Just what we need — another new Obama appointee with a controversial past and radical inclinations.
Several weeks ago, the president announced his intention to make three appointments to the National Council on the Humanities. One of them is Cathy Davidson, an English professor at Duke University. Davidson’s curriculum vitae includes some very impressive-sounding credentials: past president of the American Studies Association (ASA), past editor of the American Literature journal, and vice-provost of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke.
But one thing she probably won’t voluntarily mention at her confirmation hearing is that she was a member of Duke University’s “Group of 88.” These faculty members became known across the nation when they tried to exploit the infamous Duke lacrosse team scandal to make a political statement about race relations and white privilege.
In that incident, three lacrosse team members were accused of rape by a stripper hired to dance at a party. Her allegations seemed questionable from the start and were eventually proven false, but not before the team’s season was canceled, the coach was fired, and the three accused players left school in a cloud of suspicion.
The 88 faculty members signed an open letter titled “What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?” which depicted the school as a hotbed of racism and suggested that the “results of the police investigation” were secondary to the “anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be the objects of racism and sexism.”
Nearly a year later, in January of 2007, Davidson published an op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer that tried to finesse the group’s original intent without backing off from the original’s condemnatory tone. By that time, it had become obvious that the lacrosse players were innocent, which she begrudgingly noted. But much of her language appeared to suggest that their innocence was irrelevant; she discussed, among other similar statements, “the glaring social disparities implicit in what we know happened on March 13 [the night of the alleged rape],” and “Duke again came to symbolize the most lurid and sexualized form of race privilege.”
“Will future rape victims dare to step forward after such a spectacle?” she continued as if there really were a rape victim. “Will African-Americans with legitimate grievances be willing to demand justice in the wake of this public debacle?”
The op-ed was hardly out of character for Davidson. While much of her scholarly writing is not political, some of it reveals that she views the world through a prism of gender and race grievances, and that the U.S. holds no special place in her heart.
In a “presidential address” to the 1993 American Studies Association convention, she derided American exceptionalism — the idea that the U.S. is a special nation due to its founding on principles of liberty and equality under the law — as “exceptionally ignorant of anything other than the Puritan tradition founded on Plymouth Rock.”