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Letter: Light rail reflects Duke-Durham relations

Open Letter to Duke Alumni and the Durham Community:

Have you ever noticed how billion-dollar infrastructure projects often live or die according to the ego of one white male?

I have.

This phenomenon is not about race. It's about how power prevents its holders from hearing, how elitism isolates the intellect.

In the case of Dr. Vincent Price v. The Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project we hope for better things. We hope the humility of humanity will prevail.

Dr. Price literally wrote the book on public opinion. He titled it "Public Opinion." In "Public Opinion," Price explores "other important dialectics—between social stability and social change, between thought and action, between elite and mass—that find their expression, if not their resolution, in the concept of public opinion."

The struggle of this midnight hour is yet the latest chapter in the long history of Duke-Durham relations: the dialectic between elite and mass. It would be tragic for Dr. Price earn the legacy of single-handedly undoing the decade of work that the late Dr. Phail Wynn poured his life into—the difficult and unfinished work of repairing more than a century of exploitation inherent in Duke-Durham relations.

It would be unthinkable for Dr. Price to underestimate the critical capacity of Duke's employees and alumni to contrast Duke's willingness to leverage Grant Hill's well-earned respect to raise billions for Duke Forward against Duke's unwillingness to make a crucial sacrifice for Durham's working class to have improved access to jobs, housing and healthcare for the next century.

And although Dr. Price is not deeply invested in the long legacy of tenuous Duke-Durham relations, may we all hope and pray that he will not carelessly undermine his reputation as a pioneer in public opinion research by ignoring the well-documented will of Durham's myriad civic organizations and the working class lives they represent.

May history be kind to you, Dr. Price. Sign off on what the people of Durham are asking you to do. The power of the pen is in your hands. 

Kevin Primus, Trinity '94, Graduate School '01

Correction: An earlier version of this letter misspelled Dr. Wynn’s name. The Chronicle regrets the error.


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