The fact that an uptick in violent crime this month has had understandable reverberations in and among the Duke community -- not surprising, since robberies, assaults and shootings are typically concentrated in several segments of the community that don't directly border the Gothic wonderland.
Unfortunately, the response of some student commentators have been perfectly predictable. One Chronicle columnist has made it a regular sport to bash the Bull City this past year, providing such joyful nuggets about Durham life as "the bar scene is pretty weak," "if you think Durham is already great--well, then you should probably be drug tested," and "I am beginning to wonder whether the Duke-in-Durham experience has really been worth the risk."
(It should be noted that I started caring a great deal less about this young scholar's ruminations about Durham after his full-column cogitation on -- I am not making this up -- his roommate's dog becoming intoxicated on alcohol multiple times this school year. "College wouldn't be the same without the inevitable weekend
bacchanalia. But when your innocent, excitable dog is hung over the day
after a big party along with you, has your debauchery gone too far? .... After all, he's a big dog-roughly 70 pounds-and has gotten drunk a few
On the flip side, some Duke students have written into the Chronicle to express the need for Dukies to continue to engage with the Bull City community -- as seniors Ellen Bolen and Cy Stober did on Friday.
Students made broad generalizations about Durham being unsafe and one
student suggested to "just build giant fences around the school."
Statements such as these perpetuate the "us vs. them" mentality. These
crimes were not just committed against Duke students, but against the
Durham community as a whole.... A Duke student has the right to feel safe, but so does every citizen in
Durham. Durham is a great community and it has a lot to offer to those
who are willing to commit to it.
Not surprisingly, the reaction in the comments section was hostile... much of it, in all likelihood, coming from folks not even associated with the university. Much of it was the often-seen, borderline racist linkage between issues of safety and Durham's diversity, with one commentor noting that Durham "is just a scaled down version of New Orleans," where poor African-Americans suffered from "corruption of the human soul caused by the 'entitlements' of the Welfare Society." Others tried to dance around the issue more elegantly, but often came back to slightly more eloquent versions of this pithy comment: "I'm tired of BS -- of having to appease the locals of this sh!thole."
Why bring this up now? Because these comments were on my mind as my weekend began after work on Friday, and I found myself ruminating over the negativity that hangs over the Bull City in so many people's minds. And that's never a good feeling; it only tends to fill one's mind with one's own sourness.
Stewing in my thoughts, I decided to head out to see a movie that night (the Blade Runner re-edit that's made its way to the Carolina Theatre.) It turned out to be the best decision I made all week.