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From Duke Black Alumni

We, the current and former leadership of Duke Black Alumni, write this letter to the Duke community to strongly condemn the Letter to the Editor entitled “It’s not all racism” from Charles Philip Clutts ‘61 printed in the Winter 2020 edition of Duke Magazine.  It is 2021, and we thought that society, and particularly Duke, had moved past these harmful, racist stereotypes of Black Americans, but sadly that is not the case.

We can no longer pretend that Duke is not a place where such destructive views would find no refuge – obviously Duke Magazine printed a letter with clearly racist stereotypes of Black Americans.  The publication of the letter does however, raise several questions and concerns beyond the racist rantings of a single alumnus.   As believers in the First Amendment and free speech, we acknowledge that Mr. Clutts and other alumni hold such baseless views, but the problem here is that Duke Magazine published a blatantly racist letter without any context, disclaimer or opposing views from University leadership.  How can Duke use this moment (and many others) to truly become the anti-racist institution it aspires to be? 

Let’s deal with the easiest issue first.  Charles Clutts is wrong in his outdated and racist stereotypes about Black people.  In a few short paragraphs, he recites virtually every negative stereotype that has been attached to Black Americans since the dawn of America, so we won’t dignify them with a response.  More concerning is that he felt free to espouse these racist views and that Duke Magazine - as the official voice of the University - gave him a worldwide platform to spread this hurtful nonsense with no context or alternative voices. 

We note that Mr. Clutts graduated from Duke two years before the first Black students were admitted, which clearly demonstrates why a diverse student body is so necessary.  While the Duke of 1961 was a great regional University, it was nowhere near the global powerhouse that it is today.  Today, unlike the 1960’s era, the University boasts an acceptance rate in the single digits making it one of the most competitive and sought-after universities in the world.  The University’s success can be attributed to many factors, but certainly a major factor is the increasingly diverse student body, including Black people from the U.S. and around the world, and increasing numbers of Latinx and Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Duke should celebrate that diversity and recognize it as the primary driver of excellence at the University, and certainly not supply oxygen to outdated racist stereotypes.  

This brings us to a deeper concern.  How could the flagship publication of Duke print such obviously racist tropes?  We would be similarly outraged with anti-Latinx, Native American, Asian American, LGBTQ+ or anti-Semitic stereotypes, but it is particularly galling to see the publication of this letter in 2020 – the year of George Floyd and a reckoning with America’s systemic racism.  Just last week with the vulgar insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the whole world witnessed the devastating consequences of unchecked White Supremacy. This brings us back to Mr. Clutts’s letter. 

Did no one at Duke Magazine or the Allen Building have concerns about printing this content?  Was there a diverse team in the editorial room to understand how this would land on the Black community and other communities?  For many in the Duke Black community it added insult to injury for this letter to be printed in the same issue that featured retiring Executive Vice President Tallman Trask on the cover.  Mr. Trask certainly had a noteworthy career at Duke transforming the campus space and navigating COVID, but for many alumni of all races, the 2014 incident of an alleged racial slur against a Black parking attendant still stings, especially without any public accountability.  For all of these issues, it shouldn’t always be incumbent upon the Black community to address racial incidents or insensitivities.  For Duke to become the university it strives to be, active anti-Racism is everyone’s business. Duke Magazine, along with all University leadership, must employ more care when choosing which voices to elevate.  Certainly, while perhaps not Duke Magazine’s intent, advancing the voice of a white alumnus who shifts the blame of systemic racism entirely onto impacted minority communities and asserts negative narratives about Black Americans as if they are facts, without any context or disclaimer from University leadership, is tantamount to condoning racism.

This brings us to our final point.  We hope that this issue of Duke Magazine can serve as a teachable moment for confronting systemic racism head on, especially since University leadership has issued a clarion call for Duke to be an anti-racist institution.  Indeed, because of its history and location in the South, Duke has a unique responsibility and opportunity to lead the way on confronting racism and celebrating Black excellence.  It will require hard work from the entire community:  students, alumni, faculty, administrators and staff.  Change cannot only come after crisis or controversy; more introspection and proactive work is necessary. 

