Mar 282017
 
 March 28, 2017  Posted by

 

Turn your neck away from the U.S. for a second. Yes, just a teeny tiny second. “But…Betsy Devos! Obamacare! The future of the world!” you will cry desperately. Understandable, but while you were completely engrossed by the dystopian reality TV fantasy hybrid American politics has become, the rest of the world moved on. Unfortunately, not to a good place. A genocide is being committed today, right now. People are fleeing, and not just the refugees you love hearing about because they’re a problem for European countries, but other people. Even worse, champions of democracy that the U.S. government supported through lofty speeches for decades, who bears all the hallmarks given so graciously to proponents of democracy in the “third world” (ahem, the Nobel Peace Prize), have stood by quietly and endorsed massacres.

Turn your neck a little bit further. You’re at war with seven countries. That’s your tax dollars at work being used to starve children in Yemen. Unfortunately, you can’t blame that one on Trump, though I’m sure he’s not about to make it better. The man you laughed at while saying thank you to for 8 years stood by while a dictator used chemical weapons on his people after drawing a “red line” in the sand. But these are not his faults either. Instead, a product of years of American exceptionalism. An accumulation of putting fingers in pies that were not yours to begin with. This is not to insinuate that you are complicit for the crimes of your government; but neither are you a mere witness to history’s passage.

As your neck begins to strain from watching the horror of watching things you thought we once declared to happen “never again”, know that you are not helpless. In fact, you are exactly where you need to be to effect change – in the right place, at the right time. You have a president you (presumably) despise, but who is willing to retract from the world. Use him to end the US’s support of Saudi war crimes in Yemen. Call your senators about the Rohingyas. If you are truly committed to building the kind of world that can uphold a promise of “never again”, your civic duty does not end with calling about Betsy Devos. In fact, your responsibilities as a global citizen have barely begun.

Take heart in the fact that you are the person the world needs. Then march yourself to the phone, and call your senator.

Mar 272017
 
 March 27, 2017  Posted by

First day of my freshman year of high school. I’m sitting in the cafeteria with some friends, not entirely sure where my next class is. A friend comes up to me, a boy I’ve never seen before in tow. She introduces me to him, all small talk and nervous smiles.

Flash forward four years, and that boy is grown up. He is a man, in a suit, speaking at my graduation party

“She’s been my best friend for the past four years, my person.”

He was right. He was my person. No one knew me the way he did. We had travelled together, relied on each other, trusted one another implicitly. Not only were we best friends, but we were speech partners and co-captains of our speech and debate team. The success of our performance relied on our ability to perform with synchronization and communication.

“We’ve cried together, we’ve peed our pants laughing together. But most importantly we found out who we were together.”

Last semester, Nate attended college in Utah. He called me nearly every day. Whether it was for a quick five minute hey-how’s-your-day-going or a longer conversation, his voice was something constant in a time of shifting ground. I was there for him, watching on FaceTime when he received his mission call. I watched when he opened it in front of a room of near-strangers. I watched as he read the words he had been waiting for since he was a child.

“Dear Elder Wutzke. You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Czech/Slovak Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.”

Earlier this year, Nate travelled to the Missionary Training Center in Utah. After weeks there studying the Czech language, he will find a new home in the Czech Republic. He will spend the next two years there on his mission, serving the people in whatever way he can.

All I can tell him is how happy I am for him. With every email, his joy is evident on the pages. He is dedicating his life to something he loves wholeheartedly. Still, I was not expecting to feel hurt that he would choose to leave. I was not expecting to wish he could have stayed. I’m terrified that he’ll come back, and I won’t know him at all. I know this isn’t fair, but I don’t want him to come back someone that I don’t recognize. I was not expecting for that to make me feel guilty.

The questions here are bigger than Nate and I. Is it wrong to wish the people you love won’t change? We all have personal interests in maintaining the relationships that are most meaningful to us, but how does that change as each of us has obligations outside of our relationships? I don’t want Nate to change because I love and know the person who he is.

