There’s a storm brewing in Durham.
Durham, a city in the middle of North Carolina with a population of around 260,000, is deeply progressive. It’s one point in the Research Triangle, a three-city region that is home to several major universities (Duke in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State in Raleigh) as well as tech companies, pharmaceutical firms, and other big businesses with lots of IP and cash. Of the three cities in the Research Triangle, Durham is, historically, the blackest, with a majority black population and a large black middle class. At one point, downtown Durham was known as “Black Wall Street.”
The demographics have changed significantly in recent years: 20 years ago, you never saw Duke students downtown, but the low cost of housing and opportunities for development have attracted an increasing number of white artists, queers, students, and entrepreneurs, and now it’s the kind of city with more boutique hotels and cocktail bars than jazz joints. (I was part of this shift: I moved there in 2010, and lived in Walltown, a once-black neighborhood named for the wall separating the residents from Duke). Despite the shifting demographics, Durham is still deeply progressive, even for a Southern city, and so when I heard that Jordan B. Peterson was coming to town, I had a feeling that Durham wasn’t going to take it.
If you’ll allow me to quote myself, Jordan B. Peterson is “a controversial Canadian psychologist and University of Toronto professor who burst into international fame through a massively popular series of YouTube lectures on psychology, personality, personal responsibility, and a bunch of other shit that doesn't really seem like it would go viral on a platform more famous for Justin Bieber vids,” as I wrote in a recent review of his live show in Seattle. He’s huge, with YouTube views in the millions and fans across the world who show up to his events, read his books (even the big one), and shill out money for his self-help programs.