UNC Bids Silent Sam A Not So Fond Farewell

Silent Sam came crashing down last night. It was toppled by protesters rightly enraged by its celebration of unrepentant racism. That racism was bad enough when it was installed more than a century ago; it is inexplicable now, given 2018 generally and Chapel Hill specifically.

There will be those who decry the statue’s toppling. They will insist that Silent Sam was installed to celebrate the South’s heritage, that its existence is not a celebration of racism, that our world needs to make room for the memory of troubled forefathers who cannot be judged by more modern moral standards. These claims, as always, are absolute whitewash created only to muddy perfectly clear waters.

The statue was erected in 1913. It was designed to celebrate treasonous confederates who turned their back on the United States to defend the institution of slavery. It was installed less than 50 years after the end of the Civil War, intended plainly to send a simple message: that the South was right, that racism was right, that white supremacy was right. If there is any debate about that, that is only because the Confederacy’s advocates are willfully pretending that they do not know what is plainly true. At its dedication, Julian Carr said this:

The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

And also this:

I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. 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.

If it seems odd that a man – who, we are begged to believe, was only motivated was commemorate Southern sacrifice – decided to briefly sojourn into a bizarre celebration of both Anglo-Saxon purity and his own willingness to beat a woman who had been insufficiently deferential to a “Southern lady” then some additional information about Carr might help. For example, Carr advocated frequently for the Ku Klux Klan, celebrated the Wilmington Massacre, and suggested that genocide was a fix for non-whites who wanted to vote. Carr then was nothing more than a dyed-in-the-wool racist, a man whose hostility trumped any notion of decency, a man motivated entirely by his embittered hostility toward a world that was only barely more complicated than he preferred it to be.

The University of North Carolina, which has long struggled to figure out how to effectively manage the fact that its campus celebrates monsters who would be horrified by the existence of many of the students now attending classes there, is, unfortunately, trying to play both sides this morning. UNC tweeted that, although it understands how frustrating the presence of a statue celebrating outright hostility toward much of the institution’s student body must be,  the statue’s toppling was “unlawful and dangerous” and that police are investigating.

Presumably, the students who toppled Silent Sam were expected instead to simply tolerate his existence on campus, and to await the day, at some indeterminate point in the future, when society had gotten beyond the celebration of the sorts of things that the statue was intended to commemorate. And then, only that uniform understanding of the statue’s existence was completely achieved, could the statue be gently lowered back toward North Carolina’s cool dark soil.

Maybe those protestors knew what the school’s administrators, and what the state’s governor, apparently do not: that such a day is never coming. North Carolina’s racism – the kind that Julian Carr advocated, the kind that Silent Sam was intended to celebrate – is as alive and well as it has ever been. Carr’s rebuke of black voters has not only not been abandoned; it is celebrated by the state’s Republican representatives, a collection of individuals fully invested in outright white supremacy, albeit in its more insidious modern existence. Here, for example, is North Carolina Senator Phil Berger, comparing Silent Sam’s downfall to lynching, two things which are obviously analogous only in the minds of the monstrous. Berger, it should be noted, has repeatedly championed laws which make it much, much, much harder for black North Carolinians to vote, laws that no doubt would have appealed directly to Julian Carr. Carr, after all, did say the following:

“The whole world admits that it was a mistake to have given universal suffrage to the negroes.”

No wonder Berger is so concerned with keeping Carr’s contributions to society standing.

“But, But, But, That Was Long Ago!”

One of the most tiresome arguments constantly made in defense of statues celebrating racism, or racists like Carr, is the following: “You cannot judge historical decisions and historical figures by modern standards.” As if, somehow, we are obliged to tolerate intolerable things, simply because they were done then, whenever that was. As if, somehow, bigotry is more tolerable if it just has the decency to have occurred at the right time in history.

The idea that there is some inherent injustice in judging our predecessors – as if they are owed our willful ignorance of their voluntary monstrousness – is evidence of a profound misunderstanding of justice itself. That those making the argument against judging our forefathers for their moral failings are so often engaged in politically adjacent thinking of their own should not be lost on anybody listening to such unalloyed drivel.

But for those who advocate such thinking – out of an allegedly genuine belief in having respect for the departed, as a defense against enduring similar judgment in a later life, or simply because they hope bad faith will be misinterpreted as good intention – one wonders what, if anything, they are capable of judging. Beyond, of course, the monstrousness of everyone who sees them for what they are.


Senior Editor
Twitter Instagram 

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

123 thoughts on “UNC Bids Silent Sam A Not So Fond Farewell

  1. There’s a very productive conversation taking place in the comments of Andrew’s post (no doubt influenced by the tone of what he wrote). Lee and some of the others are discussing how best to define racism and how some on the Left prefer a very broad interpretation because it serves their goals. I would present this post as proof of that point.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • some on the Left prefer a very broad interpretation because it serves their goals.

      If you don’t mind my asking, what do you think their goals are?

      Add: I mean, the implication is that they’re adopting a broad definition instrumentally, as a means to some other end. I’m curious what you think that other end is.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • “If you don’t mind my asking, what do you think their goals are?”

        I’m tempted to say ‘recreational outrage’…

        I certainly understand that most people who broadly define racism have the best of intentions. They think they’re broad interpretation equates to a zero tolerance policy and ultimately a net good. In response I would say that the best advice I was given before I got married was to pick my battles because when you make EVERYTHING a battle, the message gets lost in the noise.

