Media Reports Fail to Portray Real Durham

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Commentator Minnie Forte is a member of the Durham school board, and an instructor at North Carolina Central University. Now that her town is in the spotlight, she says its true colors don't always show through in media reports.


This week we've been hearing reaction from people in Durham, North Carolina to rape charges against two Duke University lacrosse players. Today we hear from Minnie Fort(ph). She's an instructor at North Carolina's Central University where the alleged victim is a student. Minnie Fort says the case has become a test for her city.

Ms. MINNIE FORT (Instructor, North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina): The Durham community is on pause right now, just waiting to see what is going to happen next. The media has converged on the city and some of the coverage has been through a lens that is skewed and off center.

When I see and read some of national media coverage of Durham, I don't recognize my city, and I'm a native. We have been betrayed by some, like a shanty town, a town of sharecroppers, full of racial division.

But the Durham I know and love has now and always had a strong African-American community with strong African-American leadership. The mayor, chief of police, lawyers, judges, chancellors, and you really don't see that in a racially-divided community. We are perhaps one of the most diverse cities in North Carolina.

We at North Carolina Central University and in the Durham community at large are horrified about what allegedly may have taken place. But we are very protective of the young woman involved. It has become personal for us. We feel a connection to her and her pain, but also to her potential.

She is a young mother with two children trying to better herself and her station in life through education. It's a shame that the work she chose carried with it such ugly and horrific consequences. But it's an old story. Jesse Jackson's offer to pay her tuition costs, and perhaps even her post-graduate law school fees, is kind and noble. It seems strange that some people see it as controversial.

The Durham community and North Carolina Central University want to make sure that justice is served and that the rights of everyone, the young woman and the young men, are protected.

This case has made us look at things we don't usually like to think about, rape, violent sexual assault, things that often go unreported and unregarded. No matter what happens in this case, many lives will never be the same, the young woman, her family, the young men and their families, and the whole city of Durham. The world is watching us.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Minnie Fort is a member of the Durham school board.

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