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Looking for too many messages in the Tyson case


Mike Tyson has been found guilty by a jury, and that ought to be it. But it hasn't been. All sorts of social significance is being found in his trial and conviction. And some of it I find strange.

First, there is the view by some blacks that Tyson is the victim of some sort of white conspiracy to bring down successful black men. On the black radio call-in shows, these conspirators are known only as "they," which means white society.

The trouble with this theory is that it would mean that white society somehow persuaded a young, black beauty contestant to go along with its plot. And other black contestants were persuaded to testify about what a slob Tyson was.

And they also found a few blacks to serve on the jury and join in on the scheme.

I suppose it could have happened. But why would white racists go to all that bother? Is there a blond, blue-eyed heavyweight contender waiting to become champion? The current champion is also black. And so are all of the other contenders. What is to be gained by putting Tyson in prison?

Looking at the trial, one could just as easily say that white, middle-class America -- and it doesn't get any more white and middle class than Indianapolis -- was showing that it would go to considerable lengths to defend the virtue of a young black woman who was set upon by a cruel man.

Of course, that's not necessarily true, either. If the victim had been a black motel cleaning girl and the rapist a black street-corner lout, it's doubtful that the case would have come to trial.

So in a way, Tyson was a victim of his own success at beating faces to a pulp for multimillion-dollar fees. If he beat people up only for their wallets and wristwatches, he might be off the hook.

Then there is the theory, stated by many women's advocate groups, that this will send a message to society that date rape will be taken seriously.

At least that's this week's message. It wasn't long ago that the not guilty verdict in the Willie Smith trial was supposed to be sending a gloomy message that a date-rape victim will not be taken seriously.

But when that trial began, the message was that because Smith was being prosecuted, date rape will be taken seriously.

So we'll just have to wait until the next prominent person goes on trial to see what the next message will be. If there is any message.

I don't believe that there is.

In the Tyson case, we had a young woman who is intelligent, well-educated and not lacking sophistication. She had to be aware of his highly publicized divorce, in which he was portrayed as something that ought to be caged. And she surely knew that he was not the kind of guy who would bring flowers and suggest a movie and a malt.

But she still wound up sitting on his bed in the middle of the night. I'm not Mike Tyson's type, but I wouldn't want to be sitting on his bed in the middle of the night.

So if any message comes out of this, it should be that you ought to have a movie-and-malt date with a guy before you visit his bedroom. We teach little children to run like hell if a stranger offers them candy and invites them into a car. If kids are expected to show caution, why not young women?

It's amazing, though, how much trust people place in strangers. We have a trial going on in Milwaukee. Gay young men went to a stranger's house. They were murdered. The rest of the grisly stuff you'll have to read elsewhere.

So the message from Milwaukee to gay men should be that you do not accept an invitation from a stranger to go to his apartment to engage in sex, pose for kinky pictures, or even have a cup of tea, right? Add the risks of AIDS and such visits are unthinkable, correct?

Wrong. I recently looked at one of those computer bulletin boards in which people send in messages on all sorts of subjects. You can take part in forums on just about anything.

But the single biggest forum, with thousands of messages, is the gay forum. There you will find strangers seeking out other strangers from all over the country for ... well, more than a cup of tea. If the Milwaukee fiend had been a computer hacker, he wouldn't have had to bother cruising the bars. A few strokes of the keyboard would have brought him his next victim.

Another goofy reaction is that of some whites who believe that Tyson's behavior shows that blacks, even those who become millionaires, are beasts at heart.

Well, Tyson might be a thug, as most successful prizefighters are, but he hasn't cooked and eaten anyone, as that very white young man in Milwaukee did. Or buried them under his house, as the very white John Wayne Gacy did. Or slaughtered women en masse, as Richard Speck did.

Is there something in the white man's genes that makes him a potential mass murderer? If you believe that Tyson represents a racial tendency, then it stands to reason that the Milwaukee gourmet does the same.

So maybe we ought to look at it the way the jury did. Tyson is black and rich and famous. But he's still a mean, vicious guy. Michael Milken is white and brilliant, but he is still a swindler. Gacy was an amateur clown but also a fiend.

There should be room for all sorts in the prisons.

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