guess I somewhat understand the preoccupation with the racial components of this particular case. The lacrosse players have been accused of using racial slurs by the single mother/college student/stripper/escort, as well as by uninvolved witnesses.

But, again, whatever transpired inside that house was not provoked by race. Gender did the driving. Race is simply driving everyone's reaction to the controversial event.

At some point, it's important that we move beyond the polarizing racial elements and address the root causes. It's important that we do that because every coach and administrator/executive -- whether at the high school, college or professional level -- realizes he could find himself in the same position as Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who resigned Wednesday, and school president Richard Brodhead, who canceled the remainder of the team's season.

Men behaving badly in groups -- especially under the influence of alcohol -- cuts across all social, economic and racial demographics.

I always have contended, somewhat jokingly, that there should be rules outlawing men from gathering in groups of three or more without a woman as chaperone or serious surveillance equipment. Whitlock's law: A man's intelligence, maturity and decision-making skills decrease as the number of men within earshot of his voice increases.

Whitlock's law is a product of a youth spent sucking on beer bongs and zig zags, hosting and attending bachelor parties, growing up on the barstools inside my father's tavern and planning debauchery and lewd behavior with teammates and friends of all races.

I can honestly say that I don't have a male friend who could avoid saying, "There go I but for the grace of God" when thinking about the Duke lacrosse players.

I'm not talking about the rape allegations. I'm talking about being at a bachelor party in which racially insensitive and gender-insensitive comments were directed at the entertainers and several drunken party-goers had to be stopped from attempting to go too far with the entertainers.

There's nothing the lacrosse players have been accused of saying that I haven't heard black men say to black entertainers or white men say to white entertainers. Not the exact words but the equivalent. There is little respectful about women stripping naked and gyrating in front of strange, drunken men for a dollar.

So, the lack of respect exhibited at the Duke party has little to do with the race of the dancers. I contend two white entertainers would've received the same treatment.

This is a story about men behaving badly in groups.

In the wake of the sex scandals that rocked the Colorado football program, the university enacted a slew of reactionary rules that would in no way prevent or slow the sexually charged parties that are a staple of college recruiting and college life.

Regardless of how this current controversy plays out, I'm sure Brodhead will institute rules to govern the behavior of Duke's athletes.

As with Colorado, I'd prefer to see Brodhead try to get out ahead of potential problems by creating a curriculum that teaches/exposes young men and women how to interact respectfully and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

You think it's unnecessary?

I suggest you spend time around young people. Popular culture has objectified women and promoted sexual irresponsibility and parents spend so much time at work rather than guiding their children that young people are clueless about appropriate behavior.

How else could you explain the e-mail one of the players reportedly sent in the hours after the incident, in which he wrote that he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them.

A wise university would protect itself and its athletes (and students) by offering a life-skills curriculum that, among other things, would explain what constitutes sexual harassment, sexual assault, the dangers of alcoholism and drugs, unwanted and unwed pregnancy, how to respectfully socialize with people outside your race, etc.

Would teaching freshmen how to behave eliminate situations like the one at Duke? No. But maybe one of the students would have recognized the potential problem and taken action to limit it. Maybe there would have been only 15 guys at the party and a lot fewer people under suspicion.

You don't go to college simply to acquire a skill to earn a living. You go to college to learn how to live. Men of all races live far better lives when they gather in very small groups.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. His newspaper is celebrating his 10 years as a columnist with the publishing of Jason's first book, "Love Him, Hate Him: 10 Years of Sports, Passion and Kansas City." It's a collection of Jason's most memorable, thought-provoking and funny columns over the past decade. You can purchase the book at TheKansasCityStore.com. Jason can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com. Sound off to Page 2 here.