At the same time, this is wholly hypocritical. I can’t expect to stay the same for the next two years either, nor would I want to. If I’m the same person at graduation as I was during convocation, then I did something very wrong.

The scary truth is that Nate and I may grow away from one another in irreconcilable ways. We’ll both go home in two years. We’ll learn to know one another all over again.

The day Nate entered the MTC, he called me from a strange number. I missed the call.

“Hey Sonali, I am about to enter the MTC so…there’s that. I love you um make good choices, have a great semester and I’ll see you in two years. Love you bye.”

See you in two years, Elder Wutzke. I can’t wait to meet you all over again.

Mar 242017
 
 March 24, 2017  Posted by

Ever since the result of the election, protest after protest has popped up to contest the Trump administration. On January 21st, 2017, over 5 million people across the world joined 673 Women’s Marches in what became the largest one-day demonstration in US history. A little more than a week later, people flocked to airports all over the country to protest the new immigration ban. As a movement, these protests advocate for human rights policies and legislations, highlighting the many inequalities minorities must face.

Yet, even though I agree with what these marches stand for, I can’t help but feel uneasy with the notion of protesting.

To begin, much of protesters arguments have been that Trump supporters are ignorant – unaware of the privilege they have and the hardship of others. But I’ve seen too many protesters guilty of ignorance themselves, going out to ridicule policies based on their perception of the law rather than what the law actually states. Combating ignorance with more ignorance doesn’t solve the problem, nor does it move us closer towards any agreement. This is not to say that protestors views are not valid, but that they must be informed before acting. They go in with the right intentions, but not the full picture of what is at hand. For example, many of the Women’s March participants only stood for women’s rights, when the demonstration was also meant to stand for immigration, healthcare, environment, and employment reform, as well as LGBTQ rights, racial equality, and religious freedom. Why didn’t they advocate for those issues too?

Understandably, some might say that protesting is the first step towards raising awareness and advocacy. But I believe raising awareness means educating, not a pep rally of chanting one’s beliefs. Hearing “the pussy grabs back” won’t make someone who is sexist suddenly treat women as equals, rather, it might even have the opposing effect. But hearing a better understanding of why feminism is important, and what feminism can do for the world, has a much more meaningful impact.

My next concern is that the protests only further the divide between opposing parties. How does congregating a group of people, who already agree with each other change the minds of people who disagree with them? How does sharing experiences of racism, sexism, and islamophobia make an impact, if those who sympathize with victims are the only ones hearing it? Ultimately, I believe we need people from conflicting sides to communicate with one another to better understand each other’s’ perspectives. Only with these conversations can we unite in a solution – otherwise the country will only continue in this gridlock. I love that liberals advocate for inclusion and fight for the rights of minorities, defending the importance of diversity. But at the same time, we ought to recognize that diversity still includes the views of our conservative counterparts.

There is a reason people hold the beliefs they do. There is a reason people from certain areas tend to hold certain views, as a result of their upbringings and experiences. We cannot categorize large numbers of people as “wrong” or “right” simply by the situations they were placed in, even if we believe the views derived from them to be seriously detrimental. Trump was elected, in part, because a large portion of Americans felt like they weren’t being listened to. But are protests doing to hear them? Is there a more effective way to involve their voices too? I believe that if we keep protesting, keep fighting with blinders on to the opposing side, our country only becomes further polarized–the very country we claim to be “united”.

Mar 082017
 
 March 8, 2017  Posted by

Is there an image that comes to mind when someone says “Duke Student”?

Maybe it’s a Cameron Crazie, jumping up and down with blue and white body paint on (and not much else) holding a punny sign about the force being with Luke Kennard.

Maybe it’s one of the many amazing and outspoken students we have on campus, the ones who earn the accolades and awards, whose name comes into conversation whenever a person talks about how amazing Duke students are. Maybe it’s you, and your own Duke journey.

