On August 11, 2017, the devastating Charlottesville riots took place leaving catastrophic results. Originally called the “Unite the Right” rally, it was supposed to be a rally supporting White Supremacy, Neo-Nazism, Anti-Semitism, and other similar views. During this rally, counter-protesters arrived at the original rally. This led to violence among the two groups, many resulting injuries and even a fatality due to a car being driven into a large body of counter-protesters.
The rally was originally focused on protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, and in the midst of the following events, a national debate came to light on whether Confederate monuments should be kept up or removed.
Two days after the riot’s conclusion on August 12, “The Boys Who Wore The Grey” monument in Durham was removed by a group of protesters from the pedestal where it had resided for about 93 years.
Under almost the exact same circumstances as the statue in Durham, Silent Sam came down as the result of an anti-Confederate, anti-racism protest at UNC. However, according to the North Carolina legislature and UNC president Margaret Spellings, Silent Sam must be returned to its original location 90 days from its toppling, November 18.
Most people who believe the statues should remain in their current locations claim that they are part of the country’s history. To them, these statues aren’t a symbol of the Confederate viewpoints and racism, but part of the path the United States has taken to become the great nation it currently is today.
Contrary to that belief, many people perceive the statues to be clear signs of racism and a defense of slavery. According to the News and Observer, even UNC’s website says that “many view it as a glorification of the Confederacy and thus a tacit defense of slavery.” When Julian Carr erected the statue in 1913, he promulgated a long tirade supporting prejudice and racism. This monument is a transparent mask of the hate contrived within Confederate America.
In light of both sides, Governor Roy Cooper proposed a solution in which all Confederate monuments are moved to a historical site. There they will be both out of the way for anyone who finds them offensive and they can be in a place where their history is preserved. Cooper found a clear-cut compromise for both sides, where each receives what they desire. Even with this solution, the North Carolina Legislature, being predominantly Republican, abrogated the proposal.
Phil Berger, the lead North Carolina senator, said immediately after the Silent Sam statue was removed that this was caused by “violent protesters”. Berger also stated that “many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds. Only a civil society that adheres to the rule of law can heal these wounds and politicians – from the Governor down to the local District Attorney – must start that process by ending the deceitful mischaracterization of violent riots as ‘rallies’ and reestablishing the rule of law in each of our state’s cities and counties.”
Although it is important to maintain a sense of our nation’s roots, people will continue to feel the effects of hate and racism from the presence of these statues, all while the negligent North Carolinian legislature proceeds to strike down fair solutions and prolong tensions.
What Berger and people who oppose Cooper’s proposal do not understand is that the protesters who removed Silent Sam on August 20 will not be easily stopped. If they knew that they could have been arrested when they knocked down the statue in August, they will not abide by the state law in the future. By reinstating Silent Sam, the legislature is only causing more unrest between protesters and law enforcement. Violence should never be condoned, but with the rejection of Cooper’s proposal, it seems almost inevitable.
Though Confederate history should be maintained and studied, Confederate monuments should not remain in public spaces. Any sign of hate should not be publicly displayed, no less upheld by any form of government. No one should have to worry about being discriminated against in modern society, yet it is something we as a nation struggle with. Let’s unite to silence Sam, and to get rid of the racist aspects behind his presence.