Just before Thanksgiving, while much of the Carolina community was away from campus, news broke that UNC had agreed to pay the Sons of Confederate Veterans a $2.5 million settlement to ensure Silent Sam would never return to the University’s campus.
The statue was placed in the hands of the SCV, while the University agreed to fund a $2.5 million trust to ensure the “care and preservation” of the monument, according to a statement. The group was paid an additional $74,999 to “limit” flagging on campus.
We can’t help but speculate that the timing of this announcement was not a coincidence. UNC is notorious for dropping bombshells quietly and at inopportune moments, perhaps hoping that we will be too busy to notice.
But we were paying attention. We always are.
In the weeks following the announcement, more information has come forward about the settlement and the context in which it was made, thanks in large part to the unwavering dedication of student journalists at The Daily Tar Heel.
This settlement was the result of closed negotiations between UNC System leadership, the BOG and the SCV.
Not only is this shamefully opaque, it’s illegal, which is why The Daily Tar Heel filed a lawsuit against the UNC System and the BOG for violating the Open Meetings Act.
It’s both shocking and unsurprising that UNC continues to mishandle the Silent Sam situation so egregiously — even a year after the last remnants of the monument were finally removed by a lame duck chancellor. At the very least, we hoped the administration would learn from past mistakes, but it’s clear they haven’t, and we’re starting to doubt they ever will.
It’s hard to find the words to describe just how disgusted we are by the University’s decision. We all want Silent Sam gone from this campus forever — we always have — but this was not the answer. It’s yet another reminder of the University’s prolonged willingness to negotiate and align themselves with avowed white supremacists.
Giving millions of dollars to a Confederate group does nothing to solve the problem of white supremacy that has plagued the University since its inception. Rather, it blatantly elevates and enables these white supremacists by financing their racist agenda.
Just think of all the things that $2.5 million could have gone toward. Reparations, scholarships for Black students and other students of color. Investing more in the arts. Creating physical spaces for marginalized groups on campus. Paying graduate students a living wage.
Marking this decision as a victory simply because Silent Sam will never return to campus fundamentally ignores and misunderstands the many reasons why Black students and activists fought so hard for the statue to come down in the first place.
The fact that this is being framed as a victory by administrators is symptomatic of their aloofness — it was never about the physical statue, but the systematic oppression of which it was a totem. Now, the message has been made clear that the buddy buddy relationship that groups like SCV have with this University still has a place in the absence of the statue.
Silent Sam may not have a place on this campus anymore, but white supremacy does. Systemic racism isn’t going anywhere — UNC has always allowed it to stay, regardless of the price tag.
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