by Dan Kimberg
It is easy to ignore a story when it is not expected or desired, or when details blind us from seeing the full picture. Over the past month, different members of the Student U community have commented on the hanging of a noose on Duke’s campus. Ms. Tara-Marie’s powerful reflection can be read here. An open letter, written by the individual who hung the noose, was published by Duke this past week, as well as an official response from the university. Duke has determined that this action was“caused by bad judgment, not racism.”
A bridge collapsed. There is a story.
I believe in giving individuals the benefit of the doubt. I believe in giving people second and third and fourth chances. I do not know the person who hung the noose nor am I in a position to judge his intentions in doing so. However, whether it was intended or not, whether it was purposeful or not, a noose was hung on a tree and now we have seen a bridge collapse.
This story is not about one Duke student. The person responsible for this action is not the villain nor the main character because this is not a story about one noose. This incident led to the demonstration and articulation of pain for people of color on Duke’s campus that I cannot begin to understand. However, this pain was not created when the noose was hung. It has existed and continues to exist in the hearts and minds of people of color at Duke, in Durham, and around the country. This action simply brought the emotions to the surface.
A bridge collapsed. Regardless of the lens in which one views our society, systems are broken.
In Durham, African American drivers are 200% more likely to be searched by law enforcement as a result of a routine traffic stops for speeding, seat belt, and stop sign violations.
In North Carolina, 38% of African American children and 37% of Latino children are living below the Federal Poverty Level. 13% of white children live below the Federal Poverty Level.
In the United States, African American students graduate from high school at a rate of 69%, while Latinos graduate at 73% rate and whites at a rate of 86%.
These sampling of statistics certainly do not tell a complete story. If you want to understand more about why our systems are broken and how we know they are, participate in a Racial Equity Institute training, as all Student U full-time staff will in the coming year or read some of the resources available on their website. To understand more about why these broken systems matter, talk to our African American or Latino families, talk to our students, talk to Ms. Z or Ms. Bettina or other staff members who have been living within the broken system their whole lives.
A noose was hung and a bridge collapsed. The act of one Duke student, whether intentional or not, is not the story. The story is that a country built on the principle ofall men are created equal and on the backs of slaves, is crumbling. The story is one of systemic racism that destroys the fearless dreams we have as a community.
A bridge collapsed. There is a story to write.