Silent Sam Isn’t Really About Racism (and Other Things Our Readers Told Us This Week) | Letters to the Editor | Indy Week
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Silent Sam Isn’t Really About Racism (and Other Things Our Readers Told Us This Week) 

Protest at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Photo by Cole Villena

Protest at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Last Monday evening, demonstrators tore down Silent Sam on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus. Over the next week, the N.C. Historical Commission voted—begrudgingly—to keep the three Confederate monuments on the state Capitol grounds, a member of the UNC Board of Governors pledged to re-erect Sam, and a bunch of definitely-not-racist-just-history-loving Silent Sam supporters held their own rally on Saturday and were chased away by student protesters. The INDY reported on all of that, which, as the subject of the Lost Cause always does, produced a, um, robust comments section. Get your hazmat suits on, kids; we're going in.

First up, Mike Paladin, who says no one cares about facts: "It's a shame that not one of the 'activists' actually took a good look at the face of that statue while ranting about 'the racist hatred it represents.' Because that face—that young face—was crafted to represent a UNC student who put aside his pencil and books to go get shot at in a war. He was not out to get shot at to keep blacks enslaved; he was not heading off to risk death just so plantation owners could keep their slaves. He went to war to fight off an invading army. An army invading the South. His home. That young face risked it all with courage and honor. He did not go off to defend his home wearing a KKK hood.

"Not that any of the new crop of UNC students, that pampered oh-so-wise crew of smartphone-packing elitists, would care. Why should they? It's ancient history. Who cares about facts? And apparently—predictably—the INDY doesn't give a damn, either."

(Sigh. Perhaps we don't care about facts, but we nonetheless feel obliged to point out that, well, yes, the entire point of the Confederacy was to perpetuate slavery, as evidenced by the very words of its founders. Also, it's likely not every Nazi soldier wanted to exterminate Jews, and many fought in a manner we would consider brave in other circumstances, but you don't see statues honoring them in public squares in Berlin. Context matters.)

Over to you, briteness: "Why did the police permit this vandalism? Did they have 'stand-down' orders, and, if so, who gave the orders? Or were they just scared of the angry mob? With shameless advocates of revolutionary violence, the potential for people getting hurt was real. Maybe there weren't enough cops to keep these jackals under control? I hope the public will get answers to these questions. For now, I think the most likely possibility is that somebody told the cops to let this happen. If this is the case, we need to demand that the responsible party lose his/her job."

Michael Arrowood is also upset by the "mob rule" that led to Sam's demise: "As a UNC graduate, a descendant of Confederates, and fervent advocate of the rational and humanistic principles I learned during my years in Chapel Hill, I am horrified and disgusted with this act of anarchy. It is incomprehensible for me that debates cannot be conducted above the level of mob rule, especially on matters of history and culture. This was a monument to students who gave their lives in the war, and should be accorded due respect. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. I don't recognize the Carolina where I studied anymore, if this is the way its students behave."

To which ct responds: "Once the term 'mob rule' has been applied, hardly anyone would condone what happened. Of course, we celebrate 'mob rule' in the Boston Tea Party or the hammering down of the Berlin Wall. Technically those were illegal acts. Ultimately, history judges whether an occurrence of active civil disobedience was right. Sometimes history says yes, but more often history says no. People who participate in active civil disobedience should know that not only are they subject to near-term prosecution, but they are also subject to long-term judgment."

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