Duke must continue to publicly celebrate the legacy of Black excellence that has always been in its midst and has contributed significantly to Duke.  Just a few examples:  some alumni may not know that famed architect Julian Abele designed many of the prominent spaces on Duke’s campus, including its main quad decades before he could even set foot on the campus.[1]  Duke Professor Emeritus John Hope Franklin was widely viewed as the foremost scholar in African American history, and ended his storied academic career at Duke. In the late 1960’s Samuel Dubois Cook was the first African-American to hold a tenured faculty appointment at a predominantly white college or university in the South.  Mary Lou Williams is widely viewed as a preeminent female jazz composer and instrumentalist, and spent the last several years of her life teaching at Duke, and left a legacy of scholarship and service.  Every alumnus should know about this rich legacy of black excellence at Duke.   

Many parts of the University should be consulted and engaged in these efforts, including the world-renowned Department of African and African-American Studies (“AAAS”), Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, the Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equity, The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.  Duke Black Alumni stand ready to partner with anyone interested in cross-racial understanding, civility and progress.  We have demonstrated this through programs such as our lecture and conversation series “Black in 2020” that has already reached thousands of alumni, faculty and students in engaging scholarship and dialogue.

In short, racism must be confronted head-on.  For a University that counts as alumni Stephen Miller and Richard B. Spencer[2], a self-proclaimed Neo-Nazi, Anti-Semite and white supremacist, who led the 2017 white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, racism (and other bias) can no longer be quietly tolerated.  It is time for active dialogue and to frontally attack such misguided views, which may be held by more people than we’d like to admit.  We challenge others to join us on this journey of racial understanding and reconciliation. 

But before that can happen, we demand a formal apology from Duke Magazine and University leadership to the entire Duke Black community (students, alumni, faculty and staff) who for too long have had their very existence at the University questioned and endured all forms of subtle and overt discrimination.  Then let’s all roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Danielle Squires '02
Immediate Past Co-Chair, Duke Black Alumni

Tadena Simpson '05
Co-Chair, Duke Black Alumni

Sanders Adu '94
Co-Chair Duke Black Alumni

Harry Jones '08, AM '10
Co-Chair Elect, Duke Black Alumni

1 See;
2 According to his Wikipedia Page, Richard B. Spencer was a PhD candidate at Duke from 2005 – 2007, but later withdrew before obtaining a degree


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From President Vincent E. Price

I have said before that as we seek to build a truly equitable university and root out racism on our campus and beyond, we won’t always get things right and will make some mistakes along the way. Unfortunately, we recently made a mistake by publishing a letter in the Duke Magazine, one that has sadly eroded the trust and mutual respect so vital to our work promoting equity and justice.

Duke Magazine seeks to provide a lively and engaging forum for our entire alumni community and is run by the Duke Alumni Association.  But it is, ultimately, a university publication, and as president I accept full responsibility for the content.  I also apologize for the hurt to many that publishing the letter has caused. I’m sorry, not because the words or ideas expressed in the letter are ours—they plainly are not—but because in publishing it, the magazine, and through it our university, gave added voice yet again to precisely those tropes that have too long brought their oppressive weight to bear on our Black community.

As the open letter from leaders of Duke Black Alumni explains here, whatever the intentions of the author or editors, publishing it in this visible forum has only sowed doubt as to our institutional sincerity, our sensitivity to the many ways that persistent and misguided ideas about race have very real and pernicious consequences, our resolve to act differently and deploy our voice more thoughtfully.

As a scholar of media and political communication in particular, I am deeply committed to free and open expression, and I recognize its vital importance to higher education. But Duke Magazine is not intended to be nor expected to be a common carrier or completely open platform for speech; readers correctly perceive it as carrying the imprimatur of our university. Invocations of free speech can too easily be used to absolve those of us with editorial power of our responsibilities to exercise it wisely, and justly.  We may not own the words, but we do own the amplifier and with it the consequences of broadcasting.

What to do? I share with my colleagues who create Duke Magazine and with our Black alumni the hope that this incident can serve yet as a teachable moment for confronting systemic racism. The pieces presented here are in service of that goal, seeking to explain and understand, to listen and to speak with respect for each other and in the hope of progress. This moment provides us with an opportunity to renew our commitments to a stronger, more inclusive future—and to do better by our alumni, students, colleagues and neighbors. These commitments are outlined in the Anti-Racism Initiative we launched in October, an effort that—while still in its early stages—is well underway. I am grateful for the many ways that alumni have already supported this initiative, and I am always open to your feedback about what we can do better.

