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No escape 

We are all so ready to put the lacrosse tragedy behind us.

Outside now, as when the story broke, fresh, young leaves paint a bright, green hue across the Piedmont. Temperatures are rising, the days are longer, and school is almost over. It is the first taste of summer, and after what we've been through, who isn't thinking about escape?

It would be nice if we could walk away from the questions that seem to grow exponentially from the case. There is some relief in the finality of the attorney general's decision to drop charges. But the case exposed so many deep nerves, it'll be years before the pain disappears. And it revealed fundamental problems that will take even longer to fix—assuming we try.

There's the party culture and latent racism on campus the case revealed. Go back and read Fiona Morgan's transcript of a conversation between African-American students in our March 29, 2006, issue, just days after the accusations went public ("Not your video ho"). That story became a basis for the absurdly maligned ad in the Duke Chronicle signed by 88 faculty members concerned about those campus issues.

There's the student arrogance and exaltation of sports addressed by Hal Crowther in June in "Sympathy for the Devils?"

There was the hyper-heated media coverage, most of which completely missed the truth about Duke and Durham. I wrote about that last May ("Durham-Duke") and last month ("The house next door").

There was the mislaid trust in Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, whom we endorsed for re-election not believing he could throw a respected career away by so mishandling the case. We were wrong, as proven by the defense and The News & Observer, and wrote that he should step away from the case just days before he did ("Recuse yourself"). And, as the accused lacrosse players pointed out, his actions raise disturbing questions about the way all justice is handled in Durham County.

And there's the sad case of stripper and N.C. Central student Crystal Gale Mangum. Though there's no evidence of rape, she's still a victim.

Finally, there's what happened at 610 Buchanan Blvd. the night of March 13, 2006; the drinking, the strip show and the racial taunts are what set this saga in motion. The lacrosse players must take responsibility for that.

I wrote in this season a year ago: "As the dogwoods bloomed and the early spring air wavered between crisp and sublime, filled with the perfume of wisteria, the nightmare on Buchanan Boulevard invaded our every hour.... The image of drunken, white lacrosse players shouting racial slurs at a mom from the black school across town fleeing a job stripping for their pleasure and her own survival is bad enough."

That's something we can't escape, either.

  • We are all so ready to put the lacrosse tragedy behind us.

More by Richard Hart

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