Yesterday The Chronicle published Duke President Richard Brodhead’s eloquent appreciation of the late Duke Professor John Hope Franklin, whose life and scholarship contributed so much to informing his fellow citizens and making America a more inclusive and just country.
While I’m sure Brodhead meant his remarks only as a tribute to Franklin, they inevitably caused many people to reflect on Brodhead and his leadership, particularly when he mentioned the “exclusion, discrimination, and physical menace” Franklin faced as an undergraduate at Fisk University.
On the comment thread of Brodhead’s tribute, John Steed directly addressed Duke's President:
Thank you for your eloquent and timely tribute to John Hope Franklin. I am pleased to see you using the Chronicle's "Guest Commentary" section to share your views, and those of your administration, with the Duke community.And in an email a friend said (excerpts):
Last week saw the third anniversary of the Potbangers' Rally, a demonstration which included (among other outrages) the raising of banners reading "Castrate!!", "Confess!" and "Give Them Equal Measure," and the distribution of vigilante posters, all directed at falsely-accused Duke students.
Next month will feature the anniversary of the "Listening Ad" in which 88 Duke faculty members and 15 departments and programs applauded the demonstrators and thanked them for "not waiting."
Perhaps this might be an opportune time for you to write a guest commentary in the Chronicle reflecting on those events and explaining to the Duke community, with the benefit of three years hindsight, why your administration acted (or refrained from acting) as it did and whether it has learned anything from the episode.
… Dr. Franklin, to his credit, showed good judgment and compassion by not mentioning the lacrosse incident in his [2006 commencement address].What Steed and my friend’s comments (and those of others I’ve heard from) brought to mind was what in an April 2008 post I called Brodhead’s “Marley problem:”
But now to Brodhead who, unlike Franklin, used his very influential position to evoke the passions of racism and dangerously prejudice the case against the lacrosse players.
Below are some excerpts from Brodhead's April 5, 2006 letter to the Duke Community which was issued concurrently with his firing the coach and canceling the season.
At the beginning of the letter Brodhead says, " Rape is the substitution of raw power for love, brutality for tenderness and dehumanization for intimacy.
"It is also the crudest assertion of inequality, a way to show that the strong are superior to the weak and can rightfully use them as objects of their pleasure.
"When reports of racial abuse are added to the mix, the evil is compounded, reviving memories of the systematic racial suppression we had hoped to have left behind us."
Brodhead goes on with this type of passionate and inflammatory language for four more paragraphs. …
In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Jacob Marley's ghost warns his old partner Ebenezer Scrooge to repent lest he suffer Marley’s fate of carrying “the chains forged in life” through eternity.I ended the post with:
Richard Brodhead will always carry “the chains” he forged when he abandoned the Duke lacrosse team.
Duke needs a new President.That was true in April 2008 and it’s true today.
The Trustees need to act.