        There’s enough real, in-your-face racism these days that I don’t know if we need to go looking for it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

          • Not talking about how you, , are picking your battles, but the phenomenon where conservatives decide that Confederate statuary are a good hill to die on. That sends its own kind of message, and it’s a profoundly unflattering one.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • I do think they are bad about not knowing when to give up, but I also understand the conservative impulse to protect history and look at things from a broader perspective. For example, the two statues we have here in Louisville…one was for a person that was indefensible and a pretty horrible person. The other was for a guy that served in the CSA and later went on to do a lot of good over the rest of his life. Conservatives like a slow look at everything because they don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Mike Dwyer: I do think they are bad about not knowing when to give up, but I also understand the conservative impulse to protect history and look at things from a broader perspective. For example, the two statues we have here in Louisville…one was for a person that was indefensible and a pretty horrible person. The other was for a guy that served in the CSA and later went on to do a lot of good over the rest of his life. Conservatives like a slow look at everything because they don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

                We’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater though. No one is burning books. No one is prohibiting people to exchange information. No one is disallowing people to post any kind of pro-south history to the internet. No one is disallowing people with a shared interest in Southern culture to freely exchange information.

                You can take down all of the Confederate statues in the world and I’ll still be able to read “Was Jefferson Davis a Traitor?”. Hell, I can still read the constitutional theories of John Taylor of Caroline, John Calhoun, Abel Upshur and others that pushed the radical 19th Century states right theories that supported the confederate position on secession.

                In fact, we can have a civil conversation right here – watch me…

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • Public statuary is not about preservation of history. It’s about reshaping how we view history. It’s propaganda.

                If we took down every bit of heroic civil war statuary, Union and Confederate – the nation would not forget that there was a civil war, or what it was about. That’s what history books and museums are for.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

          • Agreed, which is why this isn’t a battle I’m fighting. Plus, the sooner we can rid ourselves of those statues, the better. Those who believe that it’s detrimental to history are full of it.

            Not that I can’t pick an interesting fight from what Sam wrote, but this isn’t it.

              Quote  Link

            Report

        • Mike,

          Seems like a fair answer. I now wonder to what extent you employ that account to dismiss a broad definition because of the intentions behind it rather than dismissing on the merits. We all probably do it to a greater extent than we’re aware of, so it’s not *that* interesting a question.

          I do agree with you that hyper-focusing on micro-aggressions can diminish the perceived severity and importance of macro-aggressions. And yet … there seems to be great resistance in the OT’s conservative community to admitting that even macro-aggressions are occurring. For example, Sam deals with it regularly.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I am maybe not the best person to ask about where to draw the line. As a social scientist by training I have always pushed back against the charge of Racism because I see Prejudice as a better descriptor, at least when it comes to whites & blacks and how they interact in the U.S.

              Quote  Link

            Report

        • I agree, with one caveat: the degree to which an action, event, or state of affairs is judged to be racist depends quite a bit on the ideological tools the judger is employing. We all know how this works: some southerner calls a young black man “son” and a not-insignificant part of the population sees explicit racism while everyone else sees a fully general term being appropriately used. Same goes for institutional racism, seems to me, and other ways racism is expressed or at least perceived.

          That said, I agree that if a person defines racism very broadly *and can justify it*, their goal is no more than they say: to end all types of racism that fall under the definition. Whether or not people *agree* with their definition is a different issue. :)

            Quote  Link

          Report

            • No! The only ones I remember hearing about were situations where one group of people saw explicit racism and another group didn’t. Myself, I didn’t see explicit racism or the absence of explicit racism. The complaint just seemed so micro, so theory driven, that I couldn’t bring myself to care one way or the other.

              “Thugs” on the other hand….

                Quote  Link

              Report

          • The way we judge whether things are racist is a lot more than ideological, though. One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, or mulling over, is that many people who throw around charges of racism seem to have a lack of genuine empathy. I’m not saying that they’re trying to be mean, or that they don’t care about others. They seem (more often than most people) to be incapable of understanding others. Is that ideological? I don’t think so. I always go back to the observation by Haidt that conservatives can understand liberals more readily than liberals can understand conservatism. Part of me suspects that a lot of what passes as liberalism these days is really some type of autism or sociopathy. I don’t quite know where I’m going with this; it might be completely wrong, but I think there’s some merit to it.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • “…conservatives can understand liberals more readily than liberals can understand conservatism.”

              This x 100. I know very few people that were conservative and then swung Left. I know lots of people that were liberal and swung Right. In my experience, a 40-something adult that has ALWAYS been liberal often spends much of their time in utter disbelief about the opposite side of the aisle.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Part of me suspects that a lot of what passes as liberalism these days is really some type of autism or sociopathy. I don’t quite know where I’m going with this; it might be completely wrong, but I think there’s some merit to it.

                I’m going to ask you to clarify this.

                As the parent of a child with autism and what can probably best be described as a Type A personality on steroids (not literally), I’m also suggesting that you choose your words very carefully.

                If you’re going where I think you’re going, I’m not only going to have a problem with it, but with you. It won’t end well.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • It’s always strange to hear people who have supposedly moved from right to left as they explain the right. They rarely can understand it. It makes me wonder if they’re fibbing, or if they were only “on the right” in the sense that they were non-political or they listened to Limbaugh without understanding his sense of humor.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • You’ve heard me give my history of going from a Reagan enthusiast in 1979 to the anfita emeritus you see today, right?

                  There wasn’t then and isn’t now anything mysterious about conservatism.
                  Reagan’s view of the world, Buckley’s explanations of it, just seemed to fit my perception and experiences better than the liberals.

                  I could, and did just walk down the street and get hired on the spot at a factory lifting boxes for triple minimum wage. I personally knew healthy able bodied people loafing on welfare.
                  The liberals whining about the poor just seemed to not fit my actual lived experience.

                  But of course, as I aged I had other experiences, gained a different perspective, and realized that the little world I grew up in was not the whole of things.