At Duke, we have the opportunity and responsibility to harness what President Crowell once called the collective moral endowment of this community, to make real the notion that together—through our shortcomings and our triumphs, through our discoveries and our service, and yes, even through the hard work of learning from our mistakes—we can become an engine of positive change for the world. I believe that this is our deepest mission, one that will guide us to a brighter future ahead.

Vincent E. Price
President, Duke University

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From Duke Magazine

“To love this country and to love humanity is to push humanity constructively to be a better form of itself, and there’s no way we’re going to be a better form, there’s no way we can build a better humanity, while we still have on the shackles of racism.” Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

When we sent our Winter 2020 issue to the printer, we knew it had content that might elicit a strong response from readers. But we did not expect our Letters & Comments section to become the focus.

Our longstanding editorial philosophy has been to confront difficult issues, not dodge them.  Within the framework of pride, nostalgia, and storytelling, we aim to tell accurate stories about the university and its community.

The letter from Charles Clutts ‘61 was one of about ten we received in response to an article about the Kerner Commission in the Summer 2020 issue. Those letters ranged widely in tone. We chose to publish several that represented the points of views of those who wrote us.

We pick letters to include without considering whether we agree or disagree with the content. But we also understand that by publishing a letter in Duke Magazine, we are amplifying it.

We now know that our execution was deeply flawed. Worse, it caused harm to Black alumni, in particular, and the Duke community at large. We recognize our mistake and apologize for causing harm.

We want to ensure that the magazine is not just publishing stories about anti-racism but also demonstrating anti-racism itself. We believe publishing the Clutts letter was an act in the spirit of anti-racism. This belief stems from our reading of the work of Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist.

  • --Kendi argues against using “racist” as a fixed category, as an identity.
  • --He advocates for treating “racist” as a descriptive term that describes what a person is saying or doing in any given moment. That means if a person in one moment is expressing a racist idea, in that moment they are being racist.
  • --Kendi also talks about denial being the heartbeat of racism. “These denials using these phrases come from both conservatives and white liberals who think people of color are stuck in cycles of unstable families and criminal cultures, and that the deprivations of poverty and discrimination spin out bad people.”

We printed the piece with these ideas in mind. We believe the responses to this letter—to any letter we publish—is a valuable exchange that should happen within the alumni community.

In the last two weeks, we’ve been in conversation with many in that community and we’ve read the letters sent in response to our decision and subsequent apology. We reached out to some of those who wrote us as well as others in the community and asked their thoughts on what happened and how we could do better and move forward.

We’ve learned we haven’t been transparent enough about our processes. Mark Anthony Neal, James B. Duke Distinguished professor of African and African American Studies, first learned about the letter from Twitter. He said he thought it was the correct thing for the magazine to print the letter “because it gives some sense of how far the university still has to go on all these issues of race, and for the university to be also very clear about what some of its alumni base looks like.”

But that brought him to this question: “Was there an editorial framing around the letter, that at least folks would have some sort of context for its publication?”

Vanessa Saavedra J.D. ’04 talked more about this. “I actually went through the front matter in the magazine to see if there was a disclaimer about letters being not the opinion of the magazine.  I was also looking to see what the mission statement of the magazine was… if it was to represent Duke, if it was to be an objective reflection, just anything to give some guidance about the letter’s appearance there.”

 “Without the context, without the wrapper…of what you guys were trying to accomplish, I was left feeling like the university was attacking me,” said Ed Magee M.B.A. ’04

McKinley Melton ’04, a former student intern at the magazine, said that without the proper framing, “The more thoughtfully anti-racist choice…would simply be to not publish it and not provide a platform within a magazine that is the leading voice of the university to showcase ideas that are lacking in intellectual depth, not in keeping with the university’s values, and are disrespectful to its community.”

This lack of transparency was especially costly in this case. Without an explanation of our goal that the magazine demonstrate anti-racism by fostering a conversation about racial stereotypes, the letter was robbed of context and our readers were robbed of what might have been a helpful and meaningful exchange.

We’ve learned that, while in the past, the Letters & Comments section worked as a forum, for challenging topics like race, the approach has flaws. Social media moves fast. The three-to-four-month gap between print issues is too wide for an exchange of ideas.  

