The kids are not all right, if the discovery of a noose on Duke University campus is anything to go by. Students of the prestigious university in North Carolina found the noose hanging from a tree on the school’s main thoroughfare early Wednesday. The incident — thought to have racially charged overtones — comes just two weeks after allegations that white students verbally assaulted a black student on campus. The former were singing racist chants, according to the Guardian.
The noose, made out of yellow string, was removed by police at around 2:45am Wednesday. A police spokesperson told the Guardian on Wednesday evening that they were still investigating the incident.
The Black Student Alliance organized a rally later on Wednesday, where several hundred attendees marched and chanted. “We are not afraid. We stand together,” was the message, according to Duke Today. Duke Student Government President Lavanya Sunder addressed the crowd, asking that the student body take the incident as the catalyst for a positive step forwards. “I'm asking of us to say something else. Not, ‘This isn't us,’ but, ‘this cannot be us and this will not be us,’” Sunder said.
Meanwhile, Larry Moneta, the vice-president for student affairs, was quick to denounce the act. He sent an email to students only hours after the discovery, writing:
I can’t begin to describe the disgust and anger I felt, and still feel. To whomever committed this hateful and stupid act, I just want to say that if your intent was to create fear, it will have the opposite effect… if we’re able to identify [anyone] responsible for committing this act of intimidation, they will be held fully accountable.
Two weeks previously, on March 22, students allegedly chanted a racist song, reportedly intending to intimidate a black female student, according to the Duke Chronicle. That incident resulted in Duke President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth sending an email to the student body, emphasizing the university’s commitment to racial equality.
It also led to the formation of an anonymous group called The Duke People of Color Caucus. The Caucus responded to Wednesday’s noose with a Tumblr statement, which read in part:
To all black students, staff, faculty, and/or Durhamites on campus and in the area: Please take care of yourselves and each other. This campus is not a safe space, and has proven beyond any doubt that it is a hostile environment for any and all black people.
Keith Lawrence, Duke’s executive director of news and communications, expressed confidence in the ongoing police investigation. “I’m sure that they are doing everything they can,” he said in a statement.
A crowd estimated to be about a thousand-strong assembled in front of the Duke Chapel at 5p.m. Wednesday to denounce the act. Brodhead addressed the crowd.
This is a beautiful day and this is a beautiful place, but we are gathered here because something ugly happened here today.
Black Student Alliance President Jamal Edwards pointed out that the noose was “not an isolated event.” But, he said: “Today I look into this crowd and see allies for black students and for all marginalized students on this campus… I refuse to be driven to a place of fear.”
Unfortunately, such events are not isolated to the Duke campus. Days ago, a man was indicted for a February 2014 incident, in which a former Ole Miss student placed a noose and a former Georgia flag (which included, prominently, the Confederate battle symbol) on a statue of James Meredith situated on the Ole Miss campus. Meredith was the first black student at the University of Mississippi, enrolling in 1962 in an act that integrated the school. The indicted former student who desecrated Meredith’s statue faces up to eleven years in prison, according to Huffington Post.
The Guardian reports that students have expressed disappointment with the way Duke has been handing the noose incident, taking to Twitter to vent their frustrations.
Brodhead and Duke's provost, Sally Kornbluth, said in an email to students Wednesday afternoon:
Our campus has been jolted over the past few weeks by several racial incidents, including a report of hateful speech directed at students on East Campus and, early this morning, the discovery of a noose on the Bryan Center Plaza. As individuals, and as a university, we deplore these actions in the strongest possible terms. Today we ask you to help us demonstrate to our African-American students, faculty and staff, and indeed the world, our solidarity and unity in the face of cowardly acts of hatred by attending a university-wide forum at 5:00 in front of Duke Chapel. The two of us, along with students and faculty, will give voice to our concerns and show the community that can come together at this challenging time. We hope you will join us.
The university administration has not yet said whether its investigation into March’s chanting allegations has uncovered those responsible.
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