Local News

Media's Perception Of Duke, Durham Not Reality, Students Say

Posted April 20, 2006
Updated December 9, 2006

— Some students at Duke University and North Carolina Central University say an ongoing investigation into allegations of rape involving three white Duke lacrosse players and a black exotic dancer won't tear the Durham community apart.

Students from both schools, as well as Durham Technical Community College, put some sweat equity behind that investment Saturday and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, working to build a house in Durham's West End community.

Durham's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance scheduled the student workday with Habitat because it draws people of all backgrounds -- race, socio-economic and faith, organizers said.

The rape investigation, which has made headlines across the nation, has -- at least -- created the impression of heightened racial tensions in Durham, but students volunteering Saturday said they did not see it that way.

"No, we don't hate each other," said Barron Brown, a student at N.C. Central, where the alleged victim is enrolled. "We don't hate each other at all."

Students at both universities also said the perception in the media is not the reality they know.

"I feel like Duke and Durham are a microcosm of America," said Duke student Thomas Stratton. "I don't think the problems are anymore severe than the nation at-large."

The semester, no doubt, has been tough for students at both schools. Since the rape allegations surfaced in March, both campuses, as well as Durham, have received large amounts of media coverage -- some of which has portrayed Duke as an elite white university in a poor black city.

City leaders and the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau have been battling that perception, distributing promotional material about the city which gives the facts on Durham's racial makeup and financial status.

The city's population is 45.5 percent white and 43.8 percent black, while the median household income is $41,160, or just under the national average.

And yes, Stratton said there are relationships to repair and rebuild, but when it comes down to it, students from both campuses have a good foundation.

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