The Chapel Hill Public Library hosted a panel to discuss Silent Sam, the purpose of Confederate monuments and free speech on Wednesday night.
The event was open to the public and moderated by UNC history professor Lloyd Kramer. The panelists included Police Chief Chris Blue, assistant English professor Danielle Christmas, assistant history professor William Sturkey and others.
Throughout the evening, attendees stated their personal views and anecdotal stories on what Confederate statues meant to them. Sturkey said he wants Silent Sam to be taken down and reflected on his family’s history with Confederate statues.
He said every generation of his family had lived in a different state since the end of the Civil War, and had experienced racism all over America. He said his great grandfather had to face the decision whether to leave the North Carolina because of racial persecution.
“My great grandfather left the state of North Carolina because of the very same violence that Julian Carr celebrated, not just advocated, but celebrated at the Silent Sam dedication speech.”
Sturkey said the actions and political rhetoric of Julian Carr, the namesake of Carrboro, either had to live in a constant fear or flee the state of North Carolina.
“So what does that mean?” Sturkey said. “That means we didn’t get to build monuments in the state to celebrate our history. That means many of us didn’t even get to have a history. In some ways, we didn’t even get to have a future.”
Blue said it’s important to be having these conversations with the community in a productive dialogue.
“Conflicts like the ones we talked about around Silent Sam and our interest in a healthy, public discourse is absolutely compromised if a bunch of people are standing around with guns and they’re not dressed like me,” he said.
Blue said the key issue in this conflict over the Confederate monuments was safety.
“We need only look back at Charlottesville and the Silent Sam demonstration last week to think about how volatile these times are,” Blue said. “The presence and even conversation about removing a monument, as was the case in Charlottesville, can lead to people losing their lives.”
Christmas said it was more than the controversy of Silent Sam that brought her to the event.
“I have to earn my place here,” Christmas said. “I need to figure out what on Earth I’m going to contribute because I can talk about in my office but what do I have to say that can advance what’s going on in this room? We all have something to add to this because we all have a stake in how we remember our past.”
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