THE ISSUE: The Unsung Founders Memorial in McCorkle Place recognizes the enslaved people who built UNC. Over the years, people eating or changing their child’s diaper on the statue have attracted controversy. These viewpoints debate what the memorial’s purpose should be. You can read the other viewpoint here.
The basis of my viewpoint is built off the reality that no new statue will be built and no statue will be removed given the current climate. The Unsung Founders Memorial should not be overshadowed by a statue commemorating Confederate soldiers, but that is a fight for another viewpoint.
The memorial was designed to be a place where people could sit and reflect on the impacts of racism and enslavement at UNC. It wasn’t meant to be large and flashy, but reflective of how we still often forget those who built this school.
Sadly, it is instead becoming a place for people to do anything but think about racism.
It is a lunch table, a diaper changing station or a place to chat while drinking coffee.
It is easy enough to not see the people holding the table on the bottom. People walking by might never realize the memorial is not a normal table. Clearly, the memorial is not fulfilling its main purpose. Something needs to be done.
A practical answer might be to put more seating in the quad, or to place a plaque near the memorial to say “Please leave seats open to those who wish to reflect on racism at UNC” (or something like that).
But to some degree, that still does nothing to remember those our University forgot. The best option, which does not only apply to this situation, is to spread the history of racism at UNC. This could mean making the Black and Blue tour mandatory for all students and family members at orientation or contextualizing the racist glorification monument a few yards away. Maybe it is unrealistic or naive, but hopefully if people become more aware of the harms of their actions, they will be more likely to change.