Vandalism at Duke, Yet Another Act of Hate

Photo featured above taken by Edgeri Hudlin

On October 17, less than a month before the upcoming Presidential election, Duke’s NAACP Chapter held an event for students to participate in painting a mural under the bridge with their reasons for voting. They came to the bridge and found “FUCK NIGGERS” painted on the walls in red paint. The hate speech was quickly painted over, not before evidentiary pictures were taken.

       I know that some of you will be surprised by this. Unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised at all, and neither were many of my fellow Black students. See, our experience of the world around us is one where the very value of our lives is up for debate. We are hyperaware that many people on our timelines, in our classrooms, and in our government see us as second-class citizens undeserving of equality or protection. I am no longer surprised when I see acts of hatred like this, because they have been an unfailing consistency in my experience as a Black woman in American society.

Taken by Daniela Flamini

Taken by Daniela Flamini

         If you’re one of those who are surprised that this could happen on Duke’s campus, again I must inform you that this hate speech aligns with much of my understanding of what Duke is. Liberal universities like Duke University are often lauded as the pioneers of benevolent enlightenment, where discussions are cultivated with empathy and curiosity. This is simply not the case. While there are plenty of brilliant, moral, and beautiful people on this campus, there is also an overarching implication that certain students have more value and clout than others.

Let me not be vague. I believe that Duke values straight, white, wealthy male lives over all others.

            The devaluation and “othering” of people who are not part of that select elite, like Black and Latinx students, is pervasive in every corner of Duke. I feel it when my professors call me angry for being unsatisfied with the state of police brutality in America. My sisters feel it when they are fetishized and assaulted by men who see them as little more than a sexualized object. My brothers feel it when they’re stopped by campus security and forced to show ID when their white counterparts do not have to. We all feel it when we proclaim a seemingly obvious fact, that our Black Lives Matter, and we are seen as somehow radical.

            This event has not occurred in a vacuum: it is the result of a very real backlash to the very necessary work of emancipation. As NAACP standing President Guilbert Francois explains, this disgusting vandalizing reminds us to avoid complacency regarding sociopolitical progress. He says, “Even if we ignore the structural inequality facing the country, such blatant and inexcusable hatred in a supposedly ‘oversensitive’ and ‘politically correct’ place such as Duke's campus, where hate is often disguised as free speech, validates the work that is being done and forces those who don't care to admit the existence of hate to come to terms with it.”

Picture taken from the NAACP newsletter

Picture taken from the NAACP newsletter

          Coming to terms with the substantial hate experienced by Black folks is not enough, though. We are a collective people; our problems are your problems. The decisions we make today will affect generations to come. If you are capable, you have an obligation to make your voice heard. We cannot afford for you to be complacent any longer. To be unengaged is to succumb to the domination of the oppressor. This liberation requires action.

Taken by Daniela Flamini

Taken by Daniela Flamini

We, as empowered Black folks and allies, are a threat to the established order of things. Proudly disruptive and aware of our potential,

we refuse to be silenced.

Cowards will continue to display hatred and still we will speak.

Government authorities will continue to oppress and still we will vote.

The ignorant will continue to be apathetic and still we will fight.

We will speak

and vote

and fight

until we see the America that is promised to us by our place in humanity: one of equality and liberty and life. 

by Symonne Singleton 

Symonne Singleton