                  Which is the main thrust of liberalism, that the point of view of what is sacred about Confederate statues is not universal, that the other 3/5 of Southerners hold Confederate generals in an entirely different light, and their ideas should get a hearing.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

              • This x 100. I know very few people that were conservative and then swung Left. I know lots of people that were liberal and swung Right. In my experience, a 40-something adult that has ALWAYS been liberal often spends much of their time in utter disbelief about the opposite side of the aisle.

                No it’s not this x 100. It’s silly.

                I know plenty of people that have always been liberal that have “the other side” pegged pretty well. Unfortunately, when you get to be our age (I’m 45), you find people that tend to crap over whatever stereotypes you’re thinking of, which is why I stopped with that.

                You’re falling into the same trap people like Saul are in.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                  • Mike Dwyer:

                    I’m speaking completely anecdotal but in my experience, Pinky’s logic is sound.

                    Fair enough although my anecdotal experience is completely different, and since you’re playing the SJW card by playing up the “lived experience” card, I’ll do the same.

                    We’ll agree to disagree. No skin off my teeth. Not sure if you’d want to approvingly speak of logic given his well-thought out views on the links between autism and liberalism. Your call though.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

              • Actually, this is a pretty universal phenomena.

                We are always sure we better understand people on the other side of the fence than they us, because we can clearly see their many faults and bad intentions that they refuse to admit having, and they seem to think we have faults and bad intentions when we clearly do not.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • It’s true. I am dumbstruck that anyone would pull this kind of shit.

                http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/georgia-county-trying-to-close-most-of-its-polling-places.html

                This small county set off a large national brouhaha by proposing to close seven of nine polling places before the November general election. Because Randolph is a majority-black county, this is precisely the kind of action that would have instantly triggered U.S. Justice Department scrutiny under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — until that “preclearance” provision was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

            • ” Part of me suspects that a lot of what passes as liberalism these days is really some type of autism or sociopathy”

              I’ve heard the exact same thing from liberals about conservatives, particularly the not-quite-alt-right contingent. Which I raise not to say that you’re wrong and I’m right, but that I’m still very deeply suspicious of all the claims of this nature that get made by both sides.

              Living in a red county in a purple state, I’m not too sure who understands whom, but I’ve extended both patience and understanding to very many conservatives IRL, some of whom feel I understand them well to the point where they delight in it, and yet there are only a handful of conservatives who seem to understand me nearly as well.

              Mostly I give them what part of my beliefs they seem to be able to handle, and refrain from bringing up the several hundred things they find baffling and/or extremely upsetting. I’m not secretive about doing that, but I don’t call attention to it either.

              Then they feel like they understand me well enough, and I feel like they understand me well enough, and we can spend most of our shared time on non-political pursuits and/or talking about things in the terms they prefer to talk about them.

              And then when I talk to my non-conservative friends, I get to be my whole self and be honest about all my opinions on a wide range of topics, many of which I don’t even consider political.

              I don’t find this ideal, but it also seems better than the alternative of deeply alienating everyone in my life who seems to find the real me, in my fullness of self, deeply incomprehensible and/or abhorrent. (Which set of people is far more likely to be conservative than liberal.)

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • I’ve heard the exact same thing from liberals about conservatives, particularly the not-quite-alt-right contingent. Which I raise not to say that you’re wrong and I’m right, but that I’m still very deeply suspicious of all the claims of this nature that get made by both sides

                I’m not only deeply suspicious of the claim but am likely to look very unfavorably upon people that are stupid enough to use developmental disabilities or mental health issues to describe how one comes to a political opinion.

                If this is what people have to stoop to, I’d feel sorry for them if I was a better person, but since I’m not…

                  Quote  Link

                Report

              • Personally, I think liberals and conservatives can understand each other just fine, when they want to/when it’s in their best interest to do so.

                The problem isn’t ability to understand, it’s that there is little desire or incentive as of late to make the effort.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Perhaps you are right. Though I’ve been in this country for 20 years and “as of late” doesn’t seem accurate as a depiction of how much my offline conservative family, friends, and friendly acquaintances are really interested in understanding me or my political beliefs. It’s pretty much been like that from the get-go. Jaybird being the obvious exception, and there are a few others of course. But my experience of this state is that conservatives need to be … well, coddled is the only word I can really think of to use, if you want them to be comfortable at all.

                  *shrugs*

                  I’d say Occam’s razor dictates I’m not that interesting but I’m far from the only still-willing-to-be-open-with-folks-who-can’t-be-open-to-me-being-open liberal I know…

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • In my experience, 20 years ago it wasn’t that bad. However, as time has worn on, and people have retreated further and further into their ideological bubbles (and further from their geographic social bubbles), it’s gotten worse across the board.

                    But ultimately, it comes down to, “Do you want to understand the other side?” IMHO, the religious moral majority were easily the first to en-mass say “No!”, because they had some deity on their side ensuring them that the other side probably couldn’t be saved and going to hell*, thus there was little incentive to engage.

                    But man I see people on the left pulling the same crap once they get it in their head you lean right on something.

                    *Jaybird might say I’m wrong, but that was my experience coming of age.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • A lot of things have changed in 20 years.

                      One of them is the ease with which you can find counter-ideologues.

                      Often times those counter-ideologues will… do a fine job on their own of… eroding your sense that it’s worthwhile to try to understand people on the other side.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                    • Perhaps the timeline disagreement is a location issue then. Because the Colorado I moved to 20 years ago was a) jussssssssst post-Amendment-2 and b) a place where my city of residence is also the home of Focus on the Family headquarters, New Life, etc etc etc. If anything it’s gotten slightly less Like That over the years, not more so. I am not well-acquainted in person with any conservatives who are not either Coloradans, or used to be, or are closely related to some.