Duke students are a wide and diverse group of people, coming from all over the world, seeking varying paths in their academic endeavours and post-graduation plans, yet all united under the overarching shadow of the Duke Chapel, and our specific shade of blue and white we wear almost obnoxiously around campus and beyond.

Sometimes it seems that we can identify “the Duke student” so easily. Yet I know that Cameron can’t hold every undergraduate, let alone even half of us. I also know that not every Duke student can be a merit scholar, or a Rhodes or Fulbright recipient.

I often hear that the admissions office cultivates an incoming class that fits the image of where Duke wants to see itself, the type of student Duke wants to have on campus. Yet, who is it? Personally I’m not a big sports fan, and I am not curing cancer or publishing a paper on the impact of microfinance loans in a rural community anytime soon. Is it bad to be against the “grain” of a University? Does Duke intend to have a mix of students, a class that focuses on the arts more than basketball, or science more than pub pol?

Do we determine who is a “Duke Student”, or is it everyone around us? Is it admissions? Is it the campus? Everyone here at Duke had to be chosen, and with a 9% regular admission rate for the class of 2020, it wasn’t left to chance. How, then, is a Duke student made? Is there a mold we fill? Or a set of guidelines we check? Can we be transplanted to another university and do just as well there? Or are we tailored to be Devils… to wear our shade of blue?

Sometimes it can feel like Duke students are one of a kind, a special blend of person that all holds the same value. Sometimes I wonder how I’m considered a Duke student if I don’t go to a basketball game, don’t partake in Shooters Saturdays or don’t wear our favorite color.

Duke’s campus can feel inclusive and isolating all at the same time. Duke’s campus can be homogenizing and diverse all at the same time. I think it’s okay to feel united, to “be” a Duke student. I also think it’s okay to not feel like that all the time, to be you, before being a “duke student”

Mar 062017
 
 March 6, 2017  Posted by

In God We…Vote?

Almost every US President has affiliated himself with formalized religion. Pew Research Polls suggest that it remains important for a majority of Americans for elected official to have strong religious beliefs.

To understand why this attitude exists in American society, it requires us to examine our country’s history and the very reasons America was settled in the first place. In the 17th century, when King Henry VIII killed the Catholic church of England and created the Anglican Church, many were unhappy with this change and wanted to purify the Anglican church. The Separatists, aka the Pilgrims, sailed to America and settled in Plymouth Rock. Not long after, they were followed by the less extreme Puritans who settled in Massachusetts Bay.

The Puritans immigrated here in search of freedom from persecution. The Puritans were infamous having a very strict and structured society driven by the believe of hard work leading to prosperity. John Winthrop, a leader of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is revered for delivering the “City on a Hill” speech that declared the US would be a new land where the Puritans could worship freely. Their colony would be a “beacon to the world,” representing what a Godly community should be.

This was where the seed of American exceptionalism had been planted. Our “Christian purity” has been entwined with our country’s identity since its inception. It is no mistake that our pledge of allegiance includes God, and that our the new President is sworn in on a Bible. Our country was rooted in Christianity and the principles of Puritans lasted long after the colonial area.

As shown by the Pew Poll, religion is still an important characteristic for political candidates and this is supported by the fact that a large majority of Congress members identify as Christian. From the 2016 election, we know that candidates for high office don’t need to portray Christian values, they solely need to look the part. Donald Trump didn’t need to prove himself a Christian, he just needed to claim he was. I find it ironic that Trump couldn’t name his favorite Bible verse when asked in an interview–yet he was revered by many as being a good, Christian man.

It is unclear how many votes Trump earned as a result of his religious convictions, but it is clear that he was largely supported because of his party membership, his maleness, and his whiteness. The latter two factors are advantageous attributes for any candidate for public office in America and they are not-so-subtle reflections of a deeper social ills of racism and sexism.

