Our Readers Have Lots of Thoughts on Duke Administrators Getting Two Joe Van Gogh Baristas Fired Over a Young Dolph Song | Letters to the Editor | Indy Week

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Our Readers Have Lots of Thoughts on Duke Administrators Getting Two Joe Van Gogh Baristas Fired Over a Young Dolph Song


Last Tuesday, the INDY broke a story about Larry Moneta, Duke's vice president for student affairs, going into the campus Joe Van Gogh coffee shop, hearing a Young Dolph song he found offensive, complaining to Duke Dining director Robert Coffey, and forcing Joe Van Gogh to terminate the two baristas working that day—even the one who had nothing to do with the playlist. The internet promptly exploded, with the story appearing everywhere from The Washington Post to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

In the week since, Duke's president apologized, JVG owner Robbie Roberts apologized and cut all ties with the university, and Young Dolph flew the two baristas, Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons, to Miami for a concert and gave them $20,000 for their trouble.

As you might imagine, our comments section lit up. Some brought up the racial element, as Moneta is white and one of the baristas is African American. Here's Deborah Bolling: "Two points: Duke University was founded in 1924 but did not admit African American students until 1963; African-American teen Jordan Davis was killed by a white man in Florida because he didn't like his loud rap music." Tamerlane: "What is Duke? A bastion of rich, white privilege. 'Massa' Moneta gave a solid demonstration of this, effectively saying, 'I don't like black music, meaning uppity African Americans in general. And we'll fire the poor white as well so it will appear otherwise.' The same people with the same mentality bought and sold human beings 160 years ago."

Cja Sewell sees hypocrisy in Moneta's previous calls for free speech on campus: "This dude argues for white supremacists' right to speak at Duke and against vandalism of white supremacist statues, but 'vulgar' (black) lyrics in a cafe is free speech that needed to be crushed by the power of his office. At least he's consistent."

Robfulcher says the situation should have been handled better: "We don't have to like everything we hear, and we don't have to stay silent and bottled-up with our opinions on such matters. But it does seem more human not to be a vindictive and hyper-self-righteous crusader. Coffee shops can be edgy sometimes. Employees get busy and tune out the music. You hear an overly salty song? Politely complain and ask them to skip it. Boom. Done. Brown and Simmons were simply doing their jobs (and well), while Moneta swept in, took out his indignant bad-day frustrations on Brown, and Duke opted for a careless, scorched-earth approach as a balm for his injury. Duke then bullied Joe Van Gogh into a tough call, their contract and the positions of employees beyond Brown and Simmons at risk. Moneta and Duke handled this abysmally."

Other commenters countered that the song in question, "Get Paid," is indeed profane. Apache13x says that "as an African American, the song was inappropriate for the workplace. It was unintelligent to play it there for numerous reasons. Play it at home, in your car, or on your phone. Anyone who thinks that it is an appropriate song to be played in the workplace is stupid! It's not about the genre, it's about those particular lyrics. There is no excuse or no intelligent defense for it being played there."

CCLJ3465 thinks that the baristas deserved to be fired: "What you buy, eat, wear, or listen to is a reflection of you and your values. When you play that type of music or do nothing to stop the playing of that type of music in a public setting, it says that you endorse the words, tone, and message of the that song. The words are unacceptable; I was offended just from listening at home. How inappropriate for a business. Had I been in a customer, I would have felt offended and upset and would have requested that it be turned off immediately. If I had the power to fire and was there hearing that music, I probably would have also fired the individuals working that day because they displayed a severe lack of judgment. You don't have to be trained on what's right and what's wrong."

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