We support the UNC teaching assistant and professor strike against white supremacy!

In response to the Board of Trustees decision to re-enshrine Silent Sam, a monument to UNC students who fought in defense of slavery and white supremacy, worker-activist Maya Little and others at UNC have called on all UNC TAs and faculty to withhold final grades for the semester until the following demands are met:

  1. That the Board of Governors (BOG) organize a meeting and listening session with student and community anti-racist activists to discuss the fate of Silent Sam. Until now the University has shut these groups out of the ostensibly public discussion of the statue’s fate through police intimidation, undercover surveillance, and libel by University officials.

  2. That the BOT disclose the “necessary changes” to campus policing that they claim to have already begun implementing, and that they withdraw the proposed security escalations, specifically:

    1. The increased use of “intelligence gathering” and “protest management” by UNC Police;

    2. The formation of a 40-person “mobile force” of police to deploy in response to protests, costing $2 million per year;

    3. The allocation of $500,000 to equipment costs for this mobile police force.

  3. That the BOT withdraw its proposal for a $5.3 million “indoor location” to house Silent Sam on UNC’s campus, and that the statue remain off campus.

  4. That the University withdraw its plan to raise student fees by $65.39 for building maintenance, and to instead use the $5.3 million allocated to house Silent Sam and the yearly $2 million allocated for increased policing to 1) pay for the needed repairs 2) increase wages for graduate and campus workers 3) provide dental insurance for graduate workers, and 4) reduce parking costs for all workers.

The NC Piedmont Democratic Socialists of America are proud “outside” agitators for our comrades, friends, partners, neighbors, and coworkers at the University. We stand in total solidarity with the anti-racist protesters who have suffered police brutality and harassment. We stand in total solidarity with the workers who were punished because they stood up for each other and their community. We call on the Orange County DA to drop charges against the anti-racist activists who were arrested at the  December 3rd protest.

The $5.3 million proposed for building this new shrine could be put to far better use: tens of thousands of people rendered homeless by Hurricane Florence survivors are still waiting for adequate housing and basic assistance; the state continues to cite costs to justify its refusal to expand Medicaid; University workers face rapidly rising costs of living; TAs make just $20,000 a year; and UNC students suffer from the school’s disastrously inadequate mental health resources.

The claims that Silent Sam honors only the soldiers and not their cause, or that they represent “our” heritage, are embarrassingly ahistorical. Of the hundreds of students who volunteered to fight in the Civil War, five are known to have fought in the Union army. Those who fought for the confederacy represented a narrow slice of the state’s population delimited by class and geography. The statue was funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who also lauded confederate soldiers as “the real Ku Klux Klan.” In the statue’s 1913 dedication speech, white supremacist Julian Carr celebrated the Confederacy’s defense of the purity of the “Anglo-Saxon race” and bragged that he “horsewhipped a negro wench.” If he were alive today, Silent Sam would demand that Maya Little and large swaths of the University community be chained, beaten, and worked to death. Those who built the statue were explicit in their agreement with this sentiment toward non-white lives. To support its continued presence on campus on any grounds, nonsense about heritage aside, is to support the chronic intimidation of non-white students and their exclusion from public spaces. Acceptance of this hostility is acceptance of white supremacy in the large, and to punish black students for their resistance is materially to support racial oppression.

We call on the University to cease insulting black faculty by ignoring their scholarship on the racist history of Silent Sam while expecting them to tolerate the hateful, banal, and ignorant chants of white supremacists in the name of “discourse.” We also demand that the University and the town of Chapel Hill investigate seriously the asymmetric treatment given to racist and anti-racist protestors. We have evidence of police silencing, intimidating and legally harassing specific protesters to hamstring the anti-racist movement. We have multiple witnesses to multiple instances of violence toward protesters, including an officer telling one protester that “no one cares” that the protester could not breathe (the officer was wrong). Given this behavior and the known connections between members of the Chapel Hill PD and violent racist groups, it stretches credibility that the police have no ideological interest in suppressing left and anti-racist voices while sheltering white supremacists.

In light of these facts, the Piedmont Democratic Socialists of America joins students, faculty, the Durham Workers Assembly, and other anti-racists in calling on the University to let Silent Sam’s removal be permanent, to cease tolerating the white supremacist rallies now taking place regularly at the former site of the statue, and to put the millions of dollars proposed for the statue’s restoration instead toward materially supporting the workers and TAs whose labor is the bedrock of the University.

Any comrades reading this who want to help the anti-racist activists activists facing criminal charges for resisting white supremacy at the UNC Chapel Hill, please consider donating to the Anti-Racist Activist Fund at https://bit.ly/2E6J5aF

DSA Hurricane Florence Recovery Efforts

It is never the bosses who are forced to pay the piper when the consequences of their decisions come calling.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Florence was no accident: its human impact can be linked directly to centuries of deliberate policy choices. The size and severity of the storm was almost certainly exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change. Further, North Carolina’s past as a slaveholding state was made apparent in which communities in eastern NC were devastated and which stayed dry; richer, whiter communities usually have the higher ground, while Black communities were founded on the cheaper floodplains (including some of the few extant cities born from Emancipation during Reconstruction). The Lumbee tribe of Scotland and Robeson counties, where Hurricane Matthew struck hard in 2016, have now seen their homes flooded twice in two years. The people of those communities now sit under the weight of even more water this time, feeling abandoned and ignored by policymakers.

The environmental toll that will be paid by the working class communities half-drowned in this storm is one levied by decision-makers far away from places like Lumberton and Spring Lake. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are the name of the game that feeds major multinational corporations like Smithfield. In Duplin and Samson counties, they are thick on the ground with pigs and pig shit. These farms, when they aren’t facing a meter of rain falling over less than a week, cause noxious environmental impacts as it is. With the wall of water that was brought by Florence, they turn the floodwaters into county-sized septic tanks, exposing those just trying to survive the storm to disastrous environmental waste.

