Two years ago, a university administrator, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III, hit Ms. Shelvia Underwood, a parking attendant, with his car, hurled a racial slur her way, and fled the scene. Ms. Underwood suffered injuries to her arm, and when she attempted to file a police report with the DUPD, was suggested not to, by the McLaurin Parking Services, her employer, and to settle with an apology from Dr. Trask. Due to the fear of unemployment, she complied. However, such an incident is not isolated - rather, employees have reported that such mistreatment proves to be recurring, by Duke Parking and Transportation Services Director Carl DePinto, with the support of Vice President Kyle Cavanaugh, who reports directly to Dr. Trask and oversees Duke PTS.
There are nine Duke students sitting in the Allen building. Sitting, sitting, sitting, as a form of resistance to the continual depreciation of Black and Brown labor. Threatened by arrest, by expulsion, suspension, and all other forms of punishment by those who hold the power to jeopardize their future.
Do you see them - all around you? Those who serve us - the ones on the bus, serving our food, the ones wiping the tables to our right, mopping the bathroom floor to our left.
And there they are - the ones we serve, the ones sitting behind the mahogany desk, signing the checks, the ones giving orders from up above, only occasionally glancing down below.
A year ago serves as a reminder of the noose hanging, where many students gathered in hurt and anger at such an apparent reminder of racial violence. Yet, for the service staff, such an act of civil disobedience speaks strongly to the roots of anti-Black violence dwelling within the darkest crevice to the most public walkway of society. I find myself angry at the existence of Duke’s plantation politics, but angrier that administration and students do not even acknowledge the unabashed showing of it: the apparent forms of discrimination and continual Black and Brown exploitation.
It is time to disregard the monolith of Black and Brown savagery, the justification for Black and Brown subordination, the policing of Black and Brown politics. There lies a hushed illegitimacy that permeates the campus we serve - through the wearing of a shirt, a mug, a cap or through the pride we affiliate with a number as low as 9%. This upholds a campus that has its own long history of exploitation and racism, perpetuating the continuous silencing of people of color at Duke.
This is not us, we say - it can’t be us. Let’s say it is, though. We then must be unafraid to acknowledge the ongoing presence of a history that continues to shape the context of our belongness.
This all reminds me of a modern tale of David and Goliath. There stands the giant, the one with the weaponry accessible and the capability of enacting easy harm. Then, there stands a young David. Appearing small, yet brave enough to fight anyhow, knowing the odds of survival walking in. These nine students occupying the Allen building deserve amnesty - and we, The Bridge, demand it for them. But, do we win? Now that is up to you, who should be reminded that the noise you make is capable of waking up those who, with no trouble, lie comfortably sound asleep.
We stand in solidarity with Duke University workers and the demands made to the administration not only in light of the recent violence from Tallman Trask, but in light of the violence historically faced by Brown and Black workers. We refuse to be silent in times of discrimination and abuse of power.
Duke, stop with the plantation politics, as we are here and we see you.
by Eliza Moreno ‘18