I confess that I have the dubious pleasure of having interviewed members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans multiple times in my career.
But these days, after the UNC Board of Governors drunkenly pitched North Carolina’s university system into the abyss — handing over $2.5 million to the organization to bypass its extraordinarily dubious legal claims — there is one exchange with a local SCV leader that I’m thinking of in particular.
It occurred during my time at a daily paper in Union County, more than a decade ago. There was of course the usual fan fiction masquerading as history — including the wholly unsupportable assertion that the institution of slavery played a minimal role, if any, in the Civil War. But it was this individual’s repetitive use of “colored” in reference to Black people, a term with an obviously derogatory history, that stuck out to me.
He used the term multiple times, but things grew more tense when he insisted that I also use the term, not only in speech but in my coverage. I assured him — rather too diplomatically, I might add — that would not happen.
“But it is the historically accurate term,” he insisted doggedly, as if the term’s actual usage rendered it appropriate in a modern context.
It is a stridently offensive term. But there’s something horribly awry, I thought, about demanding the usage of an “historically accurate,” keenly offensive term while the organization blithely disregards historical accuracy in its accounting of the war.
If hindsight is indeed 20/20, someone forgot to tell the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose ideology is as twisted today as it was then. I shudder even to call them Confederate apologists since a misreading of the word would make it seem as if they’ve ever apologized.
Ideology — their ideology and UNC’s ideology — came up Wednesday when UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz — who’s played an altogether feeble part in this sordid story to this point — shared an apparently angst-ridden letter he penned to Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey and UNC President Bill Roper.
From the letter:
Since my appointment as interim chancellor, I have maintained that the monument should never return to campus, and I support the work by members of the Board of Governors to pursue this goal. My understanding is that the settlement approved by the court required the Board of Governors and the UNC System to pay $2.5 million to a charitable trust separate and independent from the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) for purposes limited to “the preservation” of the monument. I also understand that none of the funds in the trust can be used for the benefit or the activities of the SCV unrelated to the monument’s preservation.
Given the contents of the order, I am particularly concerned with recently published post-settlement comments from the SCV regarding how the organization may seek to use funds from the charitable trust, including plans to promote an unsupportable understanding of history that is at-odds with well-sourced, factual, and accurate accounts of responsible scholars. These comments, along with various aspects of the settlement, particularly the requirement that UNC-Chapel Hill reimburse the UNC System for the payment of the funds to the trust, have led to concerns and opposition from many corners of our campus. Read more