As individual members of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, we stand in solidarity with Maya Little’s brave act of nonviolent civil disobedience in protest of the racist monument Silent Sam. We join Maya in seeking the justice and dignity Silent Sam’s presence prohibits and demand that Chancellor Carol Folt remove the statue immediately.
Chancellor Carol Folt has failed in her responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all students at UNC. Instead of removing a memorial to violent white supremacy, her administration spends $1,700 a day to keep Silent Sam protected by the police. The daily cost of this protection detail is several hundred dollars more than the average UNC graduate student’s monthly take-home pay; annually, it adds up to 21 times the annual pay of a UNC housekeeper. Meanwhile, the Board of Governors has chosen to cut funding to essential university bodies and initiatives that advance and protect civil rights on campus, such as the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Center on Poverty, and Center for Civil Rights. UNC defunds these programs and devalues campus and graduate worker labor in the name of budget deficits while simultaneously spending thousands to protect white supremacy.
As university students, instructors, researchers, and professors of the humanities, we have a moral and intellectual obligation to identify and condemn the statue’s old and new violences, which Chancellor Folt so consistently denies. Rather than vandalize a monument, Maya’s actions accurately contextualized a statue erected by white supremacists. At its dedication, these white supremacists boasted about having “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” and sought to uphold the “purest strain of the Anglo Saxon race.” The statue was a mascot of hatred then and continues to serve as a rallying point for violent white supremacist groups today. These groups threaten members of our campus community. Because of Folt’s inaction, the responsibility to create a safe campus environment has fallen on the shoulders of the already overburdened students, faculty, staff, and campus and graduate workers. These efforts have consistently been met with violence from campus police, culminating in Maya’s arrest on April 30th, 2018. To end this dangerous and ongoing legacy, we demand that:
- Carol Folt remove Silent Sam.
- The university not take legal or disciplinary action against Maya Little for her act of civil disobedience.
- Sufficient compensation be given to the campus workers who removed blood and ink from the statue without protective gear.
- UNC’s Trustees remove the 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings.
- Once the statue is removed, the budget used for its protection be redirected toward materially supporting UNC Black Congress and creating more opportunities for diversity and inclusion on campus.
Every day that Silent Sam remains standing is a day Carol Folt commits to endangering the community she once pledged to serve. Until these demands are met, we will continue to challenge the structures and ideology of white supremacy at UNC with Maya. We will continue to call out our institution’s participation in the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. As Maya wrote, we will continue to protest the material and symbolic marks of white supremacy “until every facet of white supremacy on this campus has been removed.”
Maria J. Duran
Minrose Gwin (retired)
Caitlin G. Watt