Margaret Young: Toppling of statue won’t end debate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By Margaret  Young

Special to the Salisbury Post

CHAPEL HILL — The first time I saw Silent Sam was when I was only 5 years old. My grandmother, a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna, told me that Silent Sam had no bullets in his gun. She explained the history and told me the statue was a monument to those who died fighting for the Confederacy.

Now I am a 20-year-old UNC-CH student, and Silent Sam has become one of the most divisive issues on our campus. According to The Washington Post, a speech by Julian Carr resurfaced in 2009, sparking the controversy in recent years. The speech spoke of Carr “horse-whipp[ing] a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds.”

As one could expect, many demanded the statue be removed or placed in a museum. Due to laws regarding historical monuments, UNC-CH has been unable to do so.

On Aug. 20, the night before the first day of classes, protesters irresponsibly tore down the statue. By Friday, the UNC Board of Governors announced that the statue would be replaced within 90 days.

I, as well as many of my peers, believe rioting and pulling down statues is never the way to bring about real change. Breaking the law is still breaking the law.

However, many of us also empathize with others and understand why such a statue could be considered offensive. The main quad at a public university might not be the best place to display such a controversial statue.

Nevertheless, Silent Sam represents the broader issue of lack of political respect and communication. Both sides so fiercely defend their stance that there is no common ground and no compromise. Those who want the statue down have no respect for the opinion of those wishing to preserve Confederate heritage and vise versa.

Instances like that Monday evening only further exacerbate our divisive political climate. Instead of fighting, yelling and rioting, both sides need to take a step back and have a constructive conversation about what can be done to alleviate the situation. Political civility goes a long way in finding compromise.

UNC-CH is one of the most diverse and accepting campuses in the country. We all need to be more accepting of the other side and try to understand their beliefs, even if they do not align with our own.

East Rowan High School graduate Margaret Young is in the class of 2020 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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