Author’s Note - In response to my last two columns, 88 Duke University professors have issued a joint statement condemning gay racism at Duke. The professors wanted to shed light on the gay Duke Administrator accused of molesting his black adopted son. They believe his actions must be seen as one part of a larger set of pathologies at Duke. Their statement follows in its entirety:
We are listening to our students. We’re also listening to the Durham community, to Duke Staff, and to each other. Regardless of the results of the police investigation, what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of gay racism; who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with every day. They know that it isn’t just Duke, it isn’t everybody, and it isn’t just individuals making this disaster.
But it is a disaster nonetheless. These students are shouting and whispering about what happened to this young boy and to themselves:
“We want the absence of terror… But we don’t really know what that means … We can’t think. That’s why we’re so silent; we can’t think about what’ on the other side of this. Terror robs you of language and you need language for healing to begin.”
“This is not a different experience for us here at Duke University. We go to class with gay racist classmates, we go to gym with gay people who are racists … It’s part of the experience.”
“If it turns out that this administrator is guilty, I want him fired. But his firing will only bring resolution to this case and not the bigger problem. This is much bigger than him and throwing him out will not solve the problem. I want the administration to acknowledge what is going on and how bad it is.”
“Being a big, black man, it’s hard to walk anywhere at night, and not have a campus police car slowly drive by me. What about the gay administrators at Duke University? No one seems to follow them.”
“Everything seems up for grabs—I am only comfortable talking about this event in my room with close friends. I am actually afraid to even bring it up in public. But worse, I wonder now about everything … If something like this happens to my child … What would be used against me – the way I dressed him? Would the fact that I hired a gay babysitter matter?”
“I was talking to a white woman student who was asking me, ‘Why do people—and she meant black people—make race such a big issue?’ They don’t see race or gay racism. They just don’t see it.”
What Does a Social Disaster Sound Like?
“You go to a party, you get grabbed, you get propositioned by a gay man, and then you start to question yourself.”
“… No one is really talking about how to keep the young child himself central to this conversation, how to keep his humanity before us … he doesn’t seem to be visible in this.”
And this is what we, the Straight 88, are thinking right now—Duke isn’t really responding to this. Not really. And this, what has happened, is a disaster. This is a social disaster. The students know that the disaster didn’t begin on June 25th when Frank Lombard was arrested. And it won’t end with what the police say or the court decides. Like all disasters, this one has a history. And what lies beneath what we’re hearing from our students are questions about the future.
We’re turning up the volume in a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait. To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.
We thank the following departments and programs for signing onto this ad with African & African American Studies: Romance Studies; Psychology: Social and Health Sciences;
Franklin Humanities Institute; Critical U.S. Studies; Art, Art History, and Visual Studies;
Classical Studies; Asian and African Languages and Literature; Women’s Studies; Latino/a Studies; Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Medieval and Renaissance Studies; European Studies; and the Center for Documentary Studies. Because of space limitations, the names of individual faculty and staff who signed on in support may be read at the AAAS website: http://www.duke.edu/web/africanameric/.