Anti-reparations protest

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Mar 23 16:17:06 MST 2001

Durham Herald-Sun

March 23, 2001

Anti-Reparations Protests Continue

By Jennifer Chorpening <jlc at>

DURHAM -- One hundred fifty students filed silently from the student union
to Duke President Nan Keohane's office early Thursday to deliver petitions
protesting a political ad against reparations for slavery that appeared in
the Monday edition of the student-run newspaper.

Like a funeral procession, the protesters -- black, Asian and white -- used
one arm to hold the person in front of them and the other to hold signs
that screamed their anger and hurt.

"It's not a black thing," "Stop the hate," "Make The Chronicle
responsible," the signs said.

After entering Duke's Allen Building, the protesters slowly climbed the
winding staircase and pushed through the glass doors of the administration
offices. Keohane stood outside her door, flanked by several of her senior

The students brushed by, dropping into the president's outstretched hands
reams of paper -- 269 signed petitions demanding the university account for
its progress after past protests by black students in 1969, 1975 and 1997
-- as Keohane tried to shuffle the stack into an orderly bundle.

They then moved down the long hall, turned, and made their way back out the
door, their backpacks and trendy messenger bags slung over their shoulders,
their dorm keys jangling on their chests off of long cords.

After the students left, Keohane called the march a "very important way of
making a statement."

"It was appropriate and quite moving," she said, before retiring with
administrators to discuss the petitions.

The students demanded that the university make a progress report of demands
from past protests and pull its advertising from The Chronicle if the
newspaper did not give them two pages: one for an apology, and one to rebut
the ad, titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea --
and Racist Too."

In addition, the students demanded the newspaper reform its policy on
reviewing ads, so that "offensive material is not published outside of the
editorial page," and that the paper provide full and adequate coverage of
minority events. The money received from the ad should be either returned
or given to an agreed-upon organization or cause in the Durham or Duke
community, they said.

On Monday, The Chronicle published the full-page anti-reparations ad placed
by the conservative columnist David Horowitz for $793.80.

The ad argues that reparations paid to the descendants of slaves would be
unjust, as recipients' sole qualification for receiving the payments would
be skin color. In addition, the ad says American blacks are better off
today than Africans; reparations have already been paid through welfare and
the Civil War; and only a tiny minority of whites owned slaves, but all
would pay the reparations.

More than 200 students attended an all-day sit-in of a room near The
Chronicle's offices Wednesday. They developed a plan of action late that
night, and a smaller group of about 15 marched into The Chronicle after
midnight. Told it was a private space and that police had been called, the
group re-grouped at the Bryan Center, where 50 to 75 students spent the night.

The silent march started at 10:30 a.m. Thursday and lasted about 30 minutes.

Ronald Nance, a late-night housekeeper at the Bryan Center, said when he
got off the elevator to clean the floor, he'd "never seen that many people
here at 3 a.m." Usually, the Bryan Center closes at 3 a.m., but the
students had special permission from the Duke Police to stay in the building.

Nance, who is black, looked on as the students slowly dispersed from their
circle. He said he hoped they would prevail, but that it was in God's hands.

Around 6 p.m., Keohane e-mailed several of the student leaders and said she
would pull together a report on previous demands by March 29. However, she
would not promise to ask university departments and academic units to
withdraw their ads from the newspaper.

"If the university needs to announce, for legal and safety reasons, the
conditions under which a bonfire may occur to celebrate a Final Four
basketball victory, we need to publicize that broadly. The university
administration does not tell individual offices where and what they may
advertise and, in the interests of all the students who depend on The
Chronicle for such information that is important to their academic and
other decisions, it would be inappropriate for us to do so," she wrote.

But, if The Chronicle does not provide the space for a rebuttal and
refutation of the arguments in the ad, Keohane promised to "underwrite the
full cost of the page."

She reiterated the university's commitment to free and open inquiry, and
dialogue about the issue in Duke's classrooms and open forums.

"Through such dialogue, and through continuing to support one another
sensitively in times of pain and hurt, we strengthen our university,"
Keohane wrote.

Greg Pessin, editor of The Chronicle, said a response, signed by all the
editors, would be given to the student protesters at a meeting late
Thursday evening. This event was to occur after The Herald-Sun's deadline.

Pessin had previously refused to apologize, saying, "Open debate, open
discussion, should not be sacrificed for comfort." Pessin wrote in the
newspaper's Wednesday issue, "The free exchange of ideas and the academic
freedom so dear to our university cannot be realized unless all voices,
regardless of controversy, are heard."

Sarah Wigfall, Duke junior and a leader of the protest, said she'd never
had a problem with race "at this school until Monday."

This ad, she said, made her cry in her dorm room, where she and her
roommate sent out a missive over an e-mail list compiled in the past for a

So, instead of studying for an important test, Wigfall got one hour of
sleep at the Bryan Center.

"Life here is stressful enough at Duke," she said. "Now we have to deal
with an issue that should never have occurred."

The ad was sent to nearly 50 universities, of which at least 18 have
refused to run it.

At least nine student newspapers have run the ad, after which the
newspapers at Arizona State, Berkeley and the University of California at
Davis also apologized. Friday, student activists at Brown University --
where the ad appeared March 14 -- stole 4,000 copies of the paper in protest.


Links related to this article:

Text of Horowitz ad:

Copyright (c) 2001 Durham Herald Company. All Rights Reserved.

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