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:
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.
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:
The increased use of “intelligence gathering” and “protest management” by UNC Police;
The formation of a 40-person “mobile force” of police to deploy in response to protests, costing $2 million per year;
The allocation of $500,000 to equipment costs for this mobile police force.
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.
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