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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Write what's right

Silent Sam sparked a dialogue, let's keep it going.

Emily Yue (old)
Opinion editor Emily Yue.

This Labor Day marks just the beginning of the third week of classes at UNC. In those three weeks, The Daily Tar Heel has received over 100 letters to the editor. 

For reference, on Labor Day of last year, when I was starting out as the assistant opinion editor, I struggled to find enough letters to fill the two columns' worth of space on the page. Now, my assistant Zaynab and I have more than our hands full of community opinions, thoughts and feelings.

We read all of these letters, archive them, fact-check them and, eventually, print them. Almost all of the letters that have flooded our inbox concern the issue of Silent Sam, the Confederate memorial on our campus. 

When Editor-in-Chief Tyler and I were working out the details of an all-letters issue of the DTH, he was worried that the letters would be repetitive, or monotonous. However, each letter came independently from a reader who took time out of their day to share their perspective with us. Of course, no two perspectives are the same. I hope you find the surprises in the bunch, the letters you can relate to and the ones you instinctively want to reject. That's okay. In fact, that's great. You can write us a response and I promise you that we'll get to it. 

Today's front-page archival letter "'Silent Sam' should leave" from student Al Ribak was first printed in March of 1965.  

"I urge the DTH and the Carolina student body to take up the cause of removing from the campus that shameful commemoration of a disgraceful episode," Ribak said.  

Nearly 50 years earlier, the Board of Trustees approved a request from the N.C. chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to erect a Confederate monument on UNC's campus. 

The UDC requested the construction of "a handsome and suitable monument on the grounds of our State University, in memory of the Chapel Hill boys, who left college, 1861-1865 and joined our Southern Army in defense of our State."

On June 2, 1913, the monument was unveiled on commencement day. In his now infamous speech, Confederate veteran and trustee of the University Julian Carr praised the Confederate army's "sav[ing] the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South," and recalled publicly "horse-whipp[ing] a negro wench" for insulting a white woman on Franklin Street.

Over 100 years later, Silent Sam stands as a fixture of this campus. His presence has always been an issue, and the debate over his removal is not new.  But there's a gravity to today's discourse following the events of Charlottesville and Durham. Where there's a conversation, there are now consequences.

I am proud to be a student journalist and opinion writer at a paper that allows me the freedom to coordinate and participate in protests that align with my beliefs. I am proud of our columnists, and our editorial board — fifteen students with different values and views who come together because they care about this community.

This community cares about itself, deeply. I can tell from your letters, and I care, too. 

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