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Pimp culture gets real

"In my eyes I done seen some crazy thangs in the streets. Gotta couple hos workin' on the changes for me ..."

- Lyrics from "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp,'' 2006 winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song, by Al Kapone for "Hustle and Flow.''

The air is so thick with irony and hypocrisy these days, it's hard to find oxygen to breathe.

On the same day that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declared the three white Duke University lacrosse team players innocent of the alleged rape of a black stripper, MSNBC canceled its simulcast of the Don Imus radio show for a racial slur against the mostly black Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Two athletic teams - one mostly white male, one mostly black female.

Two examples of race and gender colliding. One rogue prosecutor; one rude shock jock.

Obviously, there's no comparison between the two cases in terms of consequences. While the Rutgers gals suffered hurt feelings, Imus lost his television gig and his radio show, the three Duke men potentially faced 30 years in prison and District Attorney Mike Nifong faces ethics charges.

But the two episodes do share the complicating and distorting factors of race, sex and politics.

Of course, they both share the opportunistic involvement of those two rogue race-baiting reverends, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Both not only came to the aid of the Rutgers basketball team but grabbed the microphones before the accused Duke players had their day in court.

In Imus' case, neither was willing to accept the radio host's apology for his unfunny racist remark aimed at the basketball players, and both worked, successfully, to get him off television and radio airwaves.

In the Duke case, we will succumb to suffocation, I suspect, if we hold our breath waiting for Sharpton and Jackson to apologize for feeding the racist frenzy that condemned those three young men whose lives were nearly ruined by innuendo, lies, an out-of-control prosecutor and a complicit media.

We will also collapse onto the fainting couch waiting for an apology from Duke's "Group of 88'' - the coalition of arts and science faculty who took out a full-page ad in the Duke newspaper commending students who demonstrated and distributed a "wanted'' poster of the lacrosse team. The 88 also promised to "turn up the volume'' on the administration in dealing with the crimes of these "farm animals,'' as English and Afro-American Studies professor Houston Baker described the lacrosse players in an e-mail to the mother of a team member.

Duke President Richard Brodhead, meanwhile, suspended the accused, accepted the resignation of lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and canceled the rest of the 2006 lacrosse season. It was not a pretty day for due process.

But the man behind the curtain orchestrating this travesty of justice was Nifong. In the rap vernacular that brought down Imus, he pimped the accuser, using an apparently troubled young woman for his own political gain in his re-election bid, instead of sending her home where she belonged.

Despite the obvious double standard among those who purport to work for racial harmony, the convergence of these two events may be the tipping point in our national debate about race, sex and speech. Let's do cut close to the bone, but, lest we become enamored of our virtue, we should acknowledge a couple of facts:

First, despite protestations to the contrary, it's hard to believe NBC and CBS dropped Imus only because of his remarks. The two networks fired him, at least in part, because the show's advertisers pulled out. Does anyone really doubt that Imus would be on air today if the cash were still flowing?

Second, Duke administrators and trustees, who are now demanding a complete investigation into Nifong's behavior, are a year late and a conscience short. With notable exceptions, administrators and faculty behaved abominably and should be considering an investigation into their own hearts. What a contrast to the support Rutgers University gave its students.

Those who have performed most honorably throughout this disgraceful season of sexual spin and racial one-upmanship are the athletes from both teams. Mature and dignified during their respective news conferences, they've put the grown-ups to shame and offer reason to hope that the rising generation of young Americans will put this corrupt house in order.

Meanwhile, as Attorney General Cooper said: "A lot of people owe a lot of apologies to a lot of people."

E-mail nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kparker@kparker.com. Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.