Feb 282018
 February 28, 2018  Posted by  Tagged with:


This event has been canceled due to extenuating circumstance.

Do Lunch is a series of informal lunch discussions, exclusively for currently enrolled Duke undergraduate students, featuring ethical leaders outside of Duke and their decision-making processes.

Lunches are available to students who RSVP; space is limited.

WHEN: Thursday, March 29, from 12pm to 1:00pm
WHERE: West Duke 107F, East Campus

Jan 192018
 January 19, 2018  Posted by  Tagged with: ,

Unfortunately, this Do Lunch has been canceled due to illness.

Join journalist and immigration advocate Margaret Regan to talk about how giving voice to the voiceless can change policy and affect public opinion and the role and responsibility of journalists in the age of Trump. Have lunch with her to get a different and involved perspective!

Margaret Regan is the author of two prizewinning books on immigration.

The most recent, Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire (2015), which won a starred review in Publishers Weekly, looks at the fate of undocumented immigrants who are arrested long after they’ve established lives and families in the United States. The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands (2010) investigates the tragedy of migrant deaths in the desert. Both were named Top Picks in the Southwest Books of the Year competition.

A longtime journalist in Tucson, Margaret started writing about the border in 2000. She has a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania and she also studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has twice gone to Guatemala, and studied Spanish in two tiny schools in the colonial city of Antigua.

Margaret Regan will deliver the 2018 Annual Human Rights Lecture on February 22, 2018 at 5pm in 115 Friedl, on Duke’s East Campus.

Do Lunch is a series of informal lunch discussions, exclusively for currently enrolled Duke undergraduate students, featuring ethical leaders outside of Duke and their decision-making processes.

Catered lunch available to students who RSVP; space is limited. Sign-up here.

WHAT: Do Lunch with Margaret Regan
WHEN: Thursday, February 22, from 12pm to 1pm
WHERE: West Duke 107F, East Campus
RSVP: Click here to RSVP.

Nov 012016
 November 1, 2016  Posted by  Tagged with: ,

Don't Shoot I'm Guilty TooHello.

It’s me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to think–that we are still pretty guilty of being racist.

Hi, my name is Gautam and I’ll be appearing on this blog throughout this year. I’ll usually try to keep it light and fun and hip and cool and relevant to however the kids these days like to do things around here, but today will be a little different.

Last week, a group that came to stock the East Campus Bridge’s walls with issues that were important to them in the context of the upcoming election came found slurs and malicious threats instead of the typical graffiti and events that you probably ignored. After documenting what was written and as (I’m assuming) fans of poetic justice, they quickly smothered the offending phrases with their own messages.

There is real hurt–individuals do feel unsafe inhabiting the same campus with those that think it is ok to use those words. It really is an injustice. But the question should not really be how we should react to achieve justice. Instead of looking for how we can get whoever painted those words to repent, we should look to making sure no one feels like it is ok to paint it in the first place. Instead of chasing the most obvious carrot hung in front of us by some sadist equestrian, we should buck the trend.

What I mean is that it is really easy to say that it was just one sociopath who just wanted to ruffle some feathers ( know, because that was my first reaction, too). So as a society,  we took some advice from Patrick Star to take all the guilt and externalize it.

Patrick Star - Just take all the guilt and push it onto one person

But this solves nothing. Individuals are still affected by the presence of hate speech, regardless of who takes the blame. Externalizing the guilt invites me and others to be complacent in saying, “I’m cool. Don’t look at me. I’m not racist. I didn’t write that. I love my one black friend. He says I’m cool, too.” It’s the bystander effect. It happens all the time, but do we want to accept that?

I think real justice will come in a form that will not be obvious to us. Equality should be so ingrained into society that we do not notice it: I’m a PC/Linux guy, but I have to give a lot of respect to Apple for their design. A friend recently swapped out his hard drive for a much faster solid state drive on his MacBook. It’s cool and hip and can load Facebook like 0.3x faster, but now it’s physically way off balance. We don’t realize that Apple expends a great deal of its resources to perfectly plan out the placement of the components and weight it so that it is even. And being a PC guy, I can tell you that DEFINITELY has not been the case for my laptops. We do not realize it because we are not supposed to. In an even world, we are not supposed to know that there is a design in place to compensate for inherent inequities.

