For many, attending Duke is paramount to treason. Names like Uncle Tom, sell out and Oreo are common slurs used to define me for having chosen to get a degree at Duke. I remember the looks on the faces of the locals when I informed them I attended school at Duke. It didn’t take long for me to learn there is a long, not so pleasant history that has crippled race relations in Durham.
Students on Duke’s campus were considered snobbish and the product of white privilege out of control. I did my best to curtail the hatred black residents felt about Duke. They were quick to remind me that “those people” think they are better than us. No, that’s not true, I would argue. Now, after reading Kristin Butler’s column in the Chronicle, I feel like stuffing my head in the sand.
Butler’s column “Summa cum looney” attacked North Carolina Central University for granting degrees to Solomon Burnette and Crystal Mangum. Burnette, the son of a former Durham City Council member, served a 13-month prison sentence for robbing two Duke students in 1997. Butler chided Burnette for writing a nasty column in the NCCU student newspaper that had revolutionary undertones. Go get them Dukies. We certainly can’t have that.
Shame on NCCU for allowing this fool to get a degree, and how dare NCCU allows him to write in the student newspaper. That’s bad enough to cast a few stones over on Fayetteville Street. The coloreds over there lack good judgment, but wait it gets worse. How could they, oh no they didn’t grant Crystal “the lying, stank stripper” a degree.
They should know better than grant her the chance to pull her life together after attacking a few good white boys on the lacrosse team. Can you hear the arrogance in her words, the disdain, and the disgust? Don’t take my word for it, read what she wrote.
“Because of the university's blatant refusal to enforce its own rules, I will never again take an NCCU degree seriously, and neither should any other self-respecting Dukie. NCCU's "seal of approval" no longer guarantees good character, and it's just too hard to tell the thugs and liars (like Burnette and Mangum) apart from the high-performing majority.”
What ever happened to giving a person another chance? Isn’t that what members of the lacrosse team got after violating rules related to off campus drinking on more than one occasion? Should they hold some responsibility for hiring two exotic dancers to shake their groove thang?
The problem with Butler’s column is the double standard lurking in each word. It’s okay to get drunk, use a few racial slurs, urinate in your neighbor’s yard, consistently violate campus policies on off campus drinking and still attend class and get that degree if you attend school at Duke. Why, because we’re Duke dammit.
Black folks need not apply for the same privileges. You have not earned your right to break rules and to be treated as the victim despite your contribution to the mess. Burnette should be punished because HE ROBBED TWO DUKE STUDENTS. The nerve of him to think he can get away with that, and assume a normal life. The administration at NCCU should punish him for making that assumption. Can you hear the underlying white privilege yet?
This is why people worried after the story of an alleged rape hit the airwaves. It’s because of a long history of abuse and neglect coupled with an air of privilege among those kids who go to school at Duke. They think they’re better than the black folks who live in the city. They refuse to accept the thought of a person getting a second chance after a mistake is made.
Get this Ms. Butler. NCCU is a great school. They don’t hand out degrees. People earn them. Both Burnette and Mangum deserve those degrees. The fact that they brought harm to the fine students hiding behind the trees at Duke doesn’t negate their right to make lemonade out of those lemons.