Dear Fans of the Radical and Others:
Normally I do not respond to comments with posts, but in this case I would like to. First of all, thanks for all the supportive comments on the last post, and thanks to Ralph Luker for visiting.
Ralph said in the comments to the previous post that I bait KC Johnson, and although I appreciate the spirited defense of my writings by others, I have to agree with Ralph -- in a sense I do bait KC, although I wouldn't have put it that way. The easiest way not to draw KC's attention or his scorn is not to write about him, or respond to his attacks, and to let him continue about his business undisturbed. A lot of people do that, and I can't say I blame them. That said, for many of the reasons cited here, and in my post, I find his attacks on others deeply disturbing and wrong, and I often feel a moral obligation to stand up for people because of the manner in which he attacks them. Ralph and KC are, I believe, friends, and Ralph has every right and moral obligation to stand up for a friend -- we don't know whether Ralph also makes some attempt to intervene informally as well, and we should probably reserve judgement on that score. Some conversations are -- and should be -- private. So please be polite to Ralph when you respond to him here and give him the benefit of the doubt.
That said, here are my friends: Duke faculty members Wahneema Lubiano, Sarah Deutsch, Robyn Wiegman, Claudia Koonz, Irene Silverblatt, Maureen Quilligan and Bill Chafe. Call me pink right down to my panties, but they are. I would add to that list members of the Iowa history department: Linda Kerber, Kevin Mumford and Leslie Schwalm. And I stand up for my friends. My guess is that most of us agree that when someone who is a friend does something wrong, you might be obliged to say so in a constructive way, and even oppose them in a public forum if need be, but you don't stand by and watch that person get machine-gunned on the internet for everything they stand for intellectually and politically.
In the case of the Duke faculty, queers and faculty of color have been subjected to disgusting attacks, and if the mail I have gotten is similar to what they have gone through, they have been threatened with personal violence; KC's posts on the Iowa department seemed to me to be a precursor to the same thing. That is why I posted on it.
KC may have been correct that Duke did not handle the lacrosse case well (although the mind-numbing wealth of details are the kind of thing you put aside a year's worth of reading in your field to absorb, and I can't say for sure) but this was not a symptom of the university's liberalism as an institution -- quite the reverse, in fact. It is the flip side of a university governance process, almost ubiquitously shared among institutions of higher education, that more or less declares the campus a "rights-free" zone. This elimination of civil rights in university processes is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue: it is a question of whether the private sphere -- whether that be Walmart or Harvard -- can make its own rules to protect its own interests as an institution. The law says they can, and they do.
Now, I want to be very clear here to say that I know those men accused of rape were acquitted. I am crystalline on that, and I have said it before. I am also clear that the prosecution of the case was fouled, as criminal cases involving poor people of color are also fouled in a prosecutor's attempt to add big wins to his or her record. But what I am also clear about was that these men got caught in a perfect storm: a prosecutor who needed a big case before the election and a university that was unable to cover up the ugliness of what happened in the way they are used to covering things up.
This latter point, in his zeal to whip up a culture war against elite universities with himself as the general, is something KC has not concerned himself with. Although gathering evidence is his forte, context is not. And the contextual frame that makes the Duke case incredibly complex is this: quick as the administration was to throw the lacrosse team members under the bus, this incident occurred in a historical and cultural context in which drunkenness, theft, queer-baiting, racially discriminatory speech acts and violent, damaging behavior has become a huge problem at Duke and other places (I do not exempt Zenith from this.) University administrations, as a group, continue to draw a curtain over these problems rather than address them in substantive ways. Were they to address sexual violence and substance abuse, for example, as the criminal behavior it often is, they would -- by federal law -- have to report significantly higher crime statistics to prospective students and their parents than they do, and risk losing federal funding. Instead, students who do awful things are brought up before university discipline boards, punished internally, and victims of violence are often persuaded to give up their right to pursue judicial redress in exchange for getting some "justice" from the university. At Zenith, an administrator told me, they budget $500,0000 a year for student theft and property damage -- which, the last time I looked, was 5/6 of the financial aid budget.
What this means at Duke -- as it has at Zenith -- is that in any potentially felonious confrontation, the perpetrator is just as likely to be privileged as the person who has been harmed, because the interest of the university is that the crime not see the light of day at all. This is what the so-called 88 at Duke were responding to. And if, in the instance of the lacrosse case, the response was inappropriate to the actual circumstances, if students were unfairly stigmatized in classrooms, that should have been the object of civilized critique as well.
What should not have happened is a carnival of racism, hate mail, queer-baiting, and open season on academic fields -- and scholars --that have gained an important place in the academy, not at the expense of others, but because they are smart critical thinkers. KC's field of foreign policy has not been made irrelevant by feminists, queer theorists and critical race thinkers -- it is immeasurably better for the work on gender, race and culture that has been brought to it in the last two decades. And yet, these fields have exactly been the point of the critique, in intensely personal ways. When I made my first appearance in DIW, commenters had one long discussion about whether I was black or not because I wrote about race -- "nappy headed 'ho" was the phrase used -- ultimately deciding that I wasn't, because I "write too well." I have been mocked for being a lesbian, and for being a woman. I have been mocked for the courses I teach. I have received hate email and snail mail; and university administrators, trustees, and colleagues have received these hateful messages about me. I don't think that this blog, Tenured Radical, supports or harbors the same level of venom that Durham in Wonderland did.
So while I agree with Ralph that blogging tends to support a general social tendency toward "clustering" among those with like opinions (much as newspaper reading, and TV watching does as well), I don't think that the commenters here are the same as the DIW crowd.
That said, Ralph's Cliopatra blog is one effort to try to wrestle with that, KC or no KC, so don't insult him please. I consider him a colleague, and I am glad that he showed up here.
It has been pointed out to me in the comments and by email that the accused Duke college students were not acquitted, the charges were dropped: I misspoke here, since that is in fact what I meant. Since I am not a criminal attorney, a defendant, or passionate about the legal and forensic issues at work in the Duke case, the distinction is less important to me than perhaps it should be. It has also been pointed out to me that I, and others who have been targeted by KC, have never been willing to say/admit that the accuser was not raped. I can't speak for other people, but why it would make an iota of difference if I did say such a thing -- since I never claimed that I knew a rape had occurred in the first place; since I have no authority over this case or any of its victims; and since either an acquittal or the dropping of charges through the fair use of scientific evidence should indicate to any casual observer (including me, who has not exactly been asleep for the past eight months) that the felony in question was doubtless not committed by those accused of it -- I do not know. But if it makes anyone feel better, by all means.....and btw, there are some long, thoughtful comments on this post that are worth taking the time to read.
Wednesday morning postscript: Once again, except for one comment that will give readers a taste of the others, spiteful and/or vicious comments have been removed, especially those comments that continue to misread the original April post. Talk about potbangers.....
Sunday Book Roundup
4 hours ago