Bringing it back, I think we will only know that justice was achieved when we do not have these kinds of incidents. We will only “solve” the problem when there is not an incident to react to. By pushing the blame away, we lose any pull to act, and without that, there is no reason for anybody to change, especially since hate is much easier in anonymity. We will continue chasing one measly carrot while carrying a deadweight for miles unless we buck it and find our own sustenance. Or just curb stomping that horse rider.

So the question becomes: “Since these incidents keep happening, how do we influence others to stop thinking that hate speech is ok?” or “How do we influence people to recognize hate speech as hate speech?” or “How do we influence people to practice not only tolerance but understanding?”

On the flip-side, we know that there are individuals that truly lack empathy. Should we change our behavior depending on where it came from?


Feb 082013
 February 8, 2013  Posted by  Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Is circumcision of young boys an affront on their bodily rights?


That is according to a regional court ruling in Cologne, Germany, last spring. This case arose after the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy led to medical complications. The doctor who had performed the operation was taken to court and the court ruled that the boy’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” had been violated. This ruling caused a lot of hue and cry among Muslims and Jews since they viewed it as an affront to their religious freedom. Although German lawmakers eventually passed a legislation that ensures that parents have a right to have their boys circumcised, this controversy touches on a lot of raw nerves. It is clear that while activists against female circumcision in most countries easily get their arguments across to the targeted societies, intactivistshave a hard time getting theirs across.

I find this particular case to be very interesting for many reasons. Beyond its medical benefits, circumcision means many things to different societies. For Jews and Muslims, circumcision is of great religious significance and has been practiced by these societies since time immemorial. For those African societies that practice it, circumcision is an important rite of passage that signifies a transition from childhood to adulthood. Some American and European societies also practice circumcision; and they too have their own reasons for doing so.

When social/religious practices conflict with personal rights/state laws, which one should take precedence? Does a boy born into a Jewish family have a right not to be circumcised? Obviously, an eight-day old boy cannot exercise such a right, so someone, usually the parent, assumes the responsibility. What happens then when the said boy later decides to renounce their religious beliefs? Or when he decides that the slight loss of sexual sensitivity as a result of circumcision is a big deal for him? Obviously, he cannot reverse the procedure. Could he then possibly sue the parents and the hospital for doing that to him? Or the state for allowing the parents to do ‘such grievous harm’ to his body?

Another twist to the circumcision issue is when national laws or beliefs conflict with the practices of one particular society within the country. Do the majority get to decide for the minority whether they get to keep a distinct part of their culture? While there exists grounds for arguing whether the German court was right in some sense, it is doubtful whether we can say the same about the guys who did this!

The German case has another dimension to it beyond that of the merits/demerits or circumcision and religious/personal rights. The fact that Germany has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism immediately throws the other arguments out the window. While it is true that in Germany, circumcision is “unfamiliar to the general public, even to most lawmakers”, it is very important to think about the message such a ruling sent to the world about how Germans (or their judiciary) feel about minority groups in their society. To the court, it might have been a straightforward case of what the law allows and doesn’t, but it sure did appear otherwise to the world.

Feb 022012
 February 2, 2012  Posted by  Tagged with: ,
Scream Plug


“Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled.  “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.”

Reading this excerpt, save for the word ‘bright’, one would think that they were reading about the horrible working conditions that existed in factories in Western Europe during the Industrial Revolution. But lo and behold, this is an excerpt from the article “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad” that ran in the New York Times on January 25th 2012 detailing the horrible working conditions in a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China. Foxconn is one of Apple’s largest suppliers, assembling iPads and other electronics. Like its 18th century predecessors, Apple has mastered the art of capitalism, milking every last bit of value out of labor in the pursuit of higher profits.
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Mar 162011
 March 16, 2011  Posted by  Tagged with: ,

Ever since the war on terrorism, torture has been a heatedly debated topic in this country. However, a story in The Netherlands provides a unique twist to this conversation.
A Dutch prisoner recently sued the government for “torture” because his jail cell is too small; or rather he is too big. The court ruled against Angelo MacD, who weighs 230 kg (approximately 506 pounds) and is 6 feet and 9 inches tall. In fact, MacD does not seem to be exceptionally obese, but rather just tall, big, and heavy. The court affirmed that the prisoner’s conditions are not inhumane.
His lawyer argued that this violates the conditions of detention outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights. I do not think that this case can be compared to “torture” and I do not think that the prison system is deliberately designed to cause pain to people of a big stature, like MacD.
So how bad could his conditions be?

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