Silent Sam: Gone But Not Disavowed

“Silent Sam,” the statue of a Confederate soldier that stood on the Chapel Hill campus for decades, was removed after anti-racism activists pulled it down in August of 2018. Now, the pedestal on which it stood is gone, too.

In taking this step, which we welcome, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt cited security concerns. Folt declared that the pedestal “posed a continuing threat” to campus safety. But she did not make a statement that white supremacy has no place at North Carolina’s premier university.

Folt ordered the removal of the base on which the Confederate statue commonly called “Silent Sam” removed from the UNC campus earlier this week. The base, and plaques attached to it, were removed after midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 15 2019, to avoid confrontation.

It is highly unlikely that Folt’s failure to censure the legacy of racism was merely an oversight. It had to be a conscious choice. By avoiding the duty to speak out against the legacy of slavery the statue represented, Folt and UNC as a whole demonstrate that allowing the oppression of African-Americans is okay if it keeps your donors happy.
We honor the men and women who pulled Silent Sam off his pedestal. Removal of the base means it will not return to the same spot.

The symbolism of this isn’t sufficient. We have to remove every law, every custom, every practice that perpetuates white supremacy in our society. Until African–Americans and all people of color are full participants in our society – economically, socially, and politically – we will be unable to move forward to a just and classless world.

[Edited to add: Folt had also given notice that she would resign as Chancellor at the end of the current school year. The same day that the pedestal was removed, the UNC Board of Governors moved Folt’s resignation up to January 31 – in other words, 2 weeks. While we have no great sympathy for Folt, this move shows that the board still supports the racist message of the Silent Sam statue.]

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