Last Dance for Grace: Part I


It seems like Vincent Clark, who penned the introduction, and Myra Shird, who wrote the foreword, never bothered to read each other’s work. Not only that, but no one who edited the book noticed how philosophically contradictory the two passages are. Myrd Shird, wants to lecture the reader on we shouldn’t be prejudice, Clark wants to tell us how prejudice he is.

Shird starts off by claiming that this case is about injustice. Yes, and there was injustice. But not the kind that she was talking about. Shird stated that Crystal Mangum’s rights were trampled and she was even questioned why there aren’t laws in place to protect victims of sexual assault. Actually, there are, they’re called rape shield laws.

But continuing skewed logic she demands to know, “if any exotic dancer is promiscuous and sleeps with five or six guys within a 24 hour time period, do we find her less credible if she says that the 7th guy raped her?” (Shird, page vi-vii) But this case has nothing to do with women being promiscuous. It wasn’t Crystal’s sexual history that undermined the case. It was her inability to keep her story straight and have any of her tale match up with reality.

Crystal’s rape kit came back with DNA from several different male sources in and on her. None of these were a match to the Duke students. Not only was she lacking the DNA of 3 men who she claimed raped and beat her, she lied about her sexual activities that day. Since she had previously claimed that she hadn’t had sex within a week of the assault. This lie, coupled with the lack of evidence against the lacrosse players is that hurt her credibility.

It comes across that Shird didn’t really understand the law at all. She is shocked that the boys are declared innocent and wonders, “is he [Attorney General Roy Cooper] aware of the state’s definition of assault.” (Shird, page vii) Does Shird know the state’s definition of the word “innocent”?

Shird continues in this distorted point of view and states, “From the outside looking in, the best interests of the victim has never been a priority. It appears that from the very beginning ulterior motives clouded the truth. We know that the victim has still not experienced justice. Her story has never been heard.” (Shird, page viii) Wrong. Her story was heard. In fact, her stories were heard. In the beginning, there was no lack of people who wanted to listen to everything that Crystal had to say.

The forward becomes more ridiculous as it continues. Shird writes, “I have always been befuddled as to how some people can find wrong in others and overlook their own individual shortcomings.” (Shird, page viii) Right. So don’t look at Crystal, look at yourself. You flawed excuse for a human being.

The professor then bizarrely compares Crystal Mangum to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter heroine, Hester Prynne. She wants to draw a parallel between the Puritan community that shuns Hester and today’s community that looks down on women in exotic professions. Only there really isn’t any likeness.

“Similarly, the Puritan community, not only regarded adultery as a sin, but had also criminalized the act.” (Shird, page ix) Yes, it’s because it broke one of the 10 commandments. Religion was their law. Some of the other commandments forbid stealing and murder. Adultery was a crime just as coveting was. Also, adultery is not a criminalized act in this day and age except in very particular circumstances. You never hear of someone going to jail for adultery. It just doesn’t happen.

She writes, “Instead of further debasing her [Hester], the Puritan women had the power to elevate Hester.” (Shird, page x) The Puritan women were supposed to “elevate” Hester? For doing something that was forbidden by law and socially unacceptable? Puritan women didn’t have the much power or social standing to okay her actions and back then it would have been like backing a murderer who had confessed their guilt.

Shird ineptly explains, “The purpose, not being to praise her for her sin, but to let her know that she was not alone.” (Shird, page x) But she was alone. Puritan women didn’t break religious law and even if they did, the last thing they would do would be publically empathize with the adulteress.

The outlandishness continues as she Shird states, “The women seem hardest on Hester. There was no sense of empathy, no sense of ‘I’ve been there, I know how lonely and cold nights can get.’ ” (Shird, page xi) This is so ridiculous that I didn’t even know how to respond to it.

In today’s society women strive to be sexualized. Stripping is seen as glorious and progressive. There is no shortage of women who want to flash 40-year-old Girls Gone Wild camera men all in the name of sexual liberation. Did Paris Hilton first appear on the pop culture radar because of her modesty? Did Kim Kardashian? Does Britney Spears sell records because of her amazing vocal ability?

But wait, we need to be judgmental for a second!

“I know women who call exotic dancers whores, but who find their own penchant to only sleep with BMW-driving, well dressed, white collar, college-graduates who pays their bills as a simple act of self preservation.” (Shird, page x) I know women who think that their parents should pay a college $80k so that they can get an MRS Degree. What’s your point? Other people’s behavior doesn’t excuse what Crystal did or make any of this rambling make sense.

But we venture into utter pretentiousness, “When judging we heap out our values and morals on others. We close the door on learning about others and cut off the faucet of meaningful relationship.” (Shird, page x) Yes, keep your faucets running kids. “The hypocrisy of judging and labeling has led to major societal catastrophes such as slavery and the holocaust.” (Shird, page xi) Now we’re talking about Crystal Mangum, slavery and the holocaust all together.

At the end of the forward, Shird implores, “For the sake of mankind, ‘judge yet not, that ye be judged not’.” (Shird, page xii) If we’re supposed to be so loving and accepting then why is Shird judging Crystal and the Duke boys. Crystal was a victim with tramples rights, the lacrosse players were rich boys who managed to bend the law enough to get away with rape. Yes, I can feel the love.

The only judgement that really matters in this case was the legal one that declared the lacrosse players innocent. Not that much about this section made any sense at all. Comparing Crystal to a famous adulteress? Chastising people for judging Crystal when she falsely accused innocent people of rape? Insinuating that this incidence is on the same level as the holocaust and slavery? Is she serious?

The Introduction

Vincent Clark, the writer of the introduction, who was also the editor of the book, immediately starts contradicting Shird’s philosophy. While Shird lectures against the hypocrisy of judgment and labeling, Clark delves right into it.

For example:

“The hypocrisy of labeling and judging has caused caused tremendous heartache for many. The only way to mitigate the heartache is for society to be more tolerant and less judgemental.” (Shird, xii)

“I’ve also personally experienced enough slights that sometimes I have to fight the urge to makes me want to cast all white people as racists.” (Clark, page xii)

“Judging, which is manifested by labeling, has created some of the major problems in our school system and communities today.” (Shird, page xi)

“Immediately, I made the assumption about what happened and I had not even read through half of the article.” (Clark, page x)

“Policemen, teachers, salespeople,  and a gamut of others often judge individuals, based on the color of their skin, the price of their clothes, and even by the music they listen to. This is incredibly unfair and limits individuality.” (Shird, page xi)

“Why would some good white kid want to be with some black stripper anyway?” (Clark, page xiv)

Clark throws in the word “alleged” every so often, but he mainly refers to Crystal as “the victim.” He also continues in his triad about race. It’s all about race. All of it. Clark just can’t talk enough about racial issues.

This refusal to look at the alleged crime itself without tacking on whatever issue the party in question was crusading against was one of the main problems with the media circus that surrounded the case. Everyone had a vested interest. In a moment of clarity, Shird remarks, “on the other hand, there was no one real there for the accuser. Real defines an entity who has no ulterior motives.” (Shird, page vi)

Overall, the forward and the introduction are at war with each other. And show such contradiction points of view it sounds like no one actually read one section after the other. In the end, Clark does exactly what Shard claims that we shouldn’t do. He judges all the information that he has about the case based on the race of the accuser and the accused. Unfortunately, things don’t get any better from there.

To read all of the articles in the Last Dance for Grace series, click here. Blogs are in reverse chronological order.