                      So the Moral Majority folks have been integral to my experience of america since I moved here. well technically since *before* I moved here, but since I was talking about in person encounters, there isn’t much before to talk about (tourists kind of strike me as a different thing than people I’m tied to, even loose ties).

                      You’re not wrong about the people on the left you refer to, I’ve seen it happen, but I’m just not exposed to that many people of that nature when I’m not on the internet. The only thing I’ve really seen it happen about in real life was the campus sexual harassment policy here, and that seemed pretty much reactionary on the part of professors who’d spent 20 years or in some cases 40 being told stuff like “I can sleep with any student I want and if you don’t like it you probably need to get laid”* by other professors, rather than something they came to on their own. They still had the infection, or whatever you want to call it…. but it seemed pretty clear to me that it came from the stuff they’d gone through as female professors on a mostly-male very sexist campus in the 60s and beyond, not out of nowhere… which I don’t really mean as a generalization, just – that’s the only in-person context in which I have experienced it.

                      What I see a fair amount of in my *students* – though I’m hesitant to generalize when they’re so young and still going to change and develop a lot in the next 10 years – is that a majority of them (and I mean completely regardless of their own demographics) just can’t be bothered to engage with white men older than they are unless they are reached out to in a non-confrontational way first or they have an idea that the man is somehow different (eg gay, affectionate, openly emotional, immigrant, super-geeky, super-dapper in a louder-than-usual way, whatever – just *some* visible marker of not fitting the standard mold). And this actually goes beyond politics (I have some quite conservative international students, for eg) – it’s just the reality of their experience – or at least the generalization they make of their experience – that they’ll get obnoxiously condescended to, shouted at, called names, or treated poorly if they don’t adopt tit-for-tat, so it’s not worth bothering. They have to see that sign of non-condescending curiosity from the other side first, to feel safe.

                      I guess that’s more or less the same outcome but it really seems pretty different in terms of causes?

                      * I’ve personally heard this phrased in far less mild terms by people who meant what they were saying, but there’s no need to go *there* right now

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      • You’re not wrong about the people on the left you refer to, I’ve seen it happen, but I’m just not exposed to that many people of that nature when I’m not on the internet.

                        I am exposed to plenty of people on the Left offline, and ambivalate about how much effort I want to put into not being a person of that nature myself.

                        It was and is an ongoing thing, and hardly happened all at once. One of my tiresome themes here is that the way the parties have sorted isn’t just ideological, but it also makes partisan affiliation a pretty good proxy for other aspects of one’s identity (race, religion, gender, and, yes, age).

                        But my even more tiresome theme is even more central, and more sudden: Donald Trump. Between his nomination and his election, a lot of people on the Left, myself included, were given strong evidence that all the positive things that they might believe about the Right were false, and all the negative things were true.

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        • Yeah, I can see that. It’s actually part of what I meant about it being a geographical situation on my part. I mean, liberals who aren’t willing to persist in a majority-conservative environment, and for good or ill, make the accommodations and the mental stretches necessary to do so peaceably, mostly don’t continue to live in the city I’ve called home for the last 20 years. Especially when Denver and Boulder are both so nearby. And if they DO stay here, they have a lot more positive evidence about conservatives that they are pretty sure *is* true, to weigh in a balance against Trump’s election by them (76 percent in my county!). Even if it’s puzzling, perplexing, frustrating, and often anger-inducing as fish to line those evidences up alongside each other. I understand the conservatives I know very well – *except*.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                    • *Jaybird might say I’m wrong, but that was my experience coming of age.

                      Sure, some people quoted Matthew 10:14.

                      Other folks took the attitude that it ain’t over until it’s over and maybe today wasn’t the day that the seed would take root. Maybe it’d be tomorrow. Despair is a sin, too.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

            • I’m not mulling over this question to make friends or enemies; I just think there’s something to it. And I’m not saying that I’m mulling it over in order to coyly introduce it without taking the heat for it. Believe me, I’m willing to take internet heat.

              I’m relying on Haidt for corroboration that liberals are less likely to understand conservatives. I haven’t followed him closely, but he seems to be warming up to the idea that liberals make judgments based on the sacred; however, they define it in terms of victim status.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • I’m not mulling over this question to make friends or enemies; I just think there’s something to it. And I’m not saying that I’m mulling it over in order to coyly introduce it without taking the heat for it. Believe me, I’m willing to take internet heat.

                I would have a lot more respect for you if you just came out straight and told me to go fuck myself.

                Instead, you give me this mealy-mouthed explanation how you feel that there’s something for reasons only you and you alone know because you don’t have the balls to explain yourself when I just asked you to. Rather, you thump your chest telling the rest of us how brave you are because you can take heat over the internet.

                Bravo…

                I’m relying on Haidt for corroboration that liberals are less likely to understand conservatives.

                Because Haidt said, ” Part of me suspects that a lot of what passes as liberalism these days is really some type of autism or sociopathy.”

                Sure, I can tie a certain kind of left thinking to victimhood, a kind of thinking based more a different kind of epistemology, not a developmental disability.

                You’re thinking isn’t thinking at all. It’s unsubstantiated shit talk based on feeling, which is exactly what people like you seem to accuse the other side of doing.

                I found your response completely unsatisfying, but keep hiding behind the veneer of “civil discourse”. It says a lot more about your character than mine, and if you are remotely close to being a member of my political team, I have to say I’m quite embarrassed by that.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

            • Conservatives tend to think they understand liberals a lot better than liberals think conservatives understand liberals, in my experience.

              I find the converse claim plausible as well.

