Silent Sam Q & A

Q: How can a statue be racist?

A: At the height of the Jim Crow era, white supremacist groups erected confederate statues to display their own power and intimidate African Americans. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, which gifted Silent Sam to UNC, supported the Ku Klux Klan and did not believe blacks should be able to vote or attend public schools. During the statue’s dedication ceremony, the speaker complimented white supremacist groups who operated after the war to ensure “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon” would continue to reside in the former confederate states.

Q: If this statue is so racist, why have you just now started protesting?

A: UNC students have been protesting Silent Sam since the Civil Rights Movement. Many generations of UNC students have called for the statue’s removal.

Q: Taking down this statue won’t solve racism, will it?

A: Racism is embedded in America’s culture, economics, politics, educational institutions, and criminal justice system. No single action will eliminate it. That doesn’t mean we should give up, but rather that we should fight racism and its symbols wherever they exist.

Q: Why now? Can’t we wait a little longer?

A: We’ll let Dr. King respond on our behalf. “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’” – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From A Birmingham Jail, 4/16/1963

Q: Won’t removing the statue erase history?

A: Silent Sam distorts history by promoting the false “lost cause” narrative of the Civil War. People could learn more about history if we placed this statue in a museum, where informational plaques could explain how white supremacists used confederate monuments as displays of their own power – and as intimidation tactics against African Americans – during the Jim Crow era.

Q: Wasn’t the Civil War just about states’ rights?

A: No. Southern states declared war on America to protect one institution – slavery. If they supported the autonomy of all states, they surely would not have lobbied heavily for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which forced northern states to return runaway slaves to the south. In March 1861, Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens declared, “our new government was founded on slavery. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

Q: What is the legal justification for removing Silent Sam?

A: Governor Roy Cooper has advised UNC president Margaret Spellings that the university may remove Silent Sam if it poses a threat to public safety. Hampton Dellinger, a lawyer representing the UNC Black Law Students Association and other students, has notified UNC’s administrators that their failure to remove Silent Sam “violates federal anti-discrimination laws by fostering a racially hostile learning environment…UNC is not only free to remove Silent Sam in order to adhere to federal law, it is legally obligated to do so.”

Q: Get a job, hippie.

A: In addition to being full-time students, most of us work one or two jobs.