Duke Voices on Next Steps After Charlottesville

aerial shot of West Campus

A challenging week has a nation talking about race, politics, history and other issues in the aftermath of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. Duke experts have lent their voices on issues as varied as the ethical responsibility of CEOs to the naming of military bases. Here’s a roundup of several of the voices:

Wednesday, Aug. 17

  • Parents across the country are looking for advice about how to discuss the controversy over Confederate statues with young children. Duke psychologist Robin Gurwitch told ABC News that it can be a positive thing for parents to engage the children in conversation on the topic. “If we don’t start the conversation kids sometimes get the idea that, 'This must be so scary,' or, 'My parents don’t know what is happening so I don’t want to bring it up,'" Gurwitch said. Read more.

Tuesday, Aug. 16

  • Professor Laurent Dubois discussed on twitter the connection between history and monuments. "Monuments are the public embodiment of social values, and have to be reconsidered and transformed as society changes," wrote Dubois, who is professor of Romance Studies and history and director of the Forum for Scholars & Publics. The tweets have been collected as a storify page here. Dubois followed the story up with an interview on Public Radio International.
  • In The Washington Post, Duke political science assistant professor Ashley Jardina provided a roadmap of how white identity politics plays out in America. She notes that the KKK, Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists are a small segment of the population who hold white identity beliefs. These voters, driven by concerns about the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, see themselves as victims of diversity policies that they believe advantage minorities. Trump’s election, Jardina said, underscores “the broader and more pervasive role of white identity in American politics.” Read here.
  • Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, described his conflicted feelings about the destruction of a Confederate statue in front of the old Durham County courthouse this week. He said he wants removal of memorials to racism and hate, but noted that vandals this week also damaged the Holocaust memorial in Boston. “Why, I wonder, do we think of one as activism and the other as vandalism?” Moneta writes in the Jewish Journal. He says he wants “their removal through legitimate, law-abiding processes.”
  • The News & Observer reran an opinion article written by Timothy Tyson, a senior research scholar at Duke, on the history of Confederate monuments in North Carolina. Most monuments were constructed not after the Civil War -- a war in which many Tar Heels opposed the Confederacy -- but after 1898, when a party of white supremacists used force and fraud to throw out of office a collection of biracial reformers.  "Only one side of our racial history – the Confederates and the white supremacy movement – gets public monuments in North Carolina." Tyson writes. The article initally ran two years ago when the state legislature passed a law restricting removals of monuments in the state. Read here.

Monday, Aug. 17

  • Fuqua School Dean William Boulding has written extensively about the risks and challenges for CEOs taking political stands in the era of the Trump administration. With several leading CEOs abandoning Trump business advisory panels, Boulding told CNN Money that business leaders have to ask whether “the risks of silence outweigh the risk of taking a public stance?”
  • WBUR in Boston asked Duke political science professor Kerry Haynie, director of the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity, about race and the White House's response to the weekend's protests in Virginia. Haynie said it's hard to see President Trump's condemnation of white supremacists two days after the protests as genuine. "We're in some troubling times, I think," Haynie says. Listen to the interview here.
  • Haynie also appeared on WJLA in Maryland, where he spoke with caution about a rush to dismantle the statues: "I am fearful as an educator that we will forget the past," Haynie noted. "You often see now in textbooks and various places almost a denial of a slavery past or a racist past. One of the purposes those monuments serve is to remind us of that past." Read here.
  • Mark Anthony Neal appeared on Minnesota Public Radio to discuss America's struggle to reconcile the country's legacy of slavery. Neal, chair of Duke's Department of African and African American Studies, said while the issue resonates heavily in the South, a focus on that region will fail to deal with it nationally. Listen to the interview here.
  • While much of the focus has been on Confederate monuments, Slavic Languages visiting professor Michael Newcity examined why the names of a large number of U.S. military bases named after Confederate leaders haven’t been changed. The article was published Tuesday in the Detroit Free Press and is scheduled for publication in newspapers elsewhere. Read here.
  • David Schanzer, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, wrote in The Guardian that President Trump has to take immediate steps to assure the American people that he is not a compatriot of white supremacists. Schanzer, whose research includes studies of right-wing domestic terrorism, said the president “has a long way to go” to demonstrate his condemnation of racism is not hollow. Read the article here.

You can read these items and more in What’s Next, Duke’s roundup of political analysis from faculty and students. Also see: A Duke Reading List of Studies of Race, Politics and History.