              But it’s not like you can go five feet, even in overall extremely liberal enclaves, without being confronted with laughable and/or offensive caricatures of liberalism espoused by conservatives who are, by all evidence, extremely popular with other conservatives.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Also, the other issues with the comparison have been addressed by others, but…

                Part of me suspects that a lot of what passes as liberalism these days is really some type of autism or sociopathy.

                …doesn’t exactly demonstrate a thorough understanding of liberalism or liberals.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • I’d make a distinction between liberals / liberalism and the monomania over race that’s been on the rise. I’ve talked with, persuaded, and been persuaded by liberals for decades. This seems different.

                  I don’t know, maybe it’s generational. Posts don’t come with pictures. Maybe the excesses I see are related to naivete.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

            • I don’t quite know where I’m going with this; it might be completely wrong, but I think there’s some merit to it.

              I don’t know where *you’re* going with this, but I know where it goes. And where it comes from. Rushbo has made a career out of attributing liberalism to a moral and intellectual sickness, a rot that runs so deep, and is so ingrained, liberals can’t see it in themselves. They’re {{deep inhale}} anti-Ameircan neo-Marxist groupthinkers intent on destroying traditional judeo-christian values and traditional communities from within, an ever-present threat to freedom and liberty which requires constant vigilance or they’ll take everyones guns, outlaw Christianity, impose legalized groupthink, and make honest hard working god-fearing men and women marry homosexual goats {{exhale}}. There’s more, but you get the point.

              IOW, it’s the fear-based anti-liberal animus which dominates conservatism I described yesterday. So maybe you don’t know where you’re going with this because it’s nothing more than an expression of irrational fear, and that’s all it is.

              Add: “no, I think there is something there. It just *feels* right …”

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • As I said to I don’t know, someone else, on this thread, I’m not talking about liberalism in general. I’m talking about the recent change in that side of the aisle with regard to race among a certain group of liberals. I respect the impulse behind liberalism as it existed in my youth, but I see something different with regard to those who obsess about race. Again, going back to Haidt, he used to say that the average liberal perspective wasn’t driven by a sense of the sacred, but he recently has been talking about the sense of sacredness on the left being attached to victimization. He describes this as being a couple of years old at most.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Yes, it can’t be because liberals are far more aware of actual racial problems in America thanks to social media and such, it’d because all liberals have all become obsessed with vicitmization. That’s the ticket!

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

        • Eh, it seems like he was pretty careful to show his work.

          It seems to me that if you really want to get to a place where, rather than everything being reflexively called racist, you save that label for actual bona fide racism, then you have to be willing to call out that racism when is presents itself. Otherwise you’re not really having a conversation about racism, you’re just working hard on avoiding one.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Yeah, I think there’s a pretty solid basis for the claims in the original article.

            There’s a ton of overlap between the people in the NC legislature who made sure that municipalities couldn’t remove statues of their own accord, and people who have implemented the vote-suppression measures that rightly objects to.

            The former may not be totally conclusive evidence as to their motives, but it’s definitely evidence.

            At a certain point, all those decisions, which really sucked to begin with, add up.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • It’s also worth pointing out that the news article that Andrew posted today, which is being celebrated here for it’s “tone,” has no mention of why this statue was erected, and in fact provides zero context.

              I can’t remember who it was in that thread that used the phrase “recreation” (or something similar) when ascribing a motive for why people get upset about things like this statue. And it does seem to me that it’s far easier to ascribe that motivation when completely removing all of the context, a thing of which the students at UNC presumably were well aware.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • I’m quite sure you know the history of the men on Mt.Rushmore. For that matter, slaves built the White House. Where’s the line? One was a celebration of racism and the other just ancillary to it?

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Mike Dwyer: Kelly

                  I’m quite sure you know the history of the men on Mt.Rushmore. For that matter, slaves built the White House. Where’s the line? One was a celebration of racism and the other just ancillary to it?

                  I’m sure you recognize that even people like me who have at best a testy relationship with the Left will find this line of discussion helpful to no one.

                  Forget asking where the line should be, draw one and make your case why. I’m not sure why that’s so hard.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • I’m actually trying to figure out where Tod’s line is. He seems to be implying the events at UNC were justified because of the speech given when the statue was erected. As someone who has worked at a bunch of sites with problematic pasts, I’m curious as to why he gives those a pass because someone didn’t give a gross speech about them at some point.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                • If you are going to use a slippery slope argument, you need to be willing to use it in both directions. If we are arguing – I guess this is what we’re talking about now somehow? – that students being upset about a statue on their own campus means that we have to burn down the White House, then we also have to argue that letting a statue celebrating the Anglo-Saxon race and the (ugh) beating of a black woman send means that we now have to bring slavery back.

                  Neither of which is going to happen, btw, because both of those assumptions of fucking ridiculous, and dodges for dealing with the topic at hand.

                  Trust me on this: That statue coming down does not mean we will soon be razing every moment in Washington DC, Alex Jones being kicked off Facebook does not mean that the government will soon be inviting UN helicopters in to take over the television stations, and Dan getting to get married and raising kids does not mean I am going to have to marry a turtle some day.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                  • This isn’t a slippery slope thing. It’s a recreational outrage thing. There are literally THOUSANDS of problematic physical objects across the country and everytime the headlines die down about one the Left convinentantly finds another. It feels like a hobby much more than a cause.

                      Quote  Link

                    Report

                    • I mean maybe the fact that there are thousands of statues of Confederate soldiers up around the country, virtually all of which were erected as testaments to white supremacy, eras that the Left kind of has a point?

                      And that it’s going to be a long time before the issue is “the White House” or “Mt. Rushmore”?

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      • True enough, but it’s fair to wonder where the line is. What is problematic enough that you can get a critical mass to attack it, and what is safe from a handful of rabble rousers.

                        We don’t want to be blowing up ancient Buddhas because they offend someone, do we?