Sexism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are not only rooted in our country’s history but these problems are also rooted in our institutions. They are rooted in our justice system, our legislatures, schools, and surely in our congregations. It isn’t surprising that Trump won a majority of the Catholic vote in the election and there are numerous websites and facebook pages proudly proclaiming “Catholics for Trump.” Is this because Trump represents the Christian values that our nation holds so dear? No. But it is because we have used Christianity to justify narrow-mindedness, bigotry, and fear of outsiders.

The result of Trump’s victory and his normalization of these hateful ideologies have had measurable effects since the election. Across the country, there has been an escalation of vandalism, threats, intimidation, and assault since November.

Surely, this is not the type of City Upon a Hill Winthrop proclaimed America would become.

Mar 032017
 
 March 3, 2017  Posted by

Leading up to the Grammys last Sunday, popular news media framed the 2017 Grammys as the ultimate star showdown between Beyoncé and Adele. Beyoncé was nominated for nine awards that night while Adele was nominated for five. Both artists shared nominations for the three largest award categories of Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year. The night was shaping up to be similar to that of the 2016 Grammys with Kendrick Lamar vs. Taylor Swift.

As you all know, like Taylor, Adele won Album of the Year and dominated the night by winning each of the awards she was nominated for. To be fair, Adele’s album “25” and song “Hello” are absolutely amazing and I love them both. However, Beyoncé deserved to win, hands down.  Adele knew this Sunday night, when accepting her fifth award of the evening for Album of the Year, Adele walked up from backstage crying. In her acceptance speech she stated, “I cannot possibly accept this award… my artist of my life is Beyoncé.” Quickly, I would like to step back and appreciate what Adele did in speaking out to injustice where it exists rather the practicing some exclusionary white feminism (Taylor should take notes). But anyways, later backstage, Adele said “I felt it was like [Beyoncé’s] time to win… What the f*** does she have to do to win Album of the Year?” The last time a black woman won Album of the Year was Lauryn Hill in 1999, joining Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston as the only other black women recipients.

This snub is indicative of a greater problem within the Grammys (and many other award shows): appreciating mainstream sales over genuine artistry. This is also a race problem. The oversight of the R&B and hip-hop artists (not to mention Rihanna’s Anti snub) that have expanded the popular music genre has been going on for decades, and it is frankly appalling. I made time over the weekend to watch the award show in hopes that Beyoncé would actually win what she did indeed deserve, but other than the incredible performances by black artists (Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Bruno Mars, A Tribe Called Quest) the award show was not worth watching.

So unless black artists want to only win categories like Best Urban Contemporary Album (there are so many things wrong with this title), it may be time to join Frank Ocean and Kanye West in either not submitting their work or not showing up to the Grammys because it will not give them the recognition they deserve. To continue to award mainstream white artists is a rejection of incredible art of black visionaries. I look forward to seeing how the Oscars turn out to see if their adjustments will be more inclusive to that of artists of color because the Grammys may need to undergo similar changes. America has always had a love for black culture and it is about time we start loving and recognizing the people who make it.

#BlackLivesMatter #BlackArtMatters

Mar 022017
 
 March 2, 2017  Posted by

In the 7th grade, I learned that I was expected to shave. Don’t ask me how this came up, but the girls in my class were comparing shaving routines and joking about how they don’t want to look like guys (i.e. hairy and gross). I started using my older sister’s razor, despite my mom’s warning that once I started shaving I wouldn’t be able to stop and despite the fact that being East Asian, my leg hair was nearly invisible. But my legs felt so smooth after washing off the shaving cream. It felt like a very grown-up thing to do, and I didn’t want those girls from gym class to notice my leg hair and look down on me because of it.

When I did stop shaving after a few months, it wasn’t because I had a feminist awakening that told me I needed to break out of this pretty absurd gendered expectation, but mostly because I got lazy and noticed that it didn’t make a difference either way.

