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Let's Rush Towards Facts, Not Judgment

by Todd A. Smith

 

 

What Happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?


In this current political and social climate, a rush to judgment has become commonplace when someone faces any kind of allegation.


We saw a rush to judgment in the murder of Jazmine Barnes.


We saw a rush to judgment when rape allegations against R&B singer Chris Brown came out of Paris.


We saw a rush to judgment in the infamous video of teens from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky facing off with Native American elder, Nathan Phillips.


We saw a rush to judgment over 10 years ago when three members of the Duke University lacrosse team faced allegations that they raped an African-American exotic dancer.


And in the #MeToo movement, some innocent men lose their reputations and careers immediately if a woman said he sneezed in her vicinity.


The problem that exists in American society is that everyone has a preconceived agenda that they want to push and they desperately need facts to back up their position.


The issue with that is that very few want to wait to see what the actual facts are before they present their opinion as fact.


Furthermore, no race, gender or political group is totally innocent of rushing to judgment just to push his or her narrative forward.


Back in 2006, the Duke lacrosse rape case changed my life for the better.


Like many people in America, even students and professors on the Duke campus in Durham, N.C., the case against star lacrosse players David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty seemed like an open and shut situation.


Because people already had preconceived notions about three affluent and intelligent White male students from the “Harvard of the South,” the rape allegations seemed to be the perfect case to talk about White privilege, racism and sexism.


All of those things plague American society, but the case against Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty did not fit into either of those prejudices.


Crystal Mangum, a former student at North Carolina Central University working as an exotic dancer at the time, alleged that the three lacrosse players raped her at a house party in the city of Durham.


Immediately, many people in America took sides because they believed everything Mangum said about the incident.


Because women really deal with sexual assault, even though many often do not believe their allegations unfortunately, they saw the case as a way to shine light on sexual assaults on college campuses.


Because many African-American women historically have been subjected to objectification, racism and sexual assault at the hands of powerful White men, many in the African-American community immediately believed Mangum’s story.


And because Duke University is filled with students from rich and powerful families from the East Coast and it sits in the middle of a working class city, many in the city saw the alleged rape as elitism run amok.


Many people called for immediate prison time without a conviction.


Many people called for castrating the alleged rapists.


And many people called for the Duke lacrosse coach’s termination.


Coach Mike Pressler eventually stepped down from his position and the lacrosse season at Duke got canceled.


The problem with all of that is that none of Mangum’s allegations proved true.


The single mother concocted the story out of thin air to justify her getting drunk and stripping instead of being at home with her young child.


Despite the exoneration of all of the alleged rapists, the damage had already occurred.


The allegations almost permanently ruined the lives of Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty.


Even though they did not get convicted, branding someone as an alleged rapist and blasting their names and faces on television screens across the world probably ruined their reputation forever because some people will believe allegations forever even if they are proven false.


Unfortunately, over a decade later Americans still constantly make the same mistakes.


The media, including RegalMag.com, often wants to be the first to break a story even if it’s later proved not to be factual.


Politically, conservatives, liberals and moderates want so desperately to find stories that back up their prejudices and views, and even when they are proven wrong refuse to apologize or make amends for their rhetoric.


This week, I have seen conservatives criticize everyone for misinterpreting the incident in Washington, D.C. between Phillips and high school student, Nick Sandmann.


However, some of those same people did not apologize for jumping on the Brown rape story too quickly and rushing to call him a rapist.


Brown left Paris with no rape charges filed against him and he plans to sue his accuser for defamation.


Personally, I had incorrect feelings about the murder of Barnes in December 2017.


Even though something seemed off to me about the Barnes murder from Jump Street, I assumed the story about a White man killing Barnes for no reason was true and I wrote an op-ed about it.


Facts now appear to show that the murderer was an African-American gang member who killed Barnes in a case of mistaken identity.


But the allegations that it was a White man who killed Barnes stoked fears throughout Houston about racist White people killing little African-American children for no reason.


And for many, it became just more proof of how much more racist America has become over the last two years.


While America is extremely racist and bigoted, Barnes’ murder had nothing to do with that despite what journalists, talking heads in the mass media, police officers and civil rights activists initially believed.


What American society has to do is take a deep breath every time they hear a story and wait for the facts to materialize.


No one has to create a story to prove their political point or justify their beliefs.


There are plenty of examples of real racism that we do not have to make every story fit into that category.


There is enough real sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault that we can talk about.


Therefore, it is O.K. to let the facts come out before we brand innocent men as rapists.


There is enough White privilege in the world and elitism in the world.


Therefore, we do not have to make everything a Black or White thing before we get to see the total picture.


No group is guiltier than the other and no group is totally innocent.


Every group, every profession and every persuasion has made the mistake of jumping the gun too soon.


Eventually, if a runner jumps the gun too many times they can get disqualified from the race.


Those rushing to judgment should think about that before they eventually lose all credibility.


This article was published on Friday 25 January, 2019.
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