Message to UNC Undergraduate Student Body President Savannah Putnam:
In light of the Daily Tar Heel article published on June 14, 2018 detailing your use of the N-word and other racially derogatory terms and expressions, Black Congress finds it important to highlight this event and detail the importance of true accountability to the communities you have committed yourself to serve as student body president.
Upon discovery of your past statements, your instinct to deflect and dismiss the consequences of your words, shift blame to the DTH journalist, and tokenize your platform of supposed-inclusivity is extremely disturbing and dangerous. As a 21 year-old, you are culpable for your actions because you have been educated on the ramifications of racially insensitive language. The totality of your past and current actions demonstrate a lack of genuine critical thought about your past and sends concern to your student body, especially Black and other students of color.
We, concerned students of the University community upon which such derogatory terms have greater consequences, want to see transparency, an ability to accept criticism and grow, and an ability to translate promises into substantial actions. We want to see you engage in candid and challenging dialogue about race on the campus you serve, so that you can learn, teach, and apply these lessons in your leadership on the campus we share.
This past academic year, students formed coalitions across campus to continue the decades long fight to remove the Confederate statue Silent Sam from our campus. The pattern of Nazi, Alt-right, and Confederate rallies around Confederate statues across the US such as in Charlottesville, VA have created a racially hostile environment and have had real and detrimental effects on the educational experiences of students of color, particularly Black students. UNC is not excluded from this pattern of racist behaviors. The work to move our campus past this racist commemoration has pushed students to extremes because we know that this statue has no place on a campus that should be “For All Kind.”
Following the news of your social media feed, your administration has now taken an effort to mitigate racial tensions on campus. While reactionary, Black Congress recognizes and is encouraged by your statement on Maya Little. We support the effort calling on Honor Court to drop all charges against Maya Little. She has worked tirelessly for the removal and proper contextualization of Silent Sam, while facing harassment and wrongful surveillance by this university and other actors. Maya Little’s brave act of civil disobedience to push out community towards a moral stand against racism should not be punished by Student Conduct. Nonetheless, there is still work to be done by your administration to demonstrate your commitment to a diverse, healthy and inclusive environment here at Carolina.