                        So where is that line?

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        • It most likely ends with the statues or other visible displays in forums that are best described as public places.

                          For example, a confederate flag has no business being flown at any state house or government building in this country. Remove them from there and it ends. People can own them. People can display them on their private property (I believe they can at least). Museums can display them. People can learn all they want about the history of the confederacy and draw their own conclusions, whether or not they coincide with the mainstream thinking.

                          Maybe instead of asking people where the line is drawn, I’d like to understand where people think this goes and why they think the Left would be willing to go there.

                          Lord knows I’m no friend of the Left, but the slippery slope idea here seems inconceivable even to me.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          • My concern is less about where ‘The Left’ will go and more about where ‘The Mob’ will go.

                            The Left will happily discuss these things to death. The Mob tends to talk less and act more. What I am seeing is that the Mob has acted and the Left is kinda pleased that the Mob acted so it can move on to the next thing.

                            So my question is, what is the point where the Left will tell the Mob that a given act was most definitely ‘Not Alright’, and put their foot down.

                            Because Mobs aren’t so good at that whole ‘restraint’ thing.

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                            • I think left-leaning “mobs” – such as they are – might lay off in the aftermath of right-leaning mobs engaged in actual hostilities laying off. We currently have a “bullshit statutes erected to celebrate racists” in one corner and “actual bonafide voter suppression” in the other, so maybe we ought to concern ourselves with the more important of the two?

                                Quote  Link

                              Report

                              • Perhaps. This particular case seems to have come out of left field, somewhat, so I’m inclined to call it an outlier (especially, since as you note, there are more important concerns about).

                                I was more just backing Mike up regarding whether or not Mobs tearing down offensive statues is going to be a thing, since it’s happened a few times* now over the past year.

                                *I’m also inclined to give his interpretation, that this is the result of the political class dragging their heels in the face of public demands in the hopes that the protestors will fall victim to something shiny and go away.

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                        • I don’t see a way to answer that question.

                          I see ways to answer other questions, like, “What statues should go or stay,” but once the situation gets dysfunctional enough (which it really seems to have in NC), well, the decision process has fallen apart. The line, as it were, had gone by the boards.

                          Still, they tore down a statue that should have come down ages ago, and was being kept up pretty much as a direct insult to them.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                    • Mike Dwyer: It’s not a slippery slope argument. Every time one of these statues come down the Left then finds the next one and starts the cycle back up. It feels more like a hobby to me than a cause.

                      Feels?

                      Shouldn’t you worry more about what the Left may target after all of these statues are torn down vs. worrying about the next statute testament to the bigot south comes down? Going after the next statue isn’t a slippery slope. We’re on flat ground here. If you want to go on a slippery slope, ask yourself where it goes from there.

                      For example, are you suggesting that once the statues are torn down that the Left, in its zeal, will make sure those of us that believe history is complicated (and yes I do) can never gain access to Confederate history? Do you think that the Left will ban the teaching of any pro-South position?

                      Me? I don’t see it. I suppose you can because you “feel” it but I don’t.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

                      • What I actually see is the further sanitizing of our history. Historic sites are my first love and have been a big part of my life for a long time. I see those next in the crosshairs and it’s not hyperbole to think it will happen.

                          Quote  Link

                        Report

                        • These men were traitors who lost the war.

                          Isn’t erecting statues of them, decades after the fact, actually sanitizing history?

                          I was teasing about a statue of Ho Chi Min, but what if I weren’t? At least he won the war!

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

                          • Based on the speech given when that statue was erected, they arguably made the history look even worse than it actually was. My concern though many of these monuments have historical value for being snapshots in time. I think the best analogy I could make is to Auschwitz. History is better served by leaving them up and putting a sign in front.

                              Quote  Link

                            Report

                              • This. One billion times. The idea that there is some equivalence between statues of Confederate soldiers and sites where millions of innocents were killed is almost rage-inducing in its lack of understanding and nuance. It’s no joke when someone upthread said, “put up a statue of Ho Chi Minh at the Vietnam memorial?” Maybe more accurately would be, put up a statue of McVeigh in Oklahoma City.

                                  Quote  Link

                                Report

                                • I’m on the record as saying that we can move the statues to somewhere more appropriate, and put up all the signage necessary to tell a better story, but where I still disagree is the urge to Simply take them down and remove that stain so to speak. I don’t think anyone benefits from that impulse.

                                  To put it in another way, let’s assume well-meaning Germans wanted to shut down the site of every concentration camp, in an effort to put that part of their past behind them. There would be Collective outrage, especially from Jewish people, for good reason. I would Advocate doing something similar with these Confederate monuments. Don’t push it away, just tell a better story.

                                    Quote  Link

                                  Report

                                  • I don’t see it as “removing the stain” so much as ceasing to honor the stain as an object of reverence. The statues are often in parks or on campuses or government grounds that have no specific relevance to the history of the individual depicted.
                                    But I appreciate the concession that they could be placed elsewhere. I can agree to that. History museums strike me as the correct place for them.

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                                  • Without question, I’m not much in support of vandalism to have them removed, although I understand there was some foot dragging on the part of North Carolina to let municipalities decide the fates of these statues. That being said, the Germans were the bad guys. To have them destroy the mass graves to cover up their own misdeeds is not at all equivalent to modern Americans saying, “hey, this statue is an affront to approximately 10-15 percent of the population that was under its heel for a whole long time, never mind the fact that the statue is of a bad guy and we’re not gonna give him a place of reverence in the public square.” You’d be more analogous to say that the modern Germans wouldn’t tolerate a statue of Hitler, or Eichmann or Goebbels standing proudly in the middle of the public square.

