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Those who rushed to judgment should rush to defend exonerated Duke lacrosse players

"Whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them."

- Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong in apologizing Thursday to the members of the Duke lacrosse team

Next week, while radio host Don Imus is looking for another job, I'd like to see the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson take a trip to Durham, N.C.

I'd like to see them organize a protest. I'd like to see all the Rainbow-P.U.S.H. people and all the activists and all the college hippies get together and organize a march.

I'd like to see that march start at the home of District Attorney Michael Nifong. I'd like to see Al and Jesse holding signs that say something like "Justice for the Duke Three" or "Nifong got it wrong."

I'd like to see them pursue Nifong with the vehemence and relentlessness with which they've called for Imus' job. I'd like to see them demand Nifong not only be disbarred but go to prison.

Then I'd like to see the marchers swing by the houses of the people who stood in the courtroom during the Duke lacrosse players' hearing threatening to kill them.

Finally, if they can find her, I'd like to see the march end at the stripper's home. I'd like to see Jackson and Sharpton revoke the scholarship that was offered to her after her "plight" became national news. I'd like to hear chants of "Your story was false, so the team walks." I'd like for them to do this for the benefit of three young men who were innocent. They committed no crime other than the politically incorrect offense of being white males.

Innocent, despite the affront of going to an affluent, private school.

Innocent, despite the thirst for blood by so-called civil rights activists and members of the media giddy over a story with so much sex and racial tension.

Innocent.

But I won't get my wish, of course. Sharpton and Jackson are too busy trying to crucify a goofball with a cowboy hat and a microphone.

Imus was wrong to say what he said about the Rutgers women's basketball team. No doubt about it. And he was wrong to fall back on the tired, old stand-by excuse "I know black people, I have black friends." It damaged his apology.

But he did apologize. He apologized on his show. He apologized on Sharpton's show. He is going to apologize in person to the women he offended. He's lost his job. When will it be enough? Should he voluntarily go to prison for a few years? Maybe he should kill himself. Would that be enough?

It's never enough because Jackson and Sharpton have conditioned us to believe that there is no leeway anymore, that no apology is sincere enough or contrite enough. It's blood or nothing. Ruin the man. Disgrace him. Who cares what he meant to say? Who cares how sorry he is? He sinned against blacks and women and is therefore guilty without a trial. Hang him.

Does that kind of scenario not sound just the least little bit familiar?

It's what happened to the Duke boys. Trial by media storm. Convicted and sentenced to a life forever shadowed by the words "racists" and "rape charges."

Someone should be standing up for them now.

But though the Duke boys might've been oppressed, they aren't black or poor. So Jackson and Sharpton will stay away. They will likely choose to ignore this particular injustice.

Black people should demand better of the people who claim to represent them. Civil rights activists ought to fight for the rights of all people, not just the ones whose plights are convenient to a cause or conducive to getting their faces on television again.

Imus made a target out of people who didn't deserve it, and he paid the price. The Duke athletes didn't deserve to be targets either, but now their names are also forever linked to unjust accusations.

The people who were so quick to defend one group should now stand up for the other. They should scream for apologies, fairness and justice for them now in voices just as loud as the ones they used to call for their heads then.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.

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