“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” – President John F. Kennedy
A year ago, amidst long overdue articulation of the horror memorialized by the Confederate statue on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, university administrators had the chance to show leadership in resolving a divisive issue. They dodged.
Monday night, the Confederate statue was removed. The means was not the most desirable, but the horror it represented, the decades of indulgence by the university, and the recent studied deafness of the administration made such an action nearly inevitable, as President Kennedy predicted.
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In all our disciplines, we try to encourage critical inquiry. The most cursory critical inquiry has made clear, time and again, that the Confederate statue memorialized racism, that the purpose of its installation – as celebrated by the oratory that accompanied it – was to enforce and sustain racism. To assert anything else about its history and motive is naïve at best and abetting the cause it embodied at worst.
The time is now for leadership. Surely a means might be found to recognize the sacrifices of UNC graduates and friends in the too many wars our nation has endured, but a way to memorialize the individuals who made those sacrifices, not the horrible cause in which, sadly, many of them died.
In responding to the removal of the statue, the administration has said that “safety and security ... will remain our top priority.” What about the safety and security of the African American woman whose beating was celebrated in the speeches at the unveiling of the statue? What about the safety of the thousands of citizens who have been beaten and murdered through the cause the statue advanced? This is not about safety. It is about the heart of our country. For our administrators to continue to dodge that simple reality is coy and cruel.
The administration has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to become involved and assures that “we will use the full breadth of state and University processes to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.” Law enforcement, public safety and respect for the history that surrounded the statue and its removal require discretion. Leadership requires it as well.
The time is now for the university administration to show leadership, not bureaucratic obfuscation. Show us that you and the university do indeed stand for Lux et Libertas, not sustaining and enforcing the symbols of human cruelty.
This letter was co-signed by 49 UNC faculty members. They are listed alphabetically below.
Edwin B. Fisher, Professor, Department of Health Behavior, others listed alphabetically
Allison E. Aiello, Professor, Department of Epidemiology
William L. Andrews, E. Maynard Adams Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Florence E. Babb, Harrington Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology
Clare L. Barrington, Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Peggy Bentley, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor, Department of Nutrition
Marcella H. Boynton, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Jane Brown, James L. Knight Professor Emeritus, School of Media and Journalism
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Crystal Wiley Cene, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Jan Chambers, Professor, Department of Dramatic Art
Dana Coen, Professor, Department of Communication
Geni Eng, Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Susan Ennett, Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Sue E. Estroff, Professor, Department of Social Medicine
Marcie Cohen Ferris, Professor Emeritus, Department of American Studies
William Ferris, Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Center for Study of the American South
Rebecka Rutledge Fisher, Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Mary Floyd-Wilson, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Shelley Golden, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Carol E. Golin, Professor, Departments of Medicine and Health Behavior
Nisha C. Gottfredson, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Marianne Gingher, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Minrose Gwin, Kenan Eminent Professor Emerita, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Rob Hamilton, Lecturer, Department of Communication
Gail E. Henderson, Professor, Departments of Social Medicine and Sociology
Jim Herrington, Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Fred Hobson, Lineberger Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Malcolm Ray Hunter, Jr., Adjunct Professor, School of Law
Megan D. E. Landfried, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Jacqueline Lawton, Assistant Professor, Department of Dramatic Art
Alexandra F. Lightfoot, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Laura A. Linnan, Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Leslie A. Lytle, Professor, Departments of Health Behavior and Nutrition
Alice E. Marwick, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
Derrick Matthews, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
John McGowan. Hanes Distinguished Professor of English
Joseph Megel, Artist in Residence, Department of Communication
Beth Moracco, Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Kate Muessig, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Krista M. Perreira, Professor, Department of Social Medicine
Della Pollock, Professor, Department of Communication
Edward V. Rankus, Associate Professor, Department of Communication
Ruth Salvaggio, Professor Emerita, Departments of English and Comparative Literature and American Studies
Jeffrey Sonis, Associate Professor, Departments of Social Medicine and Family Medicine
Deborah Stroman, Associate Professor, Department of Health Behavior
Adam Versenyi, Professor, Department of Dramatic Art
Harry L. Watson, Atlanta Distinguished Professor in Southern Culture
Courtney G. Woods, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Regarding “Protesters topple Silent Sam Confederate statue at UNC” (Aug. 20): I’m not in favor of mobs, but the outbreak of massive protests that target symbols of power shows us how unresponsive North Carolina leaders are to the needs of their constituents.
In democracies, citizens have a way to petition for grievances, but North Carolina’s leadership is not interested in that. Start with the General Assembly’s 2015 law which eliminated local control over monuments. Is that democracy? People who are gerrymandered out of power have lost control of local issues. Everything that happens in North Carolina must be approved by two Republican legislative leaders from small towns in secret meetings with other Republicans.
Republicans have managed to eliminate any group or person that threatens their power. And they know that their voters will be looking closely at the ignominious fall of Silent Sam and blaming their own problems on “mobs.”
Moral: when leaders ignore legitimate issues, they get civil unrest. N.C. leadership created this mess by pretending it was going away. They need to fix it. Start by listening.