Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Massie Affair On American Experience

I watched the PBS show American Experience on The Massie Affair about the alleged gang rape of Thalia Massie in 1931 Honolulu, the subsequent rape trial which ended in a hung jury and the murder of one of the men who had been accused of rape.

It was enlightening how injustice done to men accused of rape which popularly gets described strictly as a wrong done by the alleged rape victim has far more men involved in the injustice than the stereotype, "women lie about rape" would have us believe.

In the initial interview with the alleged rape victim -- who didn't want to go to the police -- she couldn't identify any of her alleged assailants, couldn't confirm their race and couldn't give the license number of the car she was allegedly pulled into. She did have physical injuries, but the source of those should be considered unknown. For all I know her husband whom she publicly stormed out on earlier that night inflicted those injuries which couldn't be hidden and had her report rape to protect his own reputation as a Navy officer and a gentleman. He claimed that she reported to him over the phone, "something terrible has happened" but considering everything else about this case that claim shouldn't automatically be considered to be truthful.

Of course in 1931 there would be no acknowledgement of domestic abuse committed by those classified as good men. The show acknowledged the conflict in their marriage, including the husband's threat to divorce his wife if she didn't behave properly, but seemed to accept the husband's claim without question. Maybe there was proof of this claim but it wasn't presented.

When Massie's wife later gave a close match to a license plate recorded in another police complaint, that testimony had to involve white men because someone presented her with the new detailed information so that her case could be solved. Possibly that information was given to her in a way which was coercive, possibly even a threat to label her publicly as a false accuser. But this wasn't the segregated south and the clearly inconsistant evidence resulted in a mistrial and the freeing of the defendants.

Not surprisingly this allegation happened when white supremacists from the American south were appalled that non-white Hawaiians were running loose in Hawaii and not controlled the way blacks were in their hometowns. They had a white woman who reported rape -- and a lack of evidence to link any particular man or men to her rape was NOT going to stop them from using this case to turn Hawaii into what they wanted it to be.

One report of rape with unknown assailants got baselessly magnified into 40 rapes committed against white women by non-white Hawaiians. This magnification was done by men.

The Duke rape case is often presented as a modern version of cases like this one with terms like lynch mob thrown about, but nobody kidnapped one of the Duke players, threatened him with a gun in an effort to get a confession and when that didn't work nobody shot him in the heart and coldly let him bleed to death before putting his body in the car with the intent of disposing of the murder victim so a body would never be found.

No group of people were charged in the violent death of a Duke lacrosse player, found guilty of manslaughter, given 10 years and then before their sentences began had those sentences commuted to 1 hour because of the public outcry in support of murderers. Nobody who admitted their guilt in a Duke lacrosse player's death were treated like heroes.

Despite all those obvious non-parallels people who are treated as credible continue to say the racism behind cases such as Massie's and the Scottboro boys has done an exact 180 with the Duke case as the proof.

What I found so telling in the Duke case was the number of people who "knew" the claim was false the second they learned the alleged rape victim was black and the alleged gang rapists were white. To them gang rape is still something straight out of a 193os newspaper.

...The roads go through jungles and in these remote places bands of degenerate natives lie in wait for white women driving by. At least forty cases of such outrages have occurred and nobody has been punished... The whole island should promptly be put under martial law... -- Hawaii Hochi, January 12, 1932

These lies came from men, not women. They wanted to put Hawaii under martial law and they needed a reason other than greed and blind bigotry. If these lies were exposed they could simply blame all those lying white women and claim that they were genuinely trying to protect those they believed to be innocent women. Chivalry in action.

They could also deny that the greater threat to women's sexual safety in Hawaii at that time was from American white men who viewed non-white Hawaiian women as fair game. Of course non-white rape victims wouldn't have been "real" rape victims.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:49 AM   1 comments links to this post


At April 02, 2008 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's the Duluth (Minnesota) lynchings from about the same time period.

A white woman accused several black men of raping her.

A mob seized three of the men from jail and lynched them in downtown Duluth.

Lynch mobs didn't only occur in the south, and they didn't always require southerners.


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