"There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not lead single-issue lives.” — Audre Lorde

We have been deeply troubled by recent acts of prejudice and hate on campus recently, including the destruction and theft of multiple pride flags (both from dorms and from Abele-ville) as well as the discovery of a white supremacist flyer and the attempted theft of many pro-worker, anti-racist banners in Abele-ville. These hateful events are not ceasing, rather they appear to be escalating: as late last night, the pride flag in A-ville was stolen for the second time and homphobic slurs were used against people in A-ville.

The responses to these cruel occurrences from students and administrators alike has been deeply disturbing, and not solely because of the malicious nature of the acts in themselves. In an email that was sent nearly 6 days after these attacks began, Dean Sue Wasiolek and Dr. Zoila Airall stated that these acts of hate are “often viewed as small and insignificant.” This statements leads us to wonder, to whom do these acts seem “small and insignificant?" These acts are far from “small and insignificant,” as they speak to a larger culture of prejudice and discrimination against LGBTQ+ students that informs all hateful acts, from something as seemingly transient as tearing down a flag to the ongoing epidemic rise of transmisogynistic violence, legally mandated antagonism against LGBTQ+ people, and more. Describing these acts as seemingly “small and insignificant” is seeing these events through a tokenizing and othering lens. This characterization of these acts as inconsequential demeans their immutable gravity and minimizes the severity of the consequences of the broader culture that condones LGBTQ+ oppression.

In light of the Abele-ville location of one of the flags that was defaced, certain students have expressed anger with the students in A-ville hanging a pride flag in the area. Some felt that it was appropriating queer culture while the protests in A-ville do not necessarily align with the ideals of LGBTQ+ activists nor queer students. While we cannot speak for the entirety of this broad community, as an organization we offer our support to the residents of A-ville in this somber time, we express our agreement with the ideals and goals of Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity, and stand wholly by their decision and right to hang a pride flag in A-ville. To this end, it is critically important to inform our discussions of LGBTQ+ issues with an intersectional perspective. To see discrimination and violence against queer, trans, and intersex people as a separate from discrimination and violence against workers is myopic. Racism, classism, hetero-sexism, cis-sexism, allo-sexism, and anti-intersex discrimination are all inherently tied, as are all other forms of oppression.

We are deeply troubled by what we perceive as issues of pinkwashing, or using messages of queer acceptance to veil other forms of oppression, in light of these incidents. The response of the administration and dialogue among students has focused solely on the vandalization of the pride flags, not the circulation of a white supremacist pamphlet that co-occurred with these events. While we were overjoyed to see myriads of pride flags spring up around campus, we wonder why the same visible show of support was not organized for those who were harmed by the white supremacist pamphlet. Similarly, while we commend administrators for releasing a strengthened condemnation of HB2, we could not ignore that this statement was only issued following these hateful events and that this statement was issued in the context of continued resistance from administrations to calls for an end to worker abuse. While this statement was comforting, it did not offer any concrete plans to ensure inclusivity for all members of the Duke community. We hope that the administration follows through on their commitment to a safe environment that they espoused in this statement, meaning the creation of more solidified plans for addressing oppression, rather than issuing statements without actionable goals or creating more task forces with vague intentions that have proven ineffective in preventing discriminatory and cruel behaviors.

A vital component of this commitment to safety from hate on this campus is ending worker abuse, especially given that much of this grave mistreatment disproportionately affects workers who are black, Latinx, or otherwise people of color. The negotiations with administrators regarding workers’ rights are at a standstill despite their promise to resume negotiations once students left the Allen building. Issuing a statement to advocate for the repeal of HB2 that Duke's administration is "committed to fostering an open, welcoming, inclusive community" while simultaneously refusing make progress to end the mistreatment of workers seems contradictory if administration is truly committed to inclusion for all. Additionally, the student conduct repercussions that students involved in the takeover of the Allen building are facing are disturbing to us, as they constitute the administration actively working against a movement to make progress towards a safer campus for workers. The contrast between the speed with which these students received student conduct citations from administration (despite the previous promise of unconditional amnesty) and the stalled response to calls to end worker abuse is of deep concern to us. 

In these dark times, we hope that the broader Duke community will actively invest in fostering an inclusive environment for all people, whether they are students, workers, or any other part of our community. We envision a Duke where every person feels safe to be themselves, and this will not happen unless we all vow to actively challenge any and all forms of discrimination that occurs here—not just in words, but in actions. 

Be United.