The feminist awakening online did help justify my relative hairiness, though. For example, while my legs don’t need shaving, my armpit hair is much closer to what my actual hair looks like, so I’ll shave for special occasions but not regularly. Near the beginning of the year, my hallmate was visiting in my room, and I was wearing a tank top, so she noticed my armpit hair and said “You don’t shave?”, not aggressively, but with a general curiosity. I said no, not usually. A pause. And then, “Oh…good for you!”

There’s a chance she was silently judging me, but it sounded more like she was impressed that I was able to muster up the courage to not care about social norms, like it was some brave thing to do. And that tends to be the case when women, or celebrities on red carpets, do something truly daring like letting their hair grow where it pleases.

Not all women are aware of all the reasons we shouldn’t be expected to shave. Many girls are aware of its immediate risks and perhaps even its social implications, yet have been so far removed from its origins that they are able to justify them. We are taught that with beauty comes pain: the kind of pain women are taught is worth it.” Women teach each other to shave, but men were the ones who told us our hair was a symbol of primitiveness, associated with “less developed” forms.

So there isn’t really anything except for that archaic notion that should stop women from putting down the razor. Except it’s not so easy to completely ignore the rules we’ve grown up with. I still think that my hairy armpits are unattractive, which is why I shaved before I put on the sleeveless dress I wore this weekend. Does that make me a bad feminist?

But you can’t really blame women for wanting to be the beautiful, hairless girl they see in magazines. “Come into Ideal Image laser hair removal today! Buy one area and get two areas free!” Is it our responsibility as women to actively resist a society that is constantly telling us we are not beautiful when we are natural?

Maybe it’s not that all women should just stop shaving and waxing and laser-hair-removing, but that they shouldn’t be forced to keep worshipping ridiculous ideals in the first place. We need to let 7th grade girls know that it’s not gross to have body hair, which means we need to stop marketing shaving as something that will make you a “goddess” (looking at you, Gillette Venus Razors for Women). Women need to remember that men decided these beauty standards, and we have no obligation to abide by them.

Mar 012017
 
 March 1, 2017  Posted by

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about sensational news.

First, let’s clarify. The headline of this article isn’t entirely untrue*, though it is (thankfully) misleading. The student in question? Yours truly, working on this blog post into the wee hours of the night.

A look at other recent headlines reveals a trend. Several weeks ago, self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer was punched in the face; the act, recorded on camera, was widely spread on social media, and the response was tremendous. Comments ranging from excitement to Schadenfreude littered the Twittersphere. Mere (weeks?) later, Kellyanne Conway mistakenly referenced a terror attack in Bowling Green, KY, and social media had a field day with posts of satire and ridicule. Individuals even set up fake donation sites in remembrance of the “tragedy.” Again and again, we see the social media sphere trivializing important events into pure entertainment, with serious responses devolving into jokes and memes.

And it was fun while it lasted. Yet, this sensationalization of news seems to detract from its gravity; after all, only so much information can be conveyed in 140 characters. This seems to follow the “millennial” trend of taking information in bits and sound bytes. NowThis, a popular liberal news source that shares news in the form of minute-long videos, is a more visible manifestation of this phenomenon.

However, abridging news inherently condenses, and therefore generalizes, the content and can present only a partial and/or biased view of the events. In a world where few even read beyond the headlines, this is particularly problematic. In our efforts to save time, we limit our exposure to other perspectives.

To quote Winston Smith from Orwell’s 1984, “The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.” Journalism’s stated purpose is to inform, yet its intent can be easily corrupted by ignorance and complacency. There is a common understanding that numbers do not lie, but can be easily manipulated to serve an individual’s agenda. Similarly, news events are inherently honest; yet, their portrayal through filtered media channels may transform simple accounts into powerful propaganda.

The current state of politics necessitates open discussions and understanding. Rather than condensing ideas and identities into a single snapshot, perhaps we can try to read and, understand more, and reject complacency in favor of learning about and appreciating differences.

