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Race cannot be discounted as factor

Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, May 2, 2006

I would like to respond to Elizabeth Coffey’s April 27 column “Keep the Race Issue out of it.” First off, I want to say that I am a huge Duke fan, and have the utmost respect for the school. In many ways, I consider Duke to be the Notre Dame of the south. I will also agree with her that what occurred in Durham is a moral disaster. However, I must say that I was disappointed by her article in Thursday’s edition of The Observer. When you consider a party of all-white, upper-class males watching an African-American woman remove her clothes, you cannot immediately say that racism was an issue. However, when there are reports that the men were screaming racial slurs directed at black women and teasing them about picking cotton, it becomes a racial issue.

Next, you talk about Duke being 56 percent white, but you neglect the fact that the lacrosse team is 97 percent white. On top of this, these lacrosse players generally come from the most upper-class schools on the Eastern seaboard. So it is fairly safe to say that these kids probably don’t associate with many black women.

I cannot say if rape occurred or not, and I hope and pray that it did not. To argue that race does not even play a minor role in this situation is simply ignorant. As much as it hurts to admit, racism is still alive and well within the United States, especially in the South.

The quote that really upset me though, was the following: “What kind of a mother is also a stripper?” To say that without placing yourself in the mother’s shoes is rather offending. You have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a single mother trying to make it through college, raise your child without a father and also make money. You cannot fault a mother that does whatever she legally can to feed and take care of her child. Your opinion seems both elitist and condescending.

Last, to state that Notre Dame is a “rare exception these days” could actually be laughed at by an outsider. You probably don’t remember this or know about it, but a few years before I entered Notre Dame in 2002, four athletes were on trial for sexual assault. On top of this, former Irish football player Clifford Jefferson was also accused of rape. Last, a member of our Board of Trustees, Dave Duerson, turned in his resignation in 2004 after he reportedly assaulted his wife. We are not the moral beacon that you purport us to be. Unfortunately, your article makes our school appear that we are simply unaware of our institution’s shortcomings.

I will agree with you that the “race card” is played too often, but it must be considered in this case. On top of this, be careful about what you state without actually considering where the other side is coming from. While it is believable that the victim could be lying, do not criticize a mother for trying to make ends meet for her child. I issue a challenge – immerse yourself in poverty, live like this country’s poor population does for an extended period of time, then write another editorial about what you have learned. You might have a new perspective.

Greg Hiltzsenioroff-campusApril 27