Banter on Tulips and a Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z and John Coltrane, Outkast and Othello.


In Durham, it pours

Soundtrack: "Can You Stand the Rain?" New Edition

On a perfect day, I know that I can count on you. When I first saw the lovely Gothic campus, filled with green quads, stately buildings, the trademark chapel and scores of bright, well-intentioned students, I fell in love. I knew that the school was for me. Spring in North Carolina is a feat of warmth, beauty and aesthetic spectre unmatched by anywhere I had ever seen. So on that weekend campus visit, I was sold on Duke. Hook, line, sinker. Four years later, I had a world class education backed by my own long hours in the library, my motivation to want to use it to better my community as a writer.

When that's not possible, tell me can you weather a storm? But I would be lying to say that every minute of my experience at what was then ranked the #3 university in America was awash with bliss, the brilliant Bluegrass and the late nights watching our basketball team trounce our opponents handily (well, most of the time. Lol). There were, it seemed, obligatory racial incidents every other year. Whether it was a protest over the school's sloth in hiring black faculty my freshman year or the student newspaper printing David Hororwitz' half baked list of the "Top Ten Reasons Why Reparations are a Bad Idea" my senior year. The list included inflammatory statements like "black people already have reparations: It's called welfare." It prompted study-ins, an appearance by Columbia scholar Manning Marable, media speakouts and a series of articles by the local newspaper, the News and Observer, of which I directly or indirectly participated before realizing that the university could really give a box of week-old JuJuBees about it.

Storms will come. This we know for sure
... So, as you might imagine, it didn't strike me as much of a suprise that yet again, it was yet another spring and yet another racial incident. Except this time, it was a totally perfect storm. The conflation of race, gender and social privilege (or lack thereof). A struggling single mother/ stripper/ North Carolina Central student alleged rape by a trio from the school's pristine lacrosse team. They asked her, as we've all read by now, to dance for a few of them. When she and her partner arrived, 40 men gazed on. They were taunted and humiliated, and then one was allegedly raped. Supporting her contention was the fact that she fled the off-campus house without her money, her shoes and three red fingernails that she had apparently lost in the battle to free herself from the three attackers. The campus magnolias that drew me years ago to the school now seemed to be complicit in masking the scent of a crime. And now the university finds itself embroiled in a situation that surpasses the circumstances of the immediate. It's forced to confront many of the simmering racial tensions and questions of privilege that have existed without voice for so many years. Questions of why a virtually blue blood Northeast-bred lacrosse team could be slapped on the hand (or not even) for years of drunken wildness and crazy behavior while neighbors (largely black, largely poor) complained and their arrests mounted? Questions of why we live in an America where men who don't have any financial need could secure scholarships at a nationally-ranked university while another, attending a school more tailored for the working masses and residing in Section 8 housing had to strip for their enjoyment just to pay her tuition?

Can you stand the rain? So, I find myself now on the cusp of reuniting with my classmates for a campus celebration and I'm racked with indecision. With questions. How is it appropriate that we dance and celebrate, while on the other side of town a young woman is forever changed by the unthinkable behavior of students who celebrate the same school? And do I have faith anymore in a university that seemingly endorses illegal and wild behavior? ... Well, until someone gets hurt and the media cameras are glaring down upon the university. It strikes as ironic that all of this is happening in the middle of the admissions decision season. For the next few weeks in April, applicants will decide if they'd like to attend the school. I'm not sure how this situation will effect the outcome of the class of 2010. But I do know that it would serve to enlighten the powers that be if students en masse decided to enroll at other comparable schools. But if not, it would only be right that the administration takes a serious look in the mirror (and not just a temporary, "let's have a candlelight vigil and sing Kumbaya" moment for the cameras). But a real serious inventory of how it negotiates privilege.

Young black women everywhere are depending on it.


At April 08, 2006 3:16 PM , Blogger spchrist said...

No matter how this turns out...there are no winners...

At April 10, 2006 6:40 PM , Blogger Britjam said...

great post!!!!


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