Luke Powery, dean of the chapel, told us that confronting racist ideas begins by recognizing a shared humanity in such interactions—however uncomfortable those interactions might be. And he spoke of opening ourselves to the presence of grace. “It’s funny that ‘race’ is embedded in the word ‘grace.’ One needs grace to even recognize the need for truth, the need for justice. Grace is the power that allows us to move in the direction of racial healing—really, of human healing. Any healing, any sense of community, comes as an act of grace. The same grace that’s been extended to us at various points in our human journey we need to extend to one another. Grace allows us to hope, to hope for the healing, to hope for something better, even in the midst of despair and tragedy.”

From those discussions, we’ve come up with some solutions to carry us forward:

  • --Starting in the Spring print issue, you’ll see a change in our Letters & Comments section. The box, with basic information about submitting information, will run at the beginning of the section. We’ll add a disclaimer to make clear that the letters’ opinions belong to the writers alone.
  • --We will develop a digital plan to support more and faster responses to letters to facilitate greater community dialogue around difficult topics like race. We’ll also reprint a selection of those responses in the next print edition.
  • --We will continue to examine the way we tell stories about the Black community and other underrepresented communities. We’ve already developed a project with the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute’s Story+, a six-week paid summer research experience. Through textual analysis and oral history, the project will examine how Duke Magazine has told the story of the university’s Black community. By examining our past language and story choices, we hope to ensure we move forward in an anti-racist framework.
  • --In the future, our words, our choices and our stories will advance the values of Duke as a daily act of anti-racism. 

We welcome your thoughts about this reflection.

Dave Kennedy
Vice President of Alumni Affairs and Development

Duke Magazine staff


The views and opinions expressed here by alumni and faculty belong solely to the authors, and do not necessarily represent any official positions or policies of Duke University.

