Feeling monument’s gaze
I have spent the last seven years as a student at UNC, earning a BA, MA, and now, a Ph.D. I have interviewed dozens of alumni about their time at Carolina. The first question I ask is their first memory of the Chapel Hill campus. Many describe its beauty or their first pilgrimage down to the Dean Dome.
But many have also told me how their first view of the Confederate monument stopped them in their tracks. “I saw it and just shook my head,” an alumna of the class of 2015 told me. “I told myself, ‘OK, you’re walking into a lie. How are you going to deal with this?’”
For many students, it is impossible to square the monument, which enshrines UNC’s active collaborations in the legacy of white supremacy in North Carolina, with the hope of intellectual growth and community inclusivity that brings students to our university.
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I often wonder how many prospective students have turned to other universities who do not value a Confederate monument over their students’ well-being? A number of black alumni have described to me the act of returning to campus as impossible, remembering the racism and violence they experienced while in school at Chapel Hill. They do not wish to be reminded of this when they walk across the quad and feel the gaze of “Silent Sam.”
In 1999, when students first began to organize around the removal of the Confederate monument and the memorializing of Carolina’s black workers and enslaved, there was an opportunity for the university to provide sincere moral leadership by removing the monument and putting in its place a memorial to those who fought for racial justice on our campus. Again in 2003, students organized; there was still time for ethical leadership. Again, in 2012, students organized; there was still time yet.
Again in 2015, students organized, petitioning to rename Saunders Hall and remove the monument. Of course, by this point, the opportunity to take moral leadership had passed as other universities made strong statements in support of their students and their commitments to racial justice. In between these numerous student movements for historical truth, the university has taken a number of small actions toward the cultivation of a campus landscape in service to the university’s highest ambitions, but none as essential to racial justice as the long overdue removal of the monument.
Now, of course, it is 2017. There is no longer time for the university to act with moral leadership, only moral clarity. In considering what to do, we must ask, as students have already done for decades: what do we owe the past? The alumni I have interviewed say this: we owe it justice, to honor it rightfully and truthfully. If Carolina is to ever rightfully and truthfully become “the University of the People,” as it was described by Charles Kuralt, it must justly remember and honor its past, teaching by example the importance of confronting the racism and violence in its history in order to resolve the racism and violence in its present.
As alt-right hate groups continue to use the symbols and monuments of the Confederacy as rallying points for their message of white supremacy, the University must act to rebuke such hate. Listen to these students and alumni and remove the Confederate monument from our campus.
Department of American Studies
Why ‘Sam is not racist’
I have lived in Chapel Hill for 60 years and have seen students rally for and against the statue of “Silent Sam,” but after 100 years it is still standing and remains part of the university. In my younger years I marched and stood on Franklin Street for civil rights, along with protesting against the Vietnam War. I had my time in court. To the students and others I applaud your opposition to racism.
But I am against the removal of “Silent Sam” because I do not believe it expresses racism. “Silent Sam” was sponsored and money raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the university as a monument to honor the 321 University alumni who died in the Civil War. It is truly a Veterans’ monument.
In my view of “Silent Sam” I see a poor soldier, not a general with epaulets astride a horse; rather, I see a foot soldier holding a musket and an empty ammunition pouch, looking into the distance and perhaps thinking of returning to his impoverished home and homeland.
In all wars some of the privileged can buy their way out of serving in wars, but not these alumni who died. You know the phrase,”A rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight,” and it was true then. Many may not be aware that this is a piece of bronze art, not lead, sculpted by John A. Wilson, a professor at Harvard and one of the most renowned sculptors of his time. Other pieces of his art are in the Smithsonian Museum.
I understand that many want to rail against racism, and the statue is the present object of their protest. But what good would it actually accomplish if it is torn down? It represents a part of history which is both good and bad, and that cannot be erased.
I would like to see the history of “Silent Sam” inscribed on bronze plaques, displayed at the site for all to read and understand. Also, I would like to see a statue of an African American woman of the time, such as Harriet Tubman who created an “Underground Railroad” to provide safe transit for slaves to freedom, displayed in the same area. Let’s not tear down but, rather, educate ourselves about the past in order to build understanding among us.
Eunice M. Brock
Why pardon a turkey?
President Trump is getting his pardon pen ready, as the Mueller investigation starts indicting his associates. This Wednesday, he plans to practice on two very innocent Minnesota turkeys.
The other 244 million turkeys killed in the U.S. this year have not been so lucky. They were raised in crowded sheds filled with toxic fumes. Their beaks and toes were clipped to prevent stress-induced aggression. At 16 weeks of age, slaughterhouse workers cut their throats and dumped them in boiling water to remove their feathers.
Consumers pay a heavy price too. Turkey flesh is laced with cholesterol and saturated fats that elevate risk of chronic killer diseases. Intense prolonged cooking is required to destroy deadly pathogens lurking inside.
Now, for the good news: Per capita consumption of turkeys is down by a whopping 34 percent from a 1996 high of 303 million, as one-third of our population is actively reducing meat consumption; Our supermarkets carry a rich variety of convenient, delicious, healthful plant-based meat products, including several oven-ready roasts.
This Thanksgiving holiday, as we give thanks for life and good fortune, let’s also skip the gratuitous violence and grant our own pardon to an innocent animal.
Support Carolina Cares
The General Assembly has refused Medicaid expansion numerous times without a compelling case to support this inaction. As more families suffer from the effects of being uninsured, the arguments against expansion weaken.
North Carolina residents work hard every day and need access to health care now. There are approximately 400,000 people in our state who can’t access affordable health care coverage. Their incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid without the expansion, yet their incomes are also too low to qualify for subsidies in the federal health insurance exchange.
An innovative solution, Carolina Cares (HB 662), is an alternative to Medicaid expansion that would provide an insurance option for low-income families. It requires a commitment to preventive care and wellness practices, as well as modest premiums and co-payments. It is worthy of prompt consideration and action.
Our working families deserve accessible and affordable health care now. It is crucial to the future of our state. Medicaid expansion or Carolina Cares would be a big step in the right direction. Recent elections in other states should be audible to the members of the General Assembly. People are fed up.
C. Dale Games
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