The Black Student Movement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil / Monday, December 3, 2018
The Black Student Movement strongly opposes the recommendation made by Chancellor Folt and the UNC Board of Trustees today to reinstall the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” on our university’s campus. By returning this monument that glorifies the Confederacy and white supremacy to our campus, our University’s leaders are reaffirming the racist beliefs and ideals that led to its erection in 1913.
We echo the sentiments written by 54 of UNC’s black faculty members and supported by more than 400 non-black faculty members that reinstalling the Confederate monument “to any location on UNC’s campus is to herald for the nation and for the world that UNC is not a welcoming place for Black people.” We echo the sentiments shared by Student Body President Savannah Putnam in today meeting that Silent Sam does not belong on our campus and does not serve Carolina’s students. Putnam was the sole member of the Board of Trustees to speak out against this plan and one of only two members voting against it.
It is a disgrace to Carolina’s students that the University will spend more than $5 million on a new history center with the sole purpose of holding and protecting this statue, when there are more pressing and beneficial initiatives that these funds could go toward — supporting the increase in admission and the retention of more Black male students, supporting programs offered by UNC’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion, ensuring that Latinx students have a physical communal space on our campus, and reducing student costs and fees. Given the particular history of South Campus and Odum Village as a significant location for Black students to live and congregate, we find that the University’s plan to relocate Silent Sam here is especially harmful.
In today’s report, UNC’s leadership invoked “civil disobedience,” “violence,” and “property damage” as potential dangers from campus protesters and students in light of the statue’s re-erection. The report asserts that “it is an attainable goal to place the UNC-Chapel Hill administration and UNC Police in the best possible position to prevent serious violence and maintain order during the complex events that are sure to resume once the Artifacts are restored on campus by undertaking certain actions.” These words remind us of words used by Martin Luther King Jr. in his indictment of white moderates. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “...the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
The University’s interest in maintaining order and in “contextualizing history” by erecting this $5.3 million building are both clear fallacies, as students have had to demonstrate, agitate, and put themselves in harm’s way to make university officials simply acknowledge the cultural and historical implication of Silent Sam and its place on campus. As the University’s second largest student organization, out of great concern for the safety and well-being of our organization’s nearly five hundred members and the entire student body, we call on our University administrators, Board of Trustees, UNC system leaders and state officials to find an alternative plan for this statue that does not include a place on our university’s campus.
Mission Statement of the Black Student Movement
We, the members of the Black Student Movement, embrace a culture distinct from the dominant culture found at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In view of this fact, it is the goal of this organization to strive for the continued existence of the unity among all its members, to voice the concerns and grievances of its members to the University, to offer outlets for expressing Black ideals and culture, and finally, to ensure that the Black Student Movement members never lose contact with the Black community.
Daily Tar Heel: Letter: UNC Black Faculty call on the University to permanently remove Silent Sam - https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/09/letter-black-faculty-silent-sam-0907
Daily Tar Heel: Mi Pueblo discusses its role on campus among other student organizations - https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/11/mi-pueblo-event-1130
Board of Trustees: Recommendation for the Disposition and Preservation of the Confederate Monument - https://bot.unc.edu/files/2018/12/Final-Report.pdf