Oh No, Another Poor Defenseless Confederate Statue Toppled Like A Common Saddam Hussein!
If aliens visited the South 50 years after the Civil War, they'd be forgiven for assuming it was former slaves, and not the Confederacy, who had led the armed rebellion against the US, and slaves, not Confederate sympathizers, who had murdered Abraham Lincoln, the president Republicans always cling to so that they're not left with just Nixon, W., and Trump. Fiftyish years after the Civil War was also the period when "Silent Sam" -- a statue of a Confederate soldier that was toppled last night by a group of protesters who very unpatriotically don't even like slavery -- was unveiled before the all-white student body of University of North Carolina. (It would be another
40 years before black students could enroll.) UNC alum Julian Carr -- described (for real-like) as "an industrialist, philanthropist, and white supremacist" -- was invited to speak at Silent Sam's dedication.
First, [Carr] credited Confederate soldiers with saving "the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South," adding, "to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States — Praise God."
Then, he went on to tell a personal story.
"I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal," Carr said. "One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head."
"So, in conclusion, I'm evil. This statue is evil. And if you kids study hard and do well on your final exams, you'll all be evil too!"
If the latest Donald Trump incident leads us to fear there's been no progress in race relations, please note that nowadays hurting a white woman's feelings will just get a sister reported to HR and fired ... not literally set on fire. So there's that. Naturally, 100 years later, there's still debate on whether it's appropriate to commemorate Confederate soldiers, often in places with significant black populations. America normally isn't big on celebrating losers or those who defy the nation, and the Confederacy is both. But the monuments and statues are less about history and more about the "good old days" when you could not only "horse whip" black women but later brag about it and dress it up as "chivalry."
Back in April, UNC student Maya Little was arrested after she doused "Silent Sam" with a mixture of red paint and her own blood. I thought it was an improvement, but the school considered it vandalism. Potato. Racist Potahto. She faces charges of "defacing a public monument," but which public does the monument serve? Certainly not black women like Little against whom Carr would probably enact his own brutal form of punishment.
Monday's rally was a "demonstration of solidarity" for Little. There were calls for removals of monuments like "Silent Sam" that should rightly be replaced by monuments to the countless victims (many unnamed) of people like Carr. Then, like a certain wall in Berlin, "Silent Sam" fell head first in the mud as protestors from all races cheered. This horrific treatment of an inanimate object was immediately and deeply felt by the usual suspects.
I feel like I have to keep stressing that "Silent Sam" is not an actual person. The actual person who Carr boasted of almost beating to death doesn't even have a recorded name, while the statue does. Look, I wish the kids had worn hard hats and other safety gear, as well, but I'm not going to mourn the loss of this statue.
I think black people did have a lot to say about "honoring" Confederate soldiers who actually only fought *for* the continued enslavement of black people in North Carolina. We kept saying it, even when it wasn't always safe to express such concerns in white-dominated spaces.You just didn't hear us or care to listen. It reminds me of the old "Get Smart" gag. Agent 86 is kneeling over a gravely wounded man, who with great effort is trying to communicate with him. 86 keeps asking him to speak louder, more clearly, until the man finally gets his message across before dying. Agent 99 asks, "What did he say?" and 86 soberly responds, "He told me to get my knee off his chest."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).