Of course, the convenience of sensational headlines and angry Facebook comments is inarguable. The question remains, then, on whether this convenience warrants a disregard for a deeper search for truth. The burden ultimately rests on all of us to decide.

*This article was requested by Team Kenan, but written of my own volition.

Feb 282017
 
 February 28, 2017  Posted by

The Superbowl happened this weekend, and I couldn’t stop cringing. Part of that, I’ll fully admit, is my complete lack of knowledge about all things sports, and a mild sense of irritation from the yelling, screaming, and pervasive stench of Buffalo Wild Wings. But most of it is a gourmet blend of appalled horror – how on earth is it a good idea for grown, bulky men to crash head-on and tackle each other to the ground? Why is watching the birth of a generation of concussions such a desirable spectacle?

Football is dangerous. How can it not be, when all of the helmets, padding, and other gear can’t change the fact that the teams are charging at each other like hordes of ravening bulls? The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, or NEISS, which aggregates the levels of consumer injury from various activities, estimates that there are almost 400,000 hospitalized injuries for football every year. In 2009, almost 215,000 children were brought to the emergency room for football-related injuries. 28 percent of children who play football before high school will be injured at some point in their football careers. And these are just the visible injuries – the ones caught right away.

However, football has also been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease found in people who have sustained repeated blows to the head. Since football, to my untrained eye, strongly resembled a race to see who can tackle the most people and administer the most repeated blows to their head, this isn’t surprising. However, this diagnosis lumps football players in the same category of injury as victims of domestic violence – which, clearly, is not a connection fans and players alike would like to have.

So here’s the dilemma: football is incredibly lucrative, if you’re good, and get selected for a good team, and are within the few years where playing football is actually a possibility. However, it tends to favor its players with regular injuries, a very short playing window, and the strong possibility of concussion or a crippling, agonizing, degenerative disease. It doesn’t seem like that hard of a choice. Why set yourself up in one of the most dangerous careers in sports? Why run the risk of brain damage caused by using your skull as a battering ram?

Furthermore, why do we watch it? I realize that as humans, we are drawn to the brutal, primal sense of battle embodied by these heavily-padded teams waging their war over a brown stuffed lump. However, we’ve had lots of other gruesome fads that faded out as we realized that the potential harm to the participants was too great to excuse the entertainment we received from the spectacle. We no longer hold gladiator fights. We don’t travel across kingdoms to watch men in tin cans skewer each other in a ‘heroic display of chivalry’. Maybe it’s time football got the same treatment.

I understand it’s not that easy. To say that football is a large industry would be an understatement – the games, stadium extras, and memorabilia bring in billions of dollars each year, not even considering naming rights, advertisements, gambling or youth leagues. To end football would mean that powerful team owners would lose a ton of money; infrastructure would become unnecessary; merchandise might go unsold. To stop football altogether, immediately, could be disastrous.

To be fair, it seems that the NFL is making steps to help protect their players. This article provides a good analysis of the work they’ve done to move towards greater safety. For example, all players are being asked to watch Concussion, a movie about the dangers of CTE in football players, which is wonderful because it provides a better warning of the risks players might face. But is that enough? The movie is fiction; it has its own story and romantic subplot, and while its information is accurate, it’s probably not a clear and comprehensive factbook on risks. A full understanding of consequences is incredibly important, so that’s definitely a step in the right direction, but is it sufficient? To what extent does the attempt to put in place safeguards mitigate the general danger that already exists?

