Charlottesville organizers stand in solidarity with Chapel Hill

newspaperCharlottesville anti-racist organizers and community members, in solidarity with all those who struggle to #TakeEmAllDown, comment on the removal of the University of North Carolina Confederate statue.

“Last night, community members rallying in protest of the Silent Sam Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill took down the statue. Among other chants, they were heard exclaiming, “Next up, Charlottesville!” The downtown Charlottesville statues of Confederate generals Lee and Jackson, along with the nearby Thomas Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia, were the sites of numerous white supremacist rallies and attacks throughout 2017.

“Charlottesville organizers and anti-racist community members have released the following statements of solidarity with those who struggle to #TakeThemAllDown, emphasizing continued support of the movement to remove Charlottesville’s Confederate statues:

Zyahna Bryant, Charlottesville High School student organizer, who started the 2016 petition/movement to remove Charlottesville’s Confederate statues

“Confederate monuments and racist imagery do not belong in our public spaces. These statues represent a deeper history of white supremacy that continues to oppress people of color. The students from UNC Chapel Hill and the people of Durham are showing us why this issue should remain at the forefront of our conversations.”

Professor Lisa Woolfork, Black Lives Matter Charlottesville organizer, Department of English, University of Virginia

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s community-generated response rejects the normalization of white supremacy. It refuses to accept the Lost Cause mythology which views these statues as objects to be revered. These statues enshrine and venerate a cause that kept black people in bondage. They are not neutral objects: they are civil war participation trophies that have reached their expiration date.”

Professor Jalane Schmidt, Black Lives Matter Charlottesville organizer, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

“Last night, anti-racist students at UNC’s flagship school toppled “Silent Sam,” a statue of a Confederate soldier and monument to white supremacy which had stood on the campus of that public university for over a century. Together with these students, Charlottesville anti-racism activists support Maya Little, an African American graduate student in UNC’s history department who faces prosecution for her brave action of April 2018, in which she smeared “Silent Sam” with her own blood in order to “contextualize” and condemn this statue’s historic links to black oppression. The statue’s 1913 installation ceremony featured a speech by a leading white businessman bragging about how, after the Civil War, he had horse whipped a black woman, until she bled, for the alleged crime of disrespecting white Southern womanhood.

“Shamefully, since 1913, the state of North Carolina has used tax revenues to maintain, in a public space, a Lost Cause relic which belongs in a museum. Ideally the state would take official action to apologize for its more than century-long support of this visible symbol which honors a short-lived, failed slave-holding republic, and then dismantle this monument–along with the institutionalized systems of white supremacy it endorses. Instead, UNC was spending $400,000 a year of taxpayer dollars on a police security detail to protect “Silent Sam” from exactly the fate which befell him last night: The Will of the People to remove him. This expenditure demonstrates that the connection between the state, institutional white supremacy, and exploitative capitalism is not simply an artifact of the slave-holding past, nor a passive present-day retention. It is an active present-day priority: the state of North Carolina defended a material symbol of white supremacy on state property while UNC students go into debt with onerous educational loans to attend that same underfunded public university.

“We express our solidarity with all people who fight white supremacy in all its forms, across the South, and across the nation. #TakeThemAllDown”

Ben Doherty, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Charlottesville organizer

“It is long past time for these emblems of white supremacy to be removed everywhere. These racist statues cause irreparable harm to our communities every day they remain in place.”

Amanda Moxham, Hate-Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County

“The statue was erected in 1913, during the Old Jim Crow era, as a white supremacist propaganda piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the BEGINNING of the Civil War. Monuments commissioned for the express purpose of upholding white supremacy do not belong anywhere—especially on the campus of an educational institution. Supporters of the Confederate Lost Cause narrative knowingly call for the erasure of marginalized people. We cannot condone these symbols of racial oppression and violence.”

Lara Harrison, Hate-Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County

“In this white supremacist culture, oppressed people are not only discriminated against, but are also subjected to physical and psychological brutality. Confederate imagery and statues are examples of the psychological brutality of white supremacy. We are in awe of the courage it took for activists in Chapel Hill to say no to this type of racial terror and take down Silent Sam. We must continue to work to remove these symbols of racial hatred and intimidation from our parks, public spaces, and from our schools.”

Professor Kathryn Laughton, School of Nursing, University of Virginia

“These monuments to white supremacy have no place in any public space, and especially not at universities. I am deeply disappointed that our institutions are too cowardly to take the bold step of removing these monuments to hate for fear of the legal ramifications. One would assume that highly-ranked universities have access to the best legal minds in the country and would relish the opportunity defend their actions on court. Despite the institutional cowardice, students in North Carolina acted with great courage to claim their space.”

Professor Bonnie Gordon, Department of Music, University of Virginia

“I’m impressed by the restraint of the police in contrast to the militarized law enforcement that surrounded our students engaged in a peaceful protest on their own Grounds just over a week ago. It’s become clear that these statues stand more as material embodiments of segregation and injustice than as aesthetic objects.”

Professor Frank Dukes, former member Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces, University of Virginia faculty, founder of University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE)

“The removal of Silent Sam represents another space reclaimed from this nation’s centuries-long embrace of white supremacy. It is also a reminder of the work that remains in other spaces – our neighborhoods, our schools, our prisons, our workplaces, and more – to dismantle white supremacy and bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”

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