Editor's note: Some readers may find the photographs included this article discomforting for their depiction of racial, homophobic and anti-semitic slurs. Please be advised.
Several racial slurs were found spray-painted under the East Campus bridge Sunday.
The images of the graffiti can be found below, and some may find them graphic in nature. Alec Greenwald—director of academic engagement, global and civic opportunities and advisor for Duke’s NAACP chapter—discovered the hate speech around 1 p.m. before an event hosted by the NAACP, Asian Student Association and Mi Gente during which students planned to paint the bridge with their reasons for voting this election.
The groups decided to paint their messages over the slurs, which targeted the black, LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities.
“I said to students ‘it might be good to paint over this area,’” Greenwald said.
He later notified Lisa Beth Bergene, associate dean for East Campus, who filed an incident report.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, explained in an email that the University was notified of the graffiti after it had been painted over.
“We deplore in the strongest possible terms these cowardly and offensive acts,” Schoenfeld wrote. “To be clear, blatantly hateful, racist, homophobic and anti-semitic graffiti has no place and no protection on campus, period.”
Greenwald first discovered the hate speech when he arrived early to the event with his six-year-old and 10-year-old kids, who wanted to read the messages under the bridge.
He said that many students did not see the messages, but those who did felt empowered by their ability to immediately erase the graffiti.
“[The attitude was], ‘This is awful, this is horrible, we don't stand for this and we don't have to stand for this right now,'” Greenwald said.
Edgeri Hudlin, the Duke NAACP political action co-chair and one of the coordinators of the event, noted although finding the hate speech was frustrating and upsetting, the groups were able to replace the cruel words with their own positive sentiments, which he called "poetic justice."
"Even though it was discouraging, it was kind of fitting that we covered it up and replace it with statements by people of color," he said.
Hudlin described another incident that occurred when the event was winding down. As his back was turned to the wall, a young woman that he did not know painted "stop liberals" over a portion of what the groups had written under the bridge.
He also emphasized the importance of making sure that occurrences such as these do not go unnoticed.
"Universitites should be a place where all its attendees feel comfortable, and if we don’t condem those things, what are we saying to those marginalized groups?" Hudlin said.
Greenwald noted that he has no way of knowing who painted the slurs, as the East Campus bridge is accessible to anyone in the Duke and Durham community.
The graffiti follows several incidents of hate speech on Duke’s campus in recent years. In October 2015, a Black Lives Matter flyer in White Lecture Hall was vandalized with racial slurs, and a death threat against a first-year student including a homophobic slur was written in black marker on the first-floor corridor of East Residence Hall in November 2015.
This article was updated at 3:15 p.m. to include additional context and information from Hudlin.
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