There is risk to everything, of course, and there’s no way of addressing every potential harm someone might come across in the course of one’s life. You could fall off a bike, or get into a car accident, or even choke while brushing your teeth – the possibilities are endless. You could get cancer from lying in the sun for too long, or by drinking alcohol, or by living in houses with asbestos, or about a million other ways. And yet, we go through these activities, even while cognizant of the dangers. We mitigate these factors as best as we can, by putting on a seatbelt and using turn signals, or remodeling our houses or using sunblock, but some inherent risk still remains, and for the most part, we’re fine with that. It’s quite likely that some people will make the same decision about football – it could possibly cause a debilitating brain condition or some other permanent injury, but on the whole it’s worth it. And at the end of the day, that’s a personal decision each person is entitled to make for themselves.

But as far as the fate of football as a national sport, is that something we as a country should take into our collective hands? It’s one thing to toss a pigskin with friends, and quite another to condone the monetization of groups of young men bludgeoning each other with their bodies. Is it enough to say that these professional players can make their own choices, and not factor in any economic pressures they may feel to take a job that could provide them with huge amounts of money in a short time? Is it safe to assume they’ll be given the information they need to come to an educated decision about their future?

Football is dangerous. It causes broken bones and potentially terminal brain degeneration, with effects we still don’t fully realize. It fosters a culture where people are willing to shell out the big bucks to sit in uncomfortable seats, chomp on greasy hot wings, and watch grown men physically attack each other. But does our enjoyment of the sport excuse the potential long-term effects on the people who devote their youth and health to our entertainment? Or is it time to move past the barbaric violence of football, focus on a more pleasant sport like golf, and put an end to the Coliseums of the world, once and for all?

Feb 272017
 
 February 27, 2017  Posted by

This past January and early February, Cameron Crazies fought furiously to claim their tenting spot and to brave out the disruptive post-midnight tent checks in KVille for the Duke vs. UNC men’s basketball game. (In case you didn’t keep up with that drama: http://www.diddukewin.com/). The tenting experience is one that’s touted as one of those things you need to cross off your Duke To-Do list (right behind, you know, getting a degree, etc.)

I didn’t tent this year because I knew I couldn’t handle tenting with all of the other things going on (Orgo I, SLG rush, etc.) However, my roommate, who did tent, told me how one of her friends, who didn’t tent, barged into her tent once and rambled about how they were all homeless people.

This isn’t an isolated incident. I’ve heard of many people who comment on how they “feel homeless” all because they set up a tent outside, had to sleep there, and were woken up periodically. (On a slightly related tangent, the night before the big game, Coach K stood in front of the Crazies and commented on how the walk-up line resembled a refugee camp.) The audacity of these people who claim homelessness is really impressive, considering the recent New York Times interactive infographic that charted class/income statistics among elite/Ivy League universities, including Duke. All of the students voluntarily chose to forego their existing and paid-for housing options, which they all return to once their shifts are done. If the weather conditions become too rough to bear, they’re given grace period for tent checks (in non-Duke language, it means that the K-Ville rules for tenting are temporarily lifted so that students can go back to their dorms without fear that they’ll be given a mandatory tent check that decides their spot.) Nearby, there are showers and bathrooms in Wilson Gym to clean up for classes.

Meanwhile in Durham, homelessness reached an all-time high last year of more than 800. In one night of January 2015 in America, there were 564,708 homeless people. A different site states a maximum statistics that in any given year, there are as many as 3.5 million people homeless (that’s approximately 1% of the entire U.S. population.) Large percentages of the homeless population are children, African-American, veterans, and/or mentally disabled. Being homeless means health, safety, food, and wealth insecurity. Many of these people are invisible to, walked past by, and ignored by the mainstream population. When homeless people are visible, it’s usually to the eyes of the police who aggressively target urban vagrancy. A dire example is Skid Row, a 54 block area in downtown Los Angeles that holds the largest concentration of homeless people in the United States and is heavily hyperpoliced. There’s no home, physically and emotionally, to refer to and connect to for them.

Given the gravity and complexity of the problem, the abrasive insensitivity speaks volumes about the distance, ignorance, and superficiality that many Duke students hold as they construct jokes about homelessness and temporary identities as “homeless people” that they can throw away when they return to their housing option.