On Saturday, members of a Confederate group marched through UNC’s campus, weapons in hand.
But UNC Police simply approached these white supremacists and politely asked them to leave. They even shook their hands. But they didn’t charge them, because there was “immediate uncertainty” if any laws had been broken. Seeing a group of armed men marching through campus wasn’t enough to convince authorities that laws were broken? Where’s the logic in that — when just the mere sight of a Black man has been in enough of an incentive for police nationally to shoot him on the spot?
And how did UNC respond? With an official statement, of course, briefly describing the events that transpired that day. According to the University, “moving forward, possession of a firearm will not be tolerated within any boundary of the campus.” Bringing firearms onto campuses or other educational properties is a felony under North Carolina law.
Lance Spivey, a member of the Heirs to the Confederacy marching group, carried a pistol in his belt and had shared online the day prior that he was willing to “kill for” his beliefs. That these individuals are violent racists is an indisputable fact proven by their own words, their own actions.
We can’t help but wonder what the outcome would have been if the members of this group were men of color. It’s safe to assume it would have been much, much more aggressive, and swift action would have been taken.
UNC Police’s lackluster response to white supremacists on campus speaks to a larger issue plaguing our country. Even after white supremacists shot and killed worshippers in a Charleston church, Pittsburgh synagogue and New Zealand mosque, President Trump continues to deny that white nationalism is a threat to our nation, claiming that it’s a "small group of people."
This "small group" is a fundamental threat. It may not be a threat to white people, but it certainly is to minority groups. And language like this shows that the safety of minorities, including those killed worshipping within the safe walls of their sacred places, doesn’t matter. At least, not to those who can stop it. And UNC’s lack of response to white supremacists, armed and ready to kill, plays directly into this narrative.
As we’ve seen on both the national and international levels, failing to address white supremacy will result in harm, and even death, to vulnerable populations. UNC should have been outraged that white supremacists were brandishing weapons on a campus with sizable minority populations. The police should have enough knowledge of their own laws to hold these violent racists responsible.
Instead, they allowed them to roam around campus, and informed the community about it two days later. That’s unacceptable, especially for an institution that proudly boasts forward-thinking and progressive ideals. Once again, the University proved its commitment to tokenizing diversity, instead of committing to value it.
If only UNC Police were as forgiving to student activists as they are to white supremacists. But they aren’t. And they haven’t been, reiterating a larger global trend that increasingly allows and promotes the destructive cycle of extremist, fascist beliefs. UNC Police confiscated activists’ cans for a food drive because they could be considered weapons. In August, after an unarmed activist was punched in the face, UNC Police charged them with a crime. If UNC Police demands such a high level of accountability from nonviolent activists on campus, they must hold violent white supremacists accountable too, especially when they pose a threat to campus safety.
Remember when UNC claimed that “racism has no place on our campus”? Well, it does. And the University, once again, is complicit.
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