As the editorial page editor of a reputable college newspaper, I’m supposed to judge a column’s worth by the strength of its argument, the fervor of its voice and the call for action it inspires.

But I’m a sucker for an aggressive comment section.

And this semester, Ethan Ready’s Nov. 27 column, “Taking a step back,” in which he argued that privileged people should step away from leadership positions in order to create space for marginalized voices to be heard, inspired an onslaught of colorful comments.

SirJustice—a mediocre alias, really—quoted The Chronicle column. "43 of our 44 presidents have been white men." Factually, true. SirJustice went on to make their very stupid point. “China has won 28 out of 32 gold medals at the Olympics, you think that was discrimination or bias? Or maybe the Chinese are just damn good at table tennis?”

Sal Tuzzolino—a Duke alumnus and former radio host of “The Sports Circus” on NBC Sports 1060—left a barrage of complaints, tagging the Duke Alumni Association, the Duke University Facebook page and a few of his friends (“Zola, Dan, Miguel, Benito, Chris, Bobby, Paolo, Leela, Jonathan, Colin, Warren and all the others”) to ask, "Should this sort of rhetorical, racial profiling...of ‘privileged’ people...by Ethan Ready and The Duke Chronicle be allowed to be published?”

Mamiejane G. Burdick—not an alias—had a problem with Ethan’s lack of a clear definition of wealth. “Please identify wealth. To me it is anyone who has a loving family whose members are decent and caring. These people know we depend on each other and give thoughtful donations to valuable charities. These people know diversity in our country is our blessing.”

SirJustices, Sals, and Mamiejanes. These are the voices we don’t hear often enough at Duke University. This is the “other side” we all know well, which hovers just outside the grasp of our bubbled mentalities about the world and its inner-workings. These are the folks we don’t bother to challenge, or engage, or even reconcile in our everyday routine. 

While we do this honorable work, creating communities and connecting individuals and making the Duke community as progressive and safe as it must be, they sit behind computers and closed-captioned screens, reading the liberal-leaning columns of college newspapers and letting Sean Hannity have at us. They spit on their keyboards at our “racial nonsense” (thank you, Sal), and follow President Donald Trump into divisiveness.

There needs to be a new “access point” for these readers to enter into. A table at which a Trump voter might learn from a Hillary voter. A table at which a Hillary voter might learn from a Trump voter. A platform that connects our great young generation of thinkers—the devoutly aware student bodies of America—with the generation that held this country for years before we arrived on the college campuses they donated to (or helped to construct). A conversation in which we allow each other to make mistakes in our vocabularies, to seek compromise in facing our respective fears for nation and for humanity, to educate each other in making a viable path toward the ideal circumstance.

If we want to be America’s next best generation, the responsibility to create this space falls on us, on readers and writers alike. For example, it requires me to commend Ethan’s forward-thinking and bravery, but also to challenge him to think even further. 

There is an environment in which it’s okay to be a wealthy white man, if they acknowledge their privilege not by weakly attempting to represent and sympathize, but by doing the serious, necessary work of co-strategizing and co-voicing the needs and desires of marginalized communities. This way, privileged people won’t feel as if they’re completely banned from taking leadership positions; instead, they’re required to think about themselves in relation to the world (as we all must), reeducated and encouraged to create shared access points and adopt informed mentalities so that marginalized people might rise alongside them.

For example, it requires you—yes, you—to type boldly and publish with anticipatory eyes, like Ethan, and make your voices heard to the “other side.” To put your worthy thoughts on paper, to face a world that desperately needs more conversation-starters, to face a comment section that desperately needs more challengers to SirJustices, and Sals, and Mamiejanes.

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