And then there’s Duke Energy and its thrice-damned coal ash. Already responsible for poisoning the Dan River in northern NC and tainting groundwater in Robeson county, the coal ash did no favors to communities already reeling from the storm. At least two coal ash ponds breached during the storm, adding arsenic and other carcinogens into flood waters spilling their way out to sea in the Cape Fear river…on top of contributing the carbon production that made Hurricane Florence as severe as it was.

We say enough. We say that the people who are hurting the most in the wake of this storm should not be forced to pay the price of it. And we are asking for your help.

NC Piedmont DSA, Charlotte DSA, and Charleston DSA have come together to form the Florence Recovery Working Group. By fundraising and recruiting volunteer labor for service organizations that are working with people in need in the storm zone, we are looking to show that the only answer to such catastrophes is a socialist one. We owe a debt of gratitude to our comrades in Houston DSA, whose admirable and ongoing work in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last year inspired the formation of this effort and have informed our work through the invaluable resources they have shared with us.

To start with, we are working with two service organizations whose principles are compatible with DSA’s: Mutual Aid Carrboro, who helped coordinate air-drops of supplies to the city of Wilmington as it was cut off from land access during the storm, and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, a union-affiliated service organization with deep ties to communities of color statewide. We will be operating in an accountable and transparent fashion with any group that chooses to partner with us, and will be distributing the funds we raise with frequency. Money that just sits in an account for months on end while people suffer does no good.

But this is just the start. North Carolina is going to be a long time recovering from this storm and, in the end, the only answer to the current barbarism is socialism.

If you are interested in donating money, you can give via Venmo to @DSAFlorenceRecovery and Square Cash at $DSAFlorenceRecovery. You can also find a list of needed materials and physical locations to donate them to here.

If you are interested in getting involved, there is a volunteer intake form here, and you can contact the Working Group at FlorenceRecovery@dsanc.org.

Solidarity with Activists Who Tore Down Confederate Memorial

Takiyah Thompson, Dante Strobino, Loan Tran, Peter Gilbert, and the rest of our Workers World Party comrades who tore down the racist Confederate memorial in Durham should not face any charges for their actions. We thank them for having the courage to do what Durham should have done long ago, and we will stand in solidarity with them as police, elected officials, and right-wing extremists attempt to intimidate them in response to their heroism.

We Have Everything To Lose

Community, for many people, is real, lived. They can name it and identify countless others who belong to it. They can also name those they don’t belong to. Community, for me, has been abstract or, at best, ephemeral. At its center I have imagined it, ideally, providing stability within which joy is truly possible. That joy motivates most of my pursuits, and while it is an emotional expression for a degree of psychological soundness, it is best visualized by summer camp huddles, house parties, or those aspirational tableaux of spirited, beautiful, sun-lacquered people used to sell anything on Instagram.

We're One Year Old!

It’s been a really busy week in North Carolina and across the nation, but we wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge our one year anniversary as a DSA chapter! The drive for our chapter to get started began in 2014 with the dedication and tenacity of comrade Neil Ashton. We asked Neil to say a few words on this momentous occasion.

—Amber & Matt (co-chairs)

A year ago this month, a small group of at-large DSA members, Jacobin readers, and Bernie activists met in a living room to sketch ideas for a campaign. This tiny gathering was the first general meeting of the newly chartered NC Piedmont local of DSA.

A lot has changed. Today we’re a federation of groups in four cities with a total of over three hundred registered members. We’ve been joined by new organizing committees in Asheville and Charlotte and new YDS groups in schools around the state.

We’re floored that so many of you who’ve been stirred into action by the present crisis have decided to make us your comrades—and we look forward to another year of growth in mutual struggle toward a North Carolina of freedom, equality, and solidarity.

—Neil Ashton

A Coup in Carolina

In case there was any remaining doubt, the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly have now made perfectly clear their gleeful contempt for democracy. The measures pushed through in this latest special session are a naked power grab with the specific and unmistakable intent of nullifying last month’s election.

To be sure, the bills that were passed contain a few provisions that are not inherently anti-democratic. Eliminating partisan control in the state and county Boards of Elections would be a laudable reform. Unfortunately, the change that was adopted merely erects a veneer of “bi-partisanship” without establishing truly independent, non-partisan oversight of our elections. Likewise, while stripping the incoming Governor’s authority over appointments reeks of partisan manipulation, that doesn’t mean that the existing allocation of appointment authority is sacrosanct.

Regardless of the merits, these are not matters that should have been resolved in a hasty special session. These are significant changes to the structure of state government, with potentially far-ranging implications. And there was no pressing emergency, save for the inconvenient fact that the people of North Carolina have elected Democrat Roy Cooper to replace Republican Pat McCrory in the Governor’s mansion.

The fact is that the Republicans, having gerrymandered the General Assembly to give them veto-proof control, can and will pass whatever bills they want. Some of the more egregious over-reaches may eventually be invalidated in court (at no small expense, financial and reputational, to this state). That they opted to move these bills in a cloak and dagger fashion, rather than waiting until the regular term, only shows that they feel some residual pang of shame.

This may be the last best hope for the people of North Carolina–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike–who want a state government that actually represents us and addresses our needs. We need to raise our voices, on the phone and in the street, and let the General Assembly know that we will not stand for legislation by ambush.

(This is an updated version of a post by NC Piedmont DSA’s political education director, Eric Fink, for Yes! Weekly.)