DSK Case: A Tale of Cultural Miscues?

The powerful Frenchman may have added insult to injury in his treatment of a hotel maid, says a writer in Paris.

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The Dominique Strauss-Kahn story continues to rage here in Paris now that he has returned to a political landscape in transition, with the Socialist Party forced to turn to second-tier candidates for the 2012 elections. DSK’s nine-minute encounter with hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo in suite 2806 of Manhattan’s Sofitel Hotel May 14 has probably cost him the French presidency next year, in an election he could easily have won. Many French are accepting the reality of the situation for what it is and writing it off as part of “destiny.”

But will we ever know what really transpired that day between two people from vastly different cultures, backgrounds and socioeconomic situations? Thanks to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s less than courageous decision to drop all charges, thus guaranteeing no public airing of the facts in a courtroom, we will not.

Vance lacked the courage to go beyond the legal factors. As a product of Ivy League academia and the Eastern-U.S. establishment and all that implies, it is most likely not part of his DNA makeup to consider how a poor, single mother from the Peul people of Guinea might have been coerced into acquiescing to DSK’s licentious demands under threat of losing her $25-per-hour housecleaning job.

This is a tale of three cultures, about three individuals — a Jewish political leader, a WASP lawyer and a Muslim maid — from three different continents whose destinies collided on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May. This is what we do know: At 12:06 p.m., according to key-card data, Diallo entered suite 2806 to clean it, believing it to be vacant, and encountered a very naked DSK exiting the bathroom. DSK called his daughter at 12:15. So nine minutes after she’d entered, Diallo fled the suite with DSK’s semen on her uniform. The big question: How did it get there?

It helps to understand certain verities of some African cultures when a powerful man desires an attractive but poor woman who is not a prostitute. If she gives in to having sex with him, he knows that he has to leave her something of value after the fact. It is unspoken, but nevertheless the custom, since he must respect her dignity.

As a plausible scenario, absent any known facts, imagine Diallo’s dilemma at the sight of this white man, DSK, bounding toward her from the bathroom fully aroused, refusing to take no for an answer. Diallo as an African woman may have made a snap decision, in my estimation. Was not giving in to DSK’s demands worth putting her $25-an-hour job at risk? She is barely literate in English and has a teenage daughter to raise. Where else can she find a job that pays this well?