Dear Duke Community,
I left the conversation Friday feeling angry, sad, concerned and conflicted.
It became clear to me that many students don’t feel safe on our campus. Many feel persecuted, marginalized or ignored. Others feel their freedoms are being curtailed, that their free expression is in danger. President Brodhead was right on point, explaining the necessity of being decisive and discerning in our response to ensure that we do not trade one evil for another.
The multiple issues involved have already been covered far more eloquently than I could ever hope, so I don’t want to rehash them here. I just don’t consider myself sufficiently informed. The worst discrimination I’ve ever encountered is some online players calling me Jewish slurs during a DotA match. The experience of being black in America is something qualitatively different from anything I’ve ever run into.
Thus it’s not for me to judge the legitimacy of another student’s pain. If members of our community feel unwelcome, unsafe and unnerved, then that’s a real concern. They’re not making it up. It’s something we have a moral obligation to address with more than platitudes or condescension. It’s so easy for me to say that what bothers me is legitimate and what bothers someone else is just hypersensitivity. But it’s also intellectually lazy and uncaring.
If our Black, LGBTQIA, Asian, Latino, Native American, Muslim or other students feel hurt, I feel hurt. If our Conservative, Christian, Republican or other students feel silenced, I feel silenced. If a student writes hateful words, I feel angry, and I also feel sad that an individual is so full of fear that they have to attack another group of people to be noticed and feel powerful.
As our university works to figure this out, please, let’s all try to be compassionate and kind to each other. Even toward those with whom we disagree. Let’s remember that the goal of raising one group is not to dominate others but rather to level the playing field.
It’s tempting to let outrage, indignation and fear win, to let powerful emotions obscure a common vision. We’ve all seen the media circus the past few months, either condemning “PC” culture as an existential threat to free speech or vilifying Conservatives for promoting hate and racism.
Duke needs to be better than that. We should show each other and the rest of the world that we can rise to this challenge with dignity, respect and mutual understanding. We should show them that we can build a better campus without sacrificing the hard-won freedoms of earlier activists on whose shoulders we all stand. We are not arbitrarily forced to choose between mutual respect and freedom of expression. This is Duke. We need both.
As much as I wish we could eliminate all the hateful, nasty, vile voices from our collective discourse, I doubt it is either possible or desirable (as others have articulated ad nauseum). We will merely end up trading one form of intolerance for another. Though I agree that our administration has much work to do, I firmly believe that the way to end hate is not to silence it, to try and push it out of sight, but to drown it out with compassion, love and mutual respect.
This process begins with understanding. We cannot hope to overcome fear and hate so long as we antagonize each other. Please, talk to your fellow students; don’t demonize them. Talk to those who disagree with you. Even talk with those who think you are crazy. But don’t shout, don’t categorize, don’t belittle. Listen, and try to see the humanity in each other.
Please, be decent and kind to each other.
Ted Yavuzkurt is a Trinity senior.