                                      Quote  Link

                                    Report

                        • Would you agree with me that going to Monticello, for example, is a better experience now because it acknowledges and teaches the slave part?

                          People can be good and bad, because that’s what each of us is, but that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate things that were initially erected for bad reasons.

                          Now, because I’m an honest to god liberal, I have to caveat by saying that tearing down old things isn’t a great solution. It makes me sad, for example, to see Greek statutes with genitals carved off because people much later thought they knew best. But that’s why removing these things from places of honor cooperatively is good. If that isn’t an option, I don’t see why “continue to honor the thing” is the right plan B.

                            Quote  Link

                          Report

  2. I have been working at sites associated with slavery for almost 20 years now. I literally have a meeting in 2 hours to advise the staff at a historical site on how to present the slaves’ story to the public. I have excavated slave quarters, done mountains of research on the subject, etc. At the same time I have worked at sites that celebrate men that murdered American Indians in cold blood during the Revolutionary War. It’s all very complicated but the difference there is that history professionals are attempting to have a unified, academic approach to the problem so that we can present consistent messages.

    I see zero of this from Left-led protests, paint throwing parties and the general mayhem that went on at UNC last night. So yeah, it looks pretty suspect to me.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  3. I’ll put my reply to you down here.

    What I actually see is the further sanitizing of our history. Historic sites are my first love and have been a big part of my life for a long time. I see those next in the crosshairs and it’s not hyperbole to think it will happen.

    Do you know I love history too? Do you know how much I love history, including the history of this era? I’ll tell you – I love it so much that I’m willing to put my ass on the line right here and right now and argue that was dead wrong to use the term treasonous to describe the Confederacy

    I mean it. I can think of a lot of bad words to describe the Confederacy and in no way shape or form can the secession of the southern states be attributed to anything but the morally repugnant institution of slavery. Treasonous? Well, not really. Treason, the only crime in the Constitution can only be applied to those individuals bound by the laws of United States. By virtue of secession, the confederate states were no longer part of the United States and no longer bound to the Constitution. Simple as that, right?

    I can have a field day defending this position even though I think I made the case against it in a post here three and a half years ago (I’d have to find it). I don’t doubt that it could be an unpopular, but I don’t care. I can defend myself and in no way shape or form can anyone remove those arguments from civil discourse.

    With all due respect, if you’re going to suggest that the Left is going to target historical sites, you have to tie the motivations of people seeking to remove statues to a reason to, for example, move to eliminate restored battlefield sites where the Confederates won battles in the Civil War. Have you seen anything like this? You’ve excavated slave sites. Have you had any pushback from the left doing this? Have they accused you of contributing to systemic racism by reminding us of our racist past?

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • “Have you had any pushback from the left doing this? Have they accused you of contributing to systemic racism by reminding us of our racist past?”

      Um, yes. The meeting I am attending tonight was prompted buy a local journalist accusing the site of racism by not hiring blacks to tell the stories of slaves. The journalist in question said that white people did not have the right to tell the story of slavery. Unfortunately, she had her facts about the sites hiring practices grossly Incorrect, but the whole situation generated enough heat that we are having the discussion.

      My mentor, who specializes in safe sites, and also happens to be white, has been criticized for some more things several times as well by both black and white academics. He’s a liberal himself, so there’s a bit of irony there, but he has also been told that he has no right to tell these stories because he can’t possibly understand the experience of the people he is trying to research.

      Luckily I don’t have any experience with Prehistoric sites, but that’s a whole other can of worms, dealing with American Indian tribes and prehistoric sites.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • “Luckily I don’t have any experience with Prehistoric sites, but that’s a whole other can of worms, dealing with American Indian tribes and prehistoric sites.’

        You get why, right? I mean, as a lover of history which I totally know that you are, surely you do understand *WHY* the pushback in those cases is as fervent and distrustful as it is?

        Because as understanding groups of people go, understanding why it’s hard to deal with American Indians on the topic of prehistoric sites seems like a no-brainer to me.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • That’s the position that has been taken for most of the time I have been working in the history field. When I first started out we had lots of little old ladies from the DAR that didn’t want to touch the subject. Now we’re in a place where we do our best to tell the story head on. The journalist on referring to, who is African-American herself, said that we had no right to tell that story especially to African Americans. The problem we find though is that unfortunately, African Americans are woefully under-represented in history field. So the people I work with at these historical sites do their best to hire those individuals, because they are sensitive to that fact, but they just don’t get the applicants.

          I tried speaking to the journalist myself, and even went so far as to ask her if she could consult with us on how to better seek out African American interpreters. Her response to me was that it wasn’t her job to tell us how to do it and that we need to figure it out ourselves.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • What I’ve seen work in the field of national parks and monuments (albeit not in this country, where I don’t have the same connections to see what has or hasn’t worked) is to reach out to particularly invested high school kids and offer internships / learning opportunities / etc. Some percentage of those kids get even more invested, they go to college, they get jobs in the field, the field of available graduates shifts. Reach out to first-year students, same goals, don’t require that they be in particular majors to participate but frame the preferred requirements more broadly. Deal with the inevitable hassle and mess of 14-20 year olds, no matter how outstanding. And in the meantime, it’s pretty easy to say, “yes, I agree with you, and here is what we are doing to improve matters, we welcome your further critiques” to people critiquing the situation, rather than “It’s not possible, we don’t know how, how do you think we should do it?”. If your mentor / the various gov’t agencies are already doing the former, it should be pretty easy to make that tonal shift in the latter. (Frankly that series of steps is also all I know how to do about the whiteness of librarianship, which is similarly ridiculously underprovided with candidates who aren’t white – but I saw it happening in contexts like national historic sites *first*.) It also does help to include more non-white employees in your hiring process *and listen to them*, but that’s kind of a chicken-and-egg problem I suppose.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • The site I am currently involved with has a very progressive director who I respect immensely. She has reached out to local theater departments to find young black people who might want to tell that story. So far, no luck. I actually think she might have better luck going the other direction with older blacks, but this is something we are exploring.

