The thin, yellow noose on a tree at Duke University was cut down about 45 minutes after it was found Wednesday morning. But the implications of it are long lasting and, according to local leaders, symptomatic of a larger problem.
"This particular event just pulled back the veil from structural problems that surround us daily," English Professor Karla Holloway wrote in an email interview. "Until Duke meets these issues of inequity, respect and a deep investment in diversity as our everyday and ordinary value, the opportunity for such an upheaval remains."
A noose hanging from a tree at Duke University. I have no words. pic.twitter.com/Zk594eP2Ub
— Justin Elliott (@JustinElliott3) April 1, 2015
Holloway said she was pleased with the school's quick reaction, but she wasn't surprised by the act itself. It's part of today's culture, she said. At Duke, black students tell her they feel exceptionalized on campus -- that they're not seen as part of the norm "but instead are more useful for the claim of interest in diversity rather than the substance of the value."
About 10 percent of Duke's 6,471 undergraduate students and 5 percent of its 8,379 graduate students are African-American, according to its news office. White students make up 48 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
The Duke noose incident followed recent race-related issues on not only other campuses but its own. In late March, a black female at Duke reported that white males had taunted her by singing the now-infamous racist chant about hanging from the University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter. At the time, the Duke People of Color Caucus wrote that the event wasn't isolated. "We refuse to be complacent with inclusion in the brochures that we receive as prospective students when we continue to face violent exclusion on a daily basis as actual students on this campus," the group wrote in a statement on its website.
In 2012, black students at Duke protested a professor's study that showed African-Americans often changed to easier majors. They were unhappy with the study and "other issues," the Associated Press reported. More recently, the campus has seen racist Yik Yak posts that in part inspired a social media campaign centered around the hashtag #WhatWeNeedFromDuke.
Fred Foster Jr., president of the Durham NAACP branch, said students seemed to see the noose incident as a tipping point. "Something bigger was going on on the campus," said Foster, who attended the forum Wednesday. "[The administrators] were reacting to this noose, but where have they been all along?"
Foster said Duke cannot let the discussion around the issue die. Conversation is good, but real action is needed -- maybe more courses being taught about diversity, he added. "The feeling of the students and those that were [at the forum] was there's got to be more to this," Foster said. "We can't just rally around this event and things go back to the way they were."