Duke, Deceit and Rehnquist

Breaking news! This just in!

Nancy Grace has no idea what happened in the Duke lacrosse sexual abuse case. Neither does Tucker Carlson. Ditto for Rush Limbaugh.

And neither do I. Nor does anyone else, save the lacrosse players or the strip…er, exotic dancer, though they appear to disagree. Was it rape? Did she lie? Was there another kind of assault? Is she looking for attention?

Don't know. Can't possibly know. Wish everyone -- from MSNBC's Joe Scarborough to CNN's Wolf Blitzer to District Attorney Mike Nifong -- would stop talking about it.

But conservatives emboldened by Duke case prosecutor Mike Nifong's apparent ethical lapses should not deny one aspect of the case that rings resoundingly true: There almost certainly were racial taunts that night. And those black Duke students who came forward afterward to talk about feeling uncomfortable on their overwhelmingly white, wealthy campus were certainly telling the truth too.

Honestly, I don't have a clue whether any of the three players charged in the case harbors a racist bone in their body. But after spending five years -- wonderful years, actually -- working in Charleston, S.C., I can tell you two things about race and deceit in the old South.

One, that racism is still very much alive, lurking where you don't expect it.

And two, nobody is ever honest about it.

Five years in Charleston, five quick examples.

While working as a reporter and anchor for the CBS affiliate in town, I went to have drinks with my girlfriend and a new friend from her work. It took about 27 minutes of innocuous conversation and then …BAM! She said it. Apparently, my girlfriend and I passed some secret John Birch Society test we didn't know we were taking. Out of nowhere, her new friend called a white politician (I've completely forgotten whom) a "N - - ger lover." Charming girl. That's one.

Number two came on a Sunday, riding in an SUV marked with the TV station's call letters. The cameraman and I pulled up next to a black family in another car with four very young children dressed in their Sunday best. Four-year-olds in suits are probably heading to church, I figured. Very cute. They waved enthusiastically at the news truck. I smiled and waved back. Then the cameraman said it, a word I hadn't heard before or since. "Niglets," he observed.

Ben Mankiewicz is host of "The Young Turks" on Air America Radio.

Here's three -- it involved middle-aged woman who worked for Charleston County. I was chatting with her, stalling before some council meeting about the growth of businesses on upper King Street, a predominantly black part of town. "They cross the street slower in front of white drivers, to slow us down," she said.

I swear I'm not making it up. She thought she'd uncovered a citywide, slow-walking black conspiracy.

Next, another TV station employee, during a conversation about women. I mentioned a black woman I thought was attractive. "How many black women have you been with?" he asked.

"Two," I said ( It's now three, by the way. That's progress).

"Aren't they dirty…down there?"

Finally, number five: An elected official. A smart, sexy woman with whom I was flirting. We were on a date driving through the overwhelmingly black neighborhood that leads to the bridge that takes you to an overwhelmingly white neighborhood. At probably 30 mph, she hit the "lock door" button on the car. "Blacktown," she explained, as if it were obvious.

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