Silent Sam, the memorial on the UNC campus to the Confederate common soldier, fell to vandals yesterday. I’ve mentioned earlier that it has drawn protests but this time the mostly white mob was serious. In an action carried out with paramilitary precision masked thugs shrouded the statue with banners, tied ropes on it, and pulled it down. The cops mostly stood by until it fell, then moved it to surround it. As you can see by the video, the demonstrators scuffled with the cops (if you look you quickly you can see one brave soul hit an officer in the back of the head), but there was only one arrest.
As at Durham, the fury of the vandals was very reminiscent of ISIS operatives smashing and kicking historical monuments at museums. As mentioned the police seemed strangely passive, which was quite different than their actions last time, when they surrounded the statue before the demonstrators could get at it. The university says that the core of the group “included people unaffiliated with the university.” There were condemnations of “mob rule” but if Durham is any guide not much will happen. As I’ve said, we seem to have created a culture of impunity when vandalism of public monuments is not only tacitly tolerated but encouraged.
Exhibit A is the editorial of the Charlotte Observer, the largest newspaper in the state.
And no, we don’t believe that vandalism is a path to meaningful progress. But if someone had in fact been hurt when Silent Sam fell to the ground, at least some of the responsibility would have been borne by a legislature that passed a law protecting the statue, and by those who dragged their feet on demanding change, and who in their inaction were making a choice, anyway. We suspect that those same officials, including our governor, might be a bit relieved that Silent Sam finally fell to the ground, and that they could say all the responsible things that folks like to hear.
What matters more this morning – to UNC students and others – is that Silent Sam is down. One more monument to racism gone. One more reminder that instead of waiting for change, sometimes you have to pull it toward you.
So apparently if you don’t knuckle under to the mob, you’re resisting “change,” and if someone gets hurt it’s your fault. Never mind that solid majorities of citizens both in this state and nationwide oppose removal of the monuments. Elsewhere in the editorial they talk about “adults in the room,” but it’s obvious that one of them didn’t write this editorial. It does, however, echo the support newspapers gave at one time to the actions of mobs engaged in some other not so nice activities. Some things around here never change, I suppose.