Duke Twitter flap: But was it ‘racial’?


I’m musing over terminology after reading about the sportswriter who got himself into hot water at a Duke roundball game on Dec. 2.

Here’s what happened, as I understand it:

  • College Insider reporter John Stansberry made some cracks on Twitter about some students who were right behind him at the game.
  • One of the students took offense, I’m assuming because of his reference to her and her friends as “Asian chicks.” But the student’s explanation of her anger on Facebook wasn’t specific. It may have been the Cheap Trick thing.
  • Duke revoked his credentials for the rest of the season.
  • He became an Unperson. His Twitter account is gone, and apparently College Insider (or someone) has erased traces of his existence. (I base this on the fact that, if I Google “John Stansberry College Insider,” I get a bunch of links that say, “CollegeInsider.com: John Stansberry’s College Basketball Notebook.” But I get a “Not Found” error if I click on them. Down the memory hole, I guess. Like Garrison Keillor.)

All of which seems fairly straightforward in a day when we’re used to people being more or less disappeared for stepping over lines.

But I’m confused by news stories that refer to the incident as “racial” or “racist.”

“Racial” maybe, in the sense that a reference to race was made. But that doesn’t seem to be a primary concern of the young woman who complained. She made a passing reference to herself as a member of the set “Asian women,” but didn’t indicate that that was what bothered her about what the wiseguy did. She seemed mostly bothered about being discussed before the world when all she was doing was watching a basketball game.

But “racist?” I ask because the college paper mentioned this among several instances in a story headlined “‘We were just kind of shocked’: Asian American students report racist comments in recent weeks.”

Yeah, the “Cheap Trick” seems to be kind of snide, presumably a reference to this. But racist? And if this guy is actually part Asian, as the reference to “my Korean mother” would indicate, can it be racist? I don’t know.

I don’t know. The whole thing kind of hovers on the edge of a number of hot-button issues that are in vogue — privacy in a social media age, safe spaces in academia, sexism, racism(?), and so forth — that I thought I’d offer it for discussion.

I do know one thing: If he’d been doing his phony-baloney job and paying attention to the game, we wouldn’t have all of this. But that’s the editor in me….

And I didn’t mean to go on about it this long. But whenever I can come up with anything even vaguely sports-related for you, my dear readers, I try to oblige…


5 thoughts on “Duke Twitter flap: But was it ‘racial’?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    You know how a type of mentally ill person can be set off by a random, innocent gesture or word? That’s how I feel lots of people are these days. You could be going about your normal business, and all of a sudden….WHAM!…a person next to you goes nuts because you said or did something completely normal.

    In a mental institution, you would get away from that person, and the nurses would come take him or her away in a straight jacket. Nowadays, we facilitate and tolerate the crazies.

  2. Bart

    Not long ago while shopping, the cart barely brushed an African American male. I didn’t even notice it but he lost his $h!t. He wanted a confrontation in the store. I apologized for my cart touching him and told him I wasn’t even aware it happened. But he wanted to continue to make an issue out of it and let me know he thought I did it on purpose. After apologizing again and trying to assure him it wasn’t intentional, he muttered something about watching it in the future.

    Honestly, I am convinced he reacted the way he did because I am an older white male and he was a middle aged black male. I do believe he thought it was on purpose otherwise it would have passed as another shopper brushing someone with their cart. It happens all the time when a store is busy and I have been hit pretty hard by others including African Americans but paid little or no attention to it. Stuff happens, it is that simple.

    Sometimes a cave away from society in general sounds very appealing. There are times when I would almost rather watch the shadows on the cave wall than interact with the ones who made them.

  3. Warren

    Yeah, I can’t really decide if this is a “racist” set of tweets. Does that make me insensitive? Then I thought that it was an invasion of the girls’ privacy, but in a public space in the smartphone age what is the expectation of privacy? I remember the woman who posted something on social media fat shaming another woman at the gym, I really was offended and thought how awful that was. But for whatever reason this scenario doesn’t illicit the same reaction from me.

  4. Rose

    I would have been ticked off at being referred to as a “chick.” It’s a dismissive term.
    Can’t really comment on the racial part of it since I’m not clear on whether he really is part Asian.

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