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Alcohol, rape and race

Kevin Anderson | 16:14 UK time, Monday, 3 April 2006

Duke University in North Carolina in the United States is struggling with a firestorm of controversy after three players on its lacrosse team were accused of violently sexually assaulting an exotic dancer.

The players are white, and the dancer is black. The woman claims that they shouted racial slurs as they choked and raped her. What does this say about race relations in the US?

There have been at least a half dozen protests on campus, and students have put up WANTED posters with pictures of the lacrosse team calling on those responsible to turn themselves into authorities.

The situation is best summed up by this line in the student newspaper, The Chronicle:

Duke-Durham relations-long characterized by tension and unease-have recently been exacerbated by allegations that members of the men's lacrosse team raped, sodomized, strangled and robbed an exotic dancer at a party during Spring Break.

Some local black residents see Duke as a bastion of white privilege, calling it The Plantation.

It costs $43,000 a year to attend the university, higher than the annual per capita income of Durham North Carolina where the university is located.

Durham is racially balanced between black and white, but at Duke, only 11% of the students are black.

The incident has raised tensions between Duke University and nearby North Carolina Central University, where the dancer, a 27-year-old mother of two, goes to school.

And it has highlighted tensions between Duke and Durham, which in one study, had the fifth worst 'town-gown' relations in the country.

But rape and race has a long and dark history in the South. Well into the last century, black men and boys were lynched on accusations that they had so much as looked at white women, while white men raped black women with impunity.

The incident at Duke has been a grim reminder of this history. But is this part of history or continues on into the present?

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