Before You Boast Your Diversity And Inclusivity, UNC, Make Sure You Take Down Your Racist Statue

Before You Boast Your Diversity And Inclusivity, UNC, Make Sure You Take Down Your Racist Statue

Silent Sam? Did you mean: Symbol of white supremacy that should be permanently removed from UNC's campus.

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I'd like to preamble my article with this: I am white. I acknowledge that being white puts me in a place of privilege, especially when discussing sensitive topics such as racism. For or against Silent Sam, white people cannot claim to be as affected by its original placement in a prime location on campus as are people of color.

That said, I think the monument is garbage, and its time on our campus should be permanently over.

Regardless of what anyone has to say about the statue's primary function being to commemorate UNC students and faculty who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, the statue has harmful connotations of racism and white supremacy that should not, under any circumstances, be tolerated on our campus. It is 2018—it's time to wake up.

The men who fought for the Confederacy fought for its desires, and one of those desires was the continued enslavement of African Americans by whites. Sure, they were fighting for "states' rights." States' rights to allow slavery. There is no way around it: the Confederate states were fighting to keep slavery. And to me, Confederate monuments honor that cause. Silent Sam honors that cause.

Many other students think so, too. There's a reason there have been protests against the monument since the 1960s, and I'll state that reason one more time for the people in the back: Silent Sam is a symbol of racism and white supremacy.

In my opinion, the argument that Silent Sam is an important commemorator of those from UNC who fought in the Civil War is weak. At the end of the day, the statue honors soldiers who fought for the Confederate cause. Dying for a cause does not make that cause honorable. Even so, there are history books to help you remember those soldiers. Their names are in the UNC archive. You can watch a plethora of documentaries about the Civil War in order to remember its causes and consequences.

At a certain point, if you simply can't seem to let go of Silent Sam, you might have to ask yourself: Am I racist?

So, here we are. To summarize, Silent Sam does not belong on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill. Not in a prominent location as the face of the university, not in some new "History and Education Center," not even in a storage closet. It is not lost on UNC students that the proposal would place the History and Education Center, and therefore Silent Sam, in the heart of an area in which the African American community has deep roots. I speak for most students, I think, when I say we want Silent Sam gone.

There is a problem, however, with our protests against the plan for relocation. Since the release of this proposed plan for a $5.3M History Center to which Silent Sam will be relocated, students and others have taken to Twitter, among other websites, to criticize Chancellor Carol Folt for the decision.

By all means, we should hold Chancellor Folt responsible. It is up to UNC's administration to ensure that campus is safe and inclusive for all students, and Silent Sam takes away from what should be an inclusive university environment. The problematic statue should have been removed decades ago, when students first began to express that they were uncomfortable with the monument.

However, it is important to note that Chancellor Folt, like many of us, would prefer that Silent Sam not remain on campus. In fact, one option presented was to install Silent Sam at the North Carolina Museum of History (read the NC Government response here). Unfortunately, despite her place as Chancellor of UNC, Carol Folt does not have the ability to override state law—which, in this case, is what's keeping the unwanted statue on our campus.

My point is not that Carol Folt is innocent—far from it, actually. Let us not forget that in her statement just three months ago on August 31, she said, "Silent Sam has a place in our history and on our campus where its history can be taught, but not at the front door of a safe, welcoming, proudly public research university." A few months ago, then, she apparently still thought the statue had a place "on our campus."

What I'm saying is that this issue goes far beyond Carol Folt, and using her as a scapegoat distracts us from the real problem of institutionalized racism, the continuing effects of which allow the Confederate monument to go on standing.

So really, when I say we can't blame everything on Carol Folt, what I mean is that we can't just blame everything on Carol Folt. We can—and should—express our disagreement with the chancellor and with the UNC Board of Trustees' proposal for keeping Silent Sam on campus, but we need to also address that the problems go beyond UNC's administration. It's time we direct our anger to the NC General Assembly, so that we can achieve the changes in legislation necessary to make the permanent removal of Silent Sam from UNC's campus legal.

Carol Folt is just the current most prominent face of a system of institutionalized racism persevering in North Carolina, a system we need to address. The fact that there is a state law preventing Silent Sam's removal from campus, despite the harmful connotation of the statue and the outspoken protests against its presence by many students, faculty, and staff members at UNC, speaks to this system.

For now, we can turn our attention to the UNC Board of Governors, one of whom has already expressed distaste for the proposal put forward by the Trustees. This member, Thom Goolsby, says that the UNC Trustees are cowards, and that Silent Sam should have been returned to his pedestal in McCorkle Place. This is yet another troubling addition to the controversy over the monument. The Board of Governors is the next level of administration through which the unsatisfying proposal must pass, and the fact that one of its members disagrees with the proposal because he thinks Silent Sam deserves to retain its place of honor at the "front door" of the university is not only disappointing, but unacceptable.

As this controversy continues, I agree with the UNC Latinx organization Mi Pueblo, who said in a statement, "We are struggling to comprehend how the university can tout diversity on its brochures while it undercuts our communities on campus."

Before you boast about your diversity and inclusiveness, UNC, you should make sure to get rid of all the lingering symbols of white supremacy and racism that continue to exist on our campus. And maybe, just maybe, start to address the concerns of the students who allow you to label yourself "diverse."

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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An Open Letter To Myself At 15

This is an open letter to myself about things I wish I had known at 15.

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Dear Hailey,

You are so loved. I know times might be hard, but it will all be okay. It's okay to ride the fence and be unsure of what you want to do with your life. You're going to change your mind 10 more times before graduation anyways. Also, don't worry about all of the things that you can't change. You can't make someone fall in love with you or make her treat you like a better friend. It's okay for people not to fit in your life. Stop bending over backward for people and live for yourself. In a few years, you will go through so much, but you come out on the better side. You are going to be successful and driven. Also, learn what the meaning of "self-care" is. You need to do a lot of that in the upcoming years. Mental health is more important than anything. Also, quit cutting your baby hairs. They will never get longer so you need to embrace and love them early on. Figure out what you can change, and what you cannot. Most importantly, accept what you cannot change. When you decide that you are ready to face the things that you can change, do it with your whole heart. That doesn't mean complete perfection. It's important to know the difference. Start by making a plan for the future. Write it down, memorize it, do whatever makes it the easiest for you. Think through your plan logically, take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses. Remember to do the hard things first once in a while, the relief is sweet in the end.

You are ready.

You are young.

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

If you ever feel that you are at your lowest point, just remember the only place that you can go is up. Find reassurance in the weakness. The best is yet to come. Don't take pity on yourself. Instead, work harder to make your situation better. Be happy. There are so many things to be thankful for. Ask when you need help. No one can read your mind. Time won't stop for you. Worrying and stressing is simply a waste of time. Be strong and know that you are in God's hands. Everything will work out. It may not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, the pieces will fall into place and you will understand why things had to happen that way.

Love,

Me

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