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Chelsea Vohwinkel's picture
The acknowledgment of missteps by the magazine and the president in the publishing of the letters is appreciated but the responses lack acknowledgment of the ongoing public praise of Tallman Trask without public accountability for his past racist actions. I feel it is important in Duke's anti-racism work to finally address this long-standing issue directly and to our community.
Paul H. Park, M.S.'14, H.S.'12-'13's picture
When sharing opposing views of the readers, the breadth of views published should fall within the values claimed by the institution. This is especially true when publishing views of those who graduated from the institution. Duke Magazine failed to accomplish this. I hope that editors do not think Clutts' views are within the range of Duke's values.
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
If you are only exposed to views that are "within the range" of an institution's values, aren't you a mere droid of said institution? And how can you defend that institution's values if you are ignorant of the "bad" values that are non-conformant?
Paul H. Park, M.S.'14, H.S.'12-'13's picture
If you're only exposure to diversity of thought is coming from a University alumni magazine then you have more issues than you realize. This is an institutional magazine funded in part by alumni. It is not a public forum or a national medium.
Beth Phillips (Cusatis), Ph.D., M.S.N.'93's picture
Thank you to the Black Alumni who wrote this response to that racist, disgusting letter. I have many of the same questions about how this got into the magazine in the first place. That needs to be investigated. As an alum and current faculty member, I stand with my Black colleagues and alum and other POC to say that this must stop now.Beth Phillips
Patty Smith (Walsh), B.S.'77's picture
I laughed when I read Mr Clutts' letter. I knew it would be a close and very short race to the first claim of Racism, vs Apologia from Dr Price. But it was Suppression of Speech for the win! Many of you are Duke alum, who have been challenged to think critically for yourselves. Why can't you abide one person's sincerely proffered thoughts, or allow the magazine to include it? Diversity seems to mean what you say, nothing more and nothing less. "Becoming what you despise is not progress."
Kirk Kicklighter, A.B.'86's picture
Duke Magazine is certainly allowing the work of Ibram X. Kendi ("How To Be An Anti-Racist") to carry a lot of water here. If this is going to be a truly open "conversation," then shouldn't criticism of the validity and rigor of Kendi's work be open for discussion as well? Too many people have adopted — seemingly without question, and Duke seems to be in that category — Kendi's views (and those expressed in Robin DiAngelo's "White Fragility") without an appropriate level of intellectual scrutiny. I'm left of center and want to fight racism, too, but I'm not convinced this new Wokeness approach is going to make things better. It could easily make things worse. I see evidence of things getting worse when I see coalitions in academia rushing to shut voices down when those voices don't fall within currently mandated ideological parameters. Such behavior strikes me as being more about power and indoctrination than about actual honest debate. A number of Black writers and scholars have openly criticized Kendi's work, including Glenn Loury, Thomas Chatterton Williams, John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes, etc. In fact, a consensus among them concluded that a more appropriate title for Kendi's work is "How To Be An Anti-Intellectual" ....
Kirsten Anne Millar (Hagfors), M.B.A.'13, M.E.M.'13's picture
I applaud Duke Magazine for the diverse, interesting, and valuable publication that they produce. I don’t believe that including a letter to the editor that is outside of the current values of the institution is a misstep. In fact, I believe that it is important not to sweep perspectives like this under the rug. It is important to be aware that these really dangerous and damaging views are out there. What is scarier than including this as a perspective one (or more) alumnus has, is not publishing it and pretending like Duke is united in its efforts to respect and care for one another. This entire edition is about balancing perspectives. The letters came from a range of beliefs. I appreciated that. The article on The Root of the Matter dug deeper and asked fantastic questions of readers and the university. The Man with the Plans notes the nasty incident Trask found himself in. I respect the accomplishments of a man that has served the university for so long. The world is not rosy. Duke Magazine paints an accurate picture. Things to celebrate, things to work on, things to reject. I appreciate the quality content the team produces and am proud to be an alumna of an institution that cares so much about sharing real, sometimes messy and sometime hurtful, stories.
Naz Siddiqui, M.H.S.'10, H.S.'10's picture
Duke Magazine staff have acknowledged that their actions caused harm. While Duke Magazine is taking responsibility for the repercussions immediately felt, a more public-facing message should be delivered. We have to confront the fact that a long history of racism is contributing to distrust in the medical community and COVID vaccine hesitancy in the present day. That vaccine hesitancy is higher in people of color, who are often members of communities that are also most harmed by the virus. We are desperately trying to provide COVID vaccines to members of our local community – the very same community that supports Duke University. Yet these efforts are somewhat hampered by perceptions of racism within our institution. Despite each small step forward that medical professionals take to counteract these perceptions and provide care to our local community, something like this coming from a flagship publication at our University is a huge step backwards. We can, and MUST, do better.
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
Methinks "vaccine hesitancy" has a smidge more to do with certain starlets having a few kids with autism and blaming it on vaccines on the Oprah show (and folks saying any vaccine developed before Biden took office is suspect) than with an article in Duke magazine.
Henry Hood, A.B.'82's picture
