Duke University

Duke University
By Ms. Tara-Marie: Middle School Year Round Program Family Head
Standing in Cameron Indoor Stadium with my friends while the Duke’s Men’s Basketball team came from behind to claim the NCAA Championship was exhilarating. It was the first time that I put on a Duke t-shirt since I learned that someone had hung a noose in front of the student center. During the game, I could not have been more proud of my university. For hours I cheered and rooted for my basketball team, advoiding my seat for fear that sitting would diminish the experience.  I was a true Cameron Crazy.

Eventually the cheering died down, the benches were no longer aflame, and the campus was tranquil. As Monday ceded to Tuesday, my Duke pride morphed into a burden. This burden is like the inescapable feeling one would have toward a less than honorable family member- forever part of you, but one whom you are eternally hopeful will one day change.

A basketball championship cannot heal the pain I have felt or remove the scars I carry around with me each day on campus. In a way, the noose incident was liberating as it legitimized my sorrow and justified my feelings of isolation on campus. The administration keeps telling us to be more tolerant. At Duke, White students can board Duke vans unhindered while Black students are required to display identification. Tolerant? It is not enough that things are better for us now than in the days of Jim Crow. Somewhat equal is not equal.

While the micro-aggressions that people of color face every day might not be newsworthy, they are psychological warfare for male students of color who regularly are stopped when trying to get into their places of residence and for females who hear, after every type of compliment, “for a black girl.” My wish is not for White students to be treated like us. I would not want the police to stop and search them, nor do I wish for kids who have never had to show identification to suddenly have to do so. What I do want, however, is an end to the daily reminders that my station in life is different.

The noose incident occurred because someone went to an extreme to instill fear and make minorities feel unwelcome on campus. This incident cannot be viewed in a vacuum. This incident symbolizes a history of pain and rampant racism.

My presence on Duke’s campus is a tribute to the civil rights pioneers who paved the way for me and to whom I’m indebted for their sacrifices. Last week I was both reminded of all the work that has been done by martyrs before me and that I want more. I cannot be content with the progress that we’ve made thus far. This incident forces me to challenge myself and acknowledge the role that I play in perpetuating this cycle. It drives me to teach my students about the NAACP and civil rights activists beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. It makes me think twice about how to address my students when they disclaim their race as a justification for their intelligence. It pushes me to do my part in making the world a safer place so that when my students enroll in college, they will be met with a lighter load than the one I carry around today.

Congratulations, Duke, on a National Championship. We cut down a net and a noose in the same week.


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