Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Find a Better Place for Silent Sam

Photo: Khadejeh Nikouyeh, News and Record
So "Silent Sam" is down, the monument to UNC students who died in the Civil War, which was erected and dedicated by white supremacists on that campus in 1913. White supremacists? Yes, and if you don't believe it, you can read about the dedication speech made in 1913 by Julian Carr upholding the "Anglo-Saxon race in the south."

This morning, Washington Post reporter and UNC grad Eugene Scott published a little education for Southern white people -- "Most People Mad at the Removal of UNC's Silent Sam Don't Know What It's Like To Walk Past the Statue. I Do." I'm thankful for that perspective, and for the Charlotte Observer's editorial board essay published yesterday, "UNC Protestors Decide Not to Wait for Change. Good for Them." The final paragraph of that gutsy editorial:
What matters more this morning — to UNC students and others — is that Silent Sam is down. One more monument to racism gone. One more reminder that instead of waiting for change, sometimes you have to pull it toward you.
"Pull it toward you." The writer is referring to the actually pretty clever way the students brought the statue down without anyone getting hurt -- by ropes that were concealed from the view of police by large banners.

When last seen, Silent Sam was tied into the bucket of a front-end loader being carted off to reappear (?) in some other, more appropriate venue (we hope), as a relict or holy icon of the racial politics of 20th-century America.

Carolina Memorial,
Gettysburg Nat'l Military Park
I just came from the Gettysburg Battlefield where statues to Union and Confederate heroes are as thick as deer ticks. In fact, the Carolina Memorial is one of the more famous statues there, sculpted by the same man who carved Mount Rushmore. The faces of the soldiers he depicted are moving renditions of dedication and determination and pain. Those are wholly worthwhile emotions to memorialize on the battlefield where no doubt some UNC students perished protecting the right to own slaves. We can honor the pain without necessarily buying the economic forces that caused it.

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