I have re-read Mr. Clutts' letter several times, as objectively as I could, to evaluate whether I agree it was racist, whether the Black Duke Alumni were justifying in condemning it and whether Duke should have felt compelled to apologize for publishing it. I do not think the letter is inherently racist and only by focusing on selected comments with the intent to create controversy do you get there. His theme was that whites are weary of being called racists and even enlightened whites see the failings in African-American communities as at least partially responsible for the suppression of black advancement. The same could be said for disenfranchised whites in rural communities and inter-cities, many of whom are addicted to drugs and have no realistic way out of poverty. The lack of education, access to healthcare, quality jobs and housing are the causes of this deplorable situation, not the perpetuation of stereotypes. Most of the comments of the DBA in their letter of protest are well-founded, such as the reminder of the existence of notable blacks in Duke's history. However, demanding an apology for a largely benign plea for perspective on the race issue is an overreaction. And then, does Duke have to apologize for any publication that evokes a strong response from some alumni? Can we really characterize Mr. Clutts' letter as being so clearly offensive as to rise to the level of being hateful, the only thing that is arguable exempt from free speech? The range of Duke's values has to be broader than this.
Bob Dix, Jr., '61's picture
I agree with the comments that Mr. Clutt's letter was not inherently racist. And I disagree that the country is systemically racist. On a practical level my great grandfather was a private in the 144th N.Y. volunteer regiment recruited from Scotch Irishmen who saw action, and lost lives, in the Carolinas for two purposes: to preserve the Union and to end slavery. As Duke student and member of the Methodist Student Movement from 1957 to 1961 we participated sit-ins at Wallgreen Drug Store in Durham. I do not think Mr. Clutts' letter rises to the level meriting suppression. (Trinity College, 1961)
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
Agreed. You need to be a fairly rabid SJW to read racism into the original letter. And "hate" is purely in the eye of the beholder and is readily (re)defined as necessary to suppress opposition
Bruce Anderson, A.B.'63, J.D.'66's picture
I disagree with President Price's statement that the Duke Magazine made a mistake by publishing the Charles Phillip Clutt's Letter to the Editor. At the same time, I agree with Vice President Kennedy's suggestions as to ways in which the Magazine in the future can do a better job of pointing out that such Letter's reflect only the personal opinions of the writer and also increase the Magazine's coverage of stories about the Black and other underrepresented communities. The Black community, including the Duke Black Alumni organization, has every right to disagree with, and to criticize, Mr. Clutt's suggestions for things that Blacks could do to better the way some members of the public perceive them. But a University should be the last place to prohibit the expression of opinions on ways to improve race relations in this country, as long as those opinions do not propose violent or other unlawful approaches to that very important and necessary goal. We have over 100 years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving free speech law in our country that support the principle that in a democracy the marketplace of ideas must remain as open as possible. In the climate of today's America, that principle could not be more important. Bruce H. Anderson, BA '63, JD '66.
Elaine Yee, A.M.'09's picture
Duke black alumni letter shares facts, medical professional alumna shares facts. Letter from mag is a promissory note. Other alumni responses are off topic insofar as going into the weeds with debating the scholarly citation which is not the point, when rather the letter was the opportunity to question where we are as a community and how we speak on matters affecting what we do as a community on matters of opportunity which is a trust. If there are stories I have been given to know where a community was documented as a vaccine study population well then my sociology background asked how were they so poor as to want to be in a study? They had no infrastructure: real estate didn't serve them well. That's why my family wants to own. My Dad did basic training in Georgia for Army. He saw what he saw. I've been pulled off my acreage as a trespasser. DBA says it right. Stop suggesting or rollcalling the heraldry of wastour more than winner as the color line and instead of the white supremacy encompassed above.
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
Wow. Just. Wow. I saw the Reflections and Response email and clicked a bunch of links in it thinking I had missed some craaaazy KKK stuff that had gotten by the editors at Duke mag. It took me forever to find the *actual letter*. I had to find the link to read it. How typical of the Nomenklatura to give out a name to dox and destroy without also linking the original thoughts of the author. Hope this guy hasn't lost a job or had his home vandalized. Hopefully some woke fascist won't look me up and target me for my dissent. If you think that letter was racist, ("disgusting" according to somebody claiming a PhD) and are willing to "break the necessary eggs" to rectify that, (as BLM/Antifa appear ready to do) then we are well and truly doomed. The author readily admitted he graduated before integration and was very conciliatory in tone, even admitting "white privilege". His points have been made by many respected commentators on race that Duke students have ever been exposed to. Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, and even Jesse Jackson have made similar points about illegitimacy and family destruction. Then again, the first two are Uncle Toms according to modern racialist "anti-racist" theory, and whites who aren't Progressive are simply defined as racist. Nice "othering" mechanism you folks have going there--whatever are you going to do with those annoying untermensch who cling to their Enlightenment notions of logic, reason, and truth? It is simply gobsmacking that a letter that tame would cause such hue and cry. You kids need to peruse Orwell's 1984 with the knowledge that it is a *cautionary tale* and not a manual.
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
...and screwed up the slash. ;)
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture does not appear that the comment code preserves line breaks. My apologies.
