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The Black Student Alliance is outraged and devastated by the racist terrorist attack that was perpetrated by Payton Gendron in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, May 14th. We stand in solidarity with the families and the victims: Aaron Salter, Ruth Whitfield, Pearly Young, Katherine Massey, Deacon Heyward Patterson, Celestine Chaney, Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil and Geraldine Talley. These individuals were mothers, fathers, grandparents, community members and so much more. Their deaths have not only impacted their loved ones but have certainly left the Buffalo community and Black communities across the country in a state of grievance. This is not a one-off event, but a pattern and history of gruesome violence and hatred against Black bodies. This continued assault on our bodies, our being and our identities is simply exhausting.
Black undergraduate students at Duke continue to grieve alongside many members of the Black community nationwide over the losses of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, George Floyd, and the countless other victims of racially charged violence against Black people in America. Each day, we lose more members of our community to increasingly normalized and racially motivated acts of violence. These include police brutality perpetrated by law enforcement, whose duty is to protect and serve; and hate crimes committed against members of our LGBTQ+ community, especially Black trans women, which often go completely unnoticed by the public. These despicable acts are upheld by the notion that Black bodies are disposable. We, the Black Student Alliance, offer condolences, support to our community, and call on the wider Duke community to demonstrate that Black lives do matter through tangible action.
The Black Student Alliance executive board recently had the pleasure of meeting with the five candidates for Duke Student Government President. We are thoroughly impressed with the thoughtfulness and range of experiences represented by the candidates this year, as well as grateful to have engaged in insightful dialogue with each of them.
The Black Student Alliance had the pleasure to meet with the Young Trustee candidates to hear more about their vision for Duke and how they believe they will best serve the university. After long deliberations it became evident that each candidate was extremely qualified and possessed a diversity of experience.
In response to Wednesday’s guest column signed by Duke’s senior academic officials, we are disappointed by the University’s extremely passive response to the primary issue that has been elucidated in the past week: the frustrating racial climate that exists and is ignored by our institution. First and foremost, in their letter, the administrators failed to address the persisting marginalization of the black community at Duke over the past decade, which includes, but is not limited to: the David Horowitz advertisement and the Duke Student Movement, the threat posed against BSAI, the perpetual uncertainty surrounding the future of the Mary Lou Williams Center and now the recent unpublished manuscript, “What Happens After Enrollment? An Analysis of the Time Path of Racial Differences in GPA and Major Choice.” We reiterate our respect for academic freedom, but believe that the University has an ethical obligation to address the perpetuated and serious implications of the study for the racial climate Duke. The sum of these events has led many members of the black community feeling as though our presence is not valued or appreciated. The less than adequate response of the Duke administration suggests that our presence is not respected and our best interests are not a priority for the University. Failure to acknowledge and address these serious and complex issues will be harmful, not just to black students, but the entire Duke community.