Generations of anti-racist activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) have called on campus administrators to remove the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam. The statue was funded by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization that lauded confederate soldiers as “the real Klu Klux Klan.” In the statue’s 1913 dedication speech, local entrepreneur and white supremacist Julian Carr celebrated the Confederacy’s defense of the purity of the “Anglo Saxon race” and bragged of how he “horsewhipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because…she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady.” Yet, generations of UNC administrators have failed to act. On April 30, 2018, graduate worker Maya Little poured her blood and red ink on this racist statue. Her artistic statement added much-needed context to a monument that was already drenched in black blood. Maya’s action reflected a popular frustration with UNC’s refusal to address white supremacy in its own institution.In the last academic year, UNC ignored dozens of academic departments that issued statements calling for Silent Sam’s removal. It attempted to silence thousands of students, workers, and community members who marched, boycotted, and camped out in protest of Silent Sam. Campus police destroyed demonstrators’ contextualization signs and sent an undercover police officer to spy on students. Administrators also disregarded a letter from attorney Hampton Dellinger, informing the university that the statue violated the Civil Rights Act by creating a racially hostile environment for students and workers. This environment disproportionately impacts the mental well-being of students and workers of color, and it endangers them by attracting neo-Nazis and other hate groups to campus.For her act of civil disobedience against Silent Sam, UNC’s Honor Court is threatening Maya Little with expulsion and the loss of her job. By protecting Silent Sam against removal, UNC has repeatedly failed to meet its basic obligation to provide a workplace free of racism. The University should not retaliate against employees who are brave enough to push toward that goal.Maya was not the first student to paint UNC’s Confederate statue. It was graffitied to protest the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 and the murder of Sandra Bland in 2015. NC State fans have painted it red; UNC fans have painted it powder blue. Unsurprisingly, UNC officials have shown little interest in prosecuting sports fans. In a recent statement, Maya articulated it best, “At UNC, dousing the monument in paint in the name of basketball is deemed a pastime while doing the same to contextualize and fight racism is a crime. Revealing the racist violence upon which Sam was built — exposing a truth the university would like to keep covered — could result in my expulsion.”Rather than listening to its students, faculty, and workers, UNC chose to spend $390,000 protecting the racist statue. With this money, UNC could have raised 43 graduate workers out of poverty; covered parking costs for at least 500 campus workers making under $29,000 a year; or retained at least 3 faculty of color.In North Carolina, these struggles are not new. Workers in Southern states recognize that hostility to labor is frequently a tactic used to divide the working class along racial lines. North Carolina General Statute 95-98 is a Jim Crow-era law that prohibits collective bargaining by public sector employees for this purpose, above and beyond typical right-to-work laws. In this post-Janus era, as unionists, we must therefore stand against white supremacy in our workplaces and communities, offer solidarity to workers like Little who are leading movements to take down Confederate symbols, and support workers organizing in the South.
- Stands in solidarity with Maya Little;
- Demands that UNC – Chapel Hill drop all Honor Court charges against her and the remove the Confederate statue on its campus;
- Demands that the charges against Maya Little for defacing the racist statue known as Silent Sam are dropped;
- Denounces the police surveillance of student anti-racist activism at UNC-Chapel Hill;
- Condemns UNC’s decision to spend $390,000 to protect Silent Sam while refusing to adequately compensate its campus and graduate workers;
- Calls on chapters and locals to stand in solidarity with the movements to take down the 1700+ statues and other symbols honoring the Confederacy on their campuses and across the US, to stand against white supremacy;
- Calls on chapters and locals to provide solidarity and material support for workers organizing in the South i.e. open letters from unions to the Board of Trustees that it is unsafe for workers to work at UNC.
- Fundraise for campaign revolving around the Maya case and removal of Silent Sam.
We call on unionists to provide solidarity and material support for workers organizing in the South by:
- Circulating a GoFundMe page with membership and allies to monetarily support union events related to the protest against the statue
- Writing an open letter on behalf of your chapter and/or local to the UNC Board of Trustees boycotting UNC until these demands are met upon calls by UNC activists
- Initiating a letter/postcard writing campaign with members to mail to the UNC Board of Trustees notifying them of individual boycott’s of UNC upon calls by UNC activists
- Donating skills and time to support the protests against the Silent Sam statue
- Asking membership to sign and share the petition to Drop Maya Little’s Honor Court charges: https://www.change.org/p/unc-honor-court-drop-the-charges-against-antiracist-activist-maya-little
- Responding to other asks as they arise
More CGEU Resolutions are available here: https://cgeu2018.wixsite.com/cgeu2018