Austin Forrest Anthis, III, B.S.E.'17's picture
We as Duke graduates must engage in thoughtful and compassionate dialog with those we disagree with. Mr. Clutts certainly expressed some views which are incorrect and outdated, but if he is not the paragon of someone who we should listen to and dialog with, I don't know who is. He sounds genuinely opposed to racism (i.e. acknowledging white privilege and denouncing discrimination) but believes other things that we do not. He is on our team: opposing racism and rooting for black success, he is simply misguided in some ways. If we can't hear his perspective and comment back thoughtfully (without condemnation and labelling), what hope is there for a country where millions hold similar views? Does anyone believe Mr. Clutts will feel compelled to repent and change his mind as his alma mater essentially calls him a racist? Does name calling do any good?
Jim Robinson, Ph.D., Ph.D.'67's picture
I am ashamed that Duke failed to educate these graduates about free speech, the value that defines our nation. They should know that free speech is important because it protects speech with which you may disagree. As for Mr Clutts' letter, his statements are supported by many studies of the predictors of economic success and some statements about the importance of family structure by even former president Obama.
E. Taylor Shipley, Jr., A.B.'71's picture
where is the link to the letter?
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.'95's picture
You have to go to the 2020 Winter home page, click on the print version, then click on the Forum section. That will bring up a viewer and you can get to the letter. <br> You will see that it is extremely uncontroversial and rather conciliatory in tone. Progressives simply define dissent as either "racism" or "hate" and use that excuse any Stalinist tactic in crushing it.
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.&#039;95's picture
can't Duke mag find a decent open source forum app that will either preserve line breaks or allow HTML?
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.&#039;95's picture look under Forum
Gordy Kanofsky, J.D.&#039;80's picture
I’m proud that the University is willing to admit when a mistake is made (though I hope mistakes such as publishing without comment the racist letter to the editor will be very few and far between), and I’m even prouder of our Black and other People of Color alumni, students, faculty and administrators who so forcefully stand up to be speak out on these pressing issues. The best antidote for free speech is more free speech — the more informed the better. I, a White alumnus of the law school (1980), proudly join your chorus. I’ve participated in a number of virtual events put on by the BAA during the pandemic. They’ve been first rate and informative. I am very glad that they’ve opened their programming to the entire University community. We are all One Duke, intellectually and otherwise richer together. I stand with the entire Duke community, regardless of color, religion, gender or any other characteristic.
Ann Clarke (Hodson), A.B.&#039;63's picture
I want to amplify comments about the importance of the process by which letters are selected and framed. Especially important is the need to have diverse sets of eyes and perspectives in this particular "room where it happens." I know that this concept maybe dismissed as meaningless, trendy, or "woke." As an "old" white woman I have enough experiences as first or only to be sure that inclusion matters. Ann Hodson Clarke '63
Patsy Davis, A.B.&#039;63's picture
I am an old southern white woman who graduated from Duke in 1963. Like most southerners, the issue of race is central to who I am. Until graduate school I had never studied with a person of color. I grew up in Jim Crow South in Richmond, the Capital of the Confederacy and graduated from high school during the era of massive resistance, the Byrd machine, and the establishments of private all white schools. Mine was no Saul/Paul conversion. Change often came like uncomfortable slaps. When I returned to Duke from my Junior year in India, I saw Whites on one side of the counter with Blacks serving from the other side. Seeing, for the first time, I was actually seeing. The books I read and the people around me taught me words for what I see. My hope is that Duke offers books and people who help students see. ann.....i was glad to read your comments. email me at love patsy davis
Alan Byrd, B.S.E.&#039;95's picture
Speak for yourself, lady. I am a melanin-impoverished nominal Southerner (actually from WNC mountains) and race is absolutely not central to who I am. Race is central to the identity of racists, extremists, and Critical Race Theory. But I repeat myself. Apparently, Duke doesn't offer the Gulag Archipelago, 1984, and Brave New World as books to help students "see".
Arthur McTighe, ESQ, A.B.&#039;70's picture
I missed Freshman Week in September 1965 because my grandmother had died but if my memory serves me well the KKK marched through downtown Durham that week. I'll never forget walking later downtown and a Black man approaching me stepped into the gutter as I came near. I support in full the powerful and accurate letter of response by the Duke Black Alumni! Arthur A McTighe, Trinity 1970
Skip Sander, Jr., &#039;61's picture
I put a lot of work into finding the offensive article. I couldn't download it or print it in any way. But now that I've read it, I can see that the abject apologies for printing it are laughable. Grow up, Dukies.
Steve Brotman, A.B.&#039;90's picture
Here's the letter printed in the Duke Magazine letter by Clutts it's here: “It’s not all racism”: on page 5.
Steven Hammer, A.B.&#039;59's picture
The article is just one more example of the weak leadership in the Alumni Affairs offices. The directory has gone from a very useful document years ago to one of the worst in the nation. Same for the magazine. Please do something about the problem.
Elaine Yee, A.M.&#039;09's picture
It is hard when one gets in their say and is torn up for it. I find myself wanting to issue a note of remorse with regard to the venom in my response to this letter in question's reception. The fire was my experience from Duke, but it wasn't about receiving Mr. Clutt's letter in the gamut of ways I know to do as a scholar,strictly speaking. I'm not African American nor am I a Black American so I cannot speak to a received experience. First pass?