                Quote  Link

              Report

          • That’s the position that has been taken for most of the time I have been working in the history field. When I first started out we had lots of little old ladies from the DAR that didn’t want to touch the subject.

            Who do you credit for that shift?

              Quote  Link

            Report

    • Dave: I’m willing to put my ass on the line right here and right now and argue that Wilkinson was dead wrong to use the term treasonous to describe the Confederacy

      I mean it. I can think of a lot of bad words to describe the Confederacy and in no way shape or form can the secession of the southern states be attributed to anything but the morally repugnant institution of slavery. Treasonous? Well, not really. Treason, the only crime in the Constitution can only be applied to those individuals bound by the laws of United States. By virtue of secession, the confederate states were no longer part of the United States and no longer bound to the Constitution. Simple as that, right?

      I’ll set my ass on the line opposite yours. Treason is a factually correct term in this context. Unlike The United States, the confederate states did not succeed to secede. Nations define their borders and membership. At no time were members of the Confederacy not part of the United States and therefore freed from the Constitution. Just declaring “I secede, I am a sovereign now, your laws don’t bind me, nanny nanny boo boo” does not make it so, just ask Wesley Snipes. At no point did the United States recognize the claims of the Confederacy. No nation formally recognized the Confederacy as a fully independent state. Additional proof is that we call it The Civil War not something else. A civil war is by definition within a country, not between two countries.

      I don’t think there is any disagreement that the actions taken by these individuals, if they were part of the United States and subject to its laws, would be considered treason and that ample evidence still exists to meet the Constitutional burden of proof.

      Now, I don’t generally use that word and its variants for two reasons. First, political correctness. It hurts peoples feelings and makes them quite upset when you call their grand-pappy a traitor to the United States. You will see few bigger snowflakes than calling a man waving a battle flag of an army that marched against the United States a traitor. Second, ending The Civil War involved the United States basically saying “We will drop the whole treason issue if you put down your weapons and recognize that you are part of the United States.” It took over 600,000 dead Americans to get that deal done, and I do not wish to disrespect that sacrifice.

      At this point, just like there is no good Nazi, there is no good Confederate. Folks can choose to see heroic American soldiers or infamous Confederate traitors, depending on if they accept the deal. I am not saying that we should pretend no sides existed, but we need to stop trying to have it both ways.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  4. What I’d like to see:

    Some place drags their heels about getting rid of a confederate statue. Activist group quietly commissions a 3D print of an alternate statue, and makes it hollow (and huge). Complete with explanatory plaque.

    Then, in the middle of the night, the alternate is placed over the original and locked down.

    Or, if possible, the original is replaced and moved to a confederate cemetery or memorial park (or the like).

    I like creative vandalism…

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • I love that idea.

      Honestly a lot of this discussion bugs me because it seems to assume that toppling the statue was the work of some nebulous global ‘Left’ – a slighter softer version of the segregationists claiming Civil Rights protests were all driven by ‘outside agitators’ – when (from what I know about personally anyway) the issue is almost always profoundly local.

      Students at UNC and local residents in the community – not drones controlled by a vast leftwing conspiracy – had been trying to have the statue removed for a long time because what it stood for was frankly offensive to the majority of the people for whom it was a fixture in the every day landscape. Not only was the university slow to unresponsive, but the state lege went out of its way to block their petitions to have it removed. I don’t think tearing it down this way was the right approach, but it was the response (tbf of fairly young passionate people) to the on-going frustration with that.

      Of course, if I were writing imaginative fiction, I’d posit that what actually happened behind the banners was that Sam threw himself off the pedestal. I vaguely recall an old story about a gold covered statue that was self aware and ask one of the birds on it to strip its gold leaf to give to the poor it witnessed struggling on the streets below. Imagine if Sam was somehow aware like that… able to witness the changes of the last hundred years playing out on campus and went from proud Confederate to a man who saw the humanity of the non-white students as he watched over the last half century or so, and understood what he had been erected to represent…

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • I kinda think it’s weird that no one is calling this what it really is: Civil disobedience.

      Yes, yes, I know traditionally people engaged in civil disobedience are planning to be arrested, but…these people didn’t seem to hide themselves, or make it particularly hard to stop them. They blatantly went out, ‘broke an unjust law’ (Well, phrased slightly differently), and…no one even tried to arrest them.

      Indeed, the fact no one tried to arrest them oddly creates the interesting idea that the police themselves were committing civil disobedience. Or possibly the university administration.

      Instead, everyone seems intent on painting this a ‘mob’, ignoring the fact that, yeah, sure, some of the people around there probably were, in the technical sense, but the people who actually pulled it down clearly planned to do so. They didn’t just…get angry and do it.

      …incidentally, I feel I must gloat. I…basically suggested exactly this for local communities that want to remove statues but the state government won’t let them. Just…announce their police will no longer try to stop anyone from defacing or harming said statues in any manner at all.

      Well…it turns out the local communities don’t even really need to publically announce it. Heh.

      And now I wonder if, secretly, the police were told not to stop people, and the protesters were told the police had been told that…

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • Or simply add a plaque that fulfills the apologists’ insistence that Confederate statues embrace history:

      This is a soldier who fought for the Confederacy during the Civial War. We can can admire his bravery, but have no choice but to combine that with utter abhorrence for the cause he defended, contempt for those who spent a century using his sacrifice to justify oppression and criminality, and disgust at those who refuse to acknowledge this.

        Quote  Link

      Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *