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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, April 19, 2006


The Scottsboro Boys

This is bullshit


Let me roughly endorse the sentiments contained within Jill's post on the Duke lacrosse case, but even moreso let me endorse Norbizness's comment to that post:

Apart from the sociological elements identified by Jill in the post, I still have to place this in the category of “local news become national to the extent that national and international news gets shunted aside” that I deplore in missing white girl cases, and, to a lesser extent, serial killers who are operating exclusively in one area.

I think the nationalization of stories which should basically be local ones is one of the not-talked-about-enough pernicious impacts of 24 hour cable news (and to some extent the internets as well). People are raped and killed every day, but some stories bubble up to the national media for bizarre reasons. In some sense this isn't really fair to the accused or the accuser, as the media attention they get is disproprtionate to the importance of the situation. It also gives viewers a rather distorted view of crime and the justice system generally in this country. And, it provides additional privileges to people who can afford celebrity lawyers/PR people who can spin their way into the press. They also of course take time away from coverage of stories of actual national importance. There are also the obvious race/class issues of which stories get national coverage and which don't, but even without that...

There is a reason that these "local" stories need national attention

By Douglas O. Linder

No crime in American history-- let alone a crime that never occurred-- produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern Railroad freight run on March 25, 1931. Over the course of the two decades that followed, the struggle for justice of the "Scottsboro Boys," as the black teens were called, made celebrities out of anonymities, launched and ended careers, wasted lives, produced heroes, opened southern juries to blacks, exacerbated sectional strife, and divided America's political left.

Hoboeing was a common pastime in the Depression year of 1931. For some, riding freights was an appealing adventure compared to the drudgery and dreariness of their daily lives. Others hopped rail cars to move from one fruitless job search to the next. Two dozen or so mainly male--and mainly young--whites and blacks rode the Southern Railroad's Chattanooga to Memphis freight on March 25, 1931. Among them were four black Chattanooga teenagers hoping to investigate a rumor of government jobs in Memphis hauling logs on the river and five other black teens from various parts of Georgia. Four young whites, two males and two females dressed in overalls, also rode the train, returning to Huntsville from unsuccessful job searches in the cotton mills of Chattanooga. (LINK TO DIAGRAM OF TRAIN).

Soon after the train crossed the Alabama border, a white youth walked across the top of a tank car. He stepped on the hand of a black youth named Haywood Patterson, who was hanging on to its side. Patterson had friends aboard the train. A stone-throwing fight erupted between white youths and a larger group of black youths. Eventually, the blacks succeeded in forcing all but one of the members of the white gang off the train. Patterson pulled the one remaining white youth, Orville Gilley, back onto the train after it had accelerated to a life-endangering speed. Some of the whites forced off the train went to the stationmaster in Stevenson to report what they described as an assault by a gang of blacks. The stationmaster wired ahead. A posse in Paint Rock, Alabama stopped the train. (LINK TO MAP OF NORTHERN ALABAMA). Dozens of men with guns rushed at the train as it ground to a halt. The armed men rounded up every black youth they could find. Nine captured blacks, soon to be called "The Scottsboro Boys," were tied together with plow line, loaded on a flatback truck, and taken to a jail in Scottsboro.

It may seem like more noise, but without a national focus, justice can be denied. Since the earliest days of the Republic, crime has been news.

Without the good name and reputation of Duke on the line, do you think this would have made it this far? It certainly wouldn't have before the 1970's. There is a reason some cases merit national attention, despite your discomfort. Duke, one of the wealthiest schools in the US, has a good public reputation.

Now, 1 in 20 college women are raped. I think the ONLY reason this is news is because the woman accuser was older, with a family, and not a Duke student. If this had been a white Duke coed, the intimidation factor to keep her silent would have been intense, more than she could bear. A quiet withdrawal and a new school is what you can expect, if she just doesn't suffer in silence until she sees a shrink years later.

This is news because they couldn't isolate and pressure her, make her doubt what happened. The usual pressure rape victims can face when they know their attacker.

Isn't fair to the accuser? Without national attention and local support, the pressure would have been intense on the DA to drop the case. Rape cases are hard to prove, hard to get witnesses for, and everyone wants them to go away.

What national attention can do is level the playing field. Even a Da's office can be overwhelmed by rich kids and their lawyers. With press attention and public interest, the accuser is more likely to be heard.

One of the thing that drives me nuts about the left is the assumption that news kills other news. It doesn't. People think "wow, if there wasn't the Duke rape trial, people would care about Iran". It doesn't work like that and never has. Crime is newsworthy and always has been. The Lindburgh Kidnapping didn't stop people caring about Hitler, Bonnie and Clyde didn't stop people concerned about the New Deal, and when the dockworkers beat the crap out of the Nazis in the streets of New York, the Spanish Civil War still made the news.

Without national attention, the Scottsboro Boys would have been executed for a crime which never happened.

It also ensures that the accused in the Duke case can mount a full and fair defense because the DA will be under scrutiny as well.

These cases are of national importance. College rape by athletes is a common occurance and one underplayed by universities. It may not be Iraq or Iran, but it matters to people. News isn't just what some people think are important, it is what is happening.

posted by Steve @ 3:00:00 AM

3:00:00 AM

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