News

UNC grad student on the misuse of Classics in support of Silent Sam

A view of the base of the Silent Sam statue after UNC graduate student Maya Little covered it with red paint and her own blood.

When UNC History student Maya Little was arrested last month and charged with defacing the Silent Sam Confederate monument,  students and faculty in her department expressed their support for her.

Now graduate students in the UNC Classics Department have done the same.

In an essay this week for the Society of Classical Studies, UNC graduate student Kelly McArdle talks about the Little’s case, the history of Silent Sam and the way in which the history and context of the statue has been distorted. She writes about the monument’s notorious dedication speech made by prominent UNC alumn, prominent industrialist and white supremacist Julian Carr and the way in which it drew on classical themes to justify and romanticize the Confederacy – and what that perception means today.

From her piece:

As students of antiquity, we who signed the statement understand the value of preserving historical monuments and artifacts, but we also believe that those monuments and artifacts must be grounded in historical events and eras, rather than being presented as unbiased memorials of the past. Historian and UNC professor Lloyd Kramer recently wrote in response to the “Silent Sam” controversy, “Monuments convey historical interpretations rather than historical facts.” We agree that “Silent Sam” conveys a particular interpretation of southern history. Given that Carr both lauded the Confederate preservation of “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon” race in the South and bragged about the fact that he himself “horse-whipped a negro wench” 100 yards from where “Silent Sam” stands, we who signed the statement believe the statue conveys a historical interpretation that glorifies the subjugation of black people. By allowing “Silent Sam” to remain in a prominent position on our campus, the university administration allows that interpretation to take precedence over historical fact. As Little wrote in an open letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt:

“Today I have thrown my blood and red ink on this statue as a part of the continued mission to provide the context that the Chancellor refuses to. Chancellor Folt, if you refuse to remove the statue, then we will continue to contextualize it. Silent Sam is violence; Silent Sam is the genocide of black people; Silent Sam is antithetical to our right to exist. You should see him the way that we do, at the forefront of our campus covered in our blood.”

We who signed the statement stand in full support of Maya Little’s’s forcible contextualization of “Silent Sam,” which shows the monument for what it truly is: a vestige of and shrine to white supremacy. As long as “Silent Sam” remains on campus, it will necessarily lack the contextual information needed for viewers to understand the circumstances of its dedication and its intended meaning. We believe we must continue to provide that context until the university administration relocates the statue.

Moving forward, we who signed the statement plan to continue speaking out about “Silent Sam” and institutional racism on our campus, including the 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings, many of which are named for Confederate supporters and white supremacists. We are committed to defending Maya Little, using our expertise in the study and preservation of the ancient world to show that her action was a dedicated historian’s necessary response to a white-washed version of history. We are glad to have the continued support of our faculty in this endeavor. Our hope is to see “Silent Sam” moved to a local museum or historical site, such as UNC’s Ackland Art Museum or the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, where future historians and proper signage can provide visitors with the statue’s proper context. Such a gesture would be only the beginning of acknowledging and rectifying the racist legacy of our university. Our continued involvement also speaks to our desire to rectify part of the legacy of our discipline. We hope always to learn from the past, but never to romanticize it.

Read the whole essay here.

News

ACLU of NC kicks off campaign to end cash bail

This week the ACLU of North Carolina kicked off its campaign to end cash bail .

Regular Policy Watch readers have seen our coverage of the inequities of the cash bail system and the for-profit bail bond industry.  You should also take the time to read the ACLU and Color of Change report “Selling Off Our Freedom: How insurance corporations have taken over our bail system.”

It’s an excellent companion read to this week’s edition of our Monday Numbers feature, which focuses on the causes and effects of mass incarceration.

Among the many illuminating stories, charts and figures in the report is this graphic on political contributions by the bail industry by state:

The report also looks at the problem at a federal level:

Though most political activity by bail insurers, corporations, and their associations has occurred at the state and local levels, for profit bail hasn’t ignored federal legislators.

Over five years, from 2011 through 2016, the industry funded $500,000 in contributions to federal candidates or committees. In return, Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have introduced a federal version of the ABC/ ALEC anti-pretrial services legislation. And congressional opposition has surfaced to fight efforts to eliminate money bail—most notably, the No Money Bail Act, introduced by Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), which would make states with money bail systems ineligible for certain federal law enforcement funding.

With a new federal administration and attorney general unlikely to challenge the constitutionality of certain money bail practices, the industry may shift its attention to influencing federal legislators and regulators to protect its profits.

Read the full report here.

News

Final decision on capitol Confederate statues could come in June

When the North Carolina Historical Commission met in March to hear public comment on removing Confederate statues from downtown Raleigh’s Capitol Square, it was expected that the commission’s study committee on the issue would have a recommendation for the full commission by April.

Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson of the N.C. Historical Commission.

But as we head into the end of May, the committee has yet to make its formal recommendation.

That recommendation – and a final decision from the commission –  may instead come next month, said committee member Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson.

“We are coming to a consensus,” Johnson said in an interview Thursday. “We ended up not making a decision in April and we’ve gone through most of the month of May getting feedback.  We got hung up with waiting to hear back from our lawyers to get their advice. And right now the committee members are deliberating and coming up with their own positions.”

Though a date hasn’t yet been set, Johnson said she believes there will be a meeting of the full commission in June. The study committee will likely meet first, with the full commission meeting and coming to its final decision afterward.

“We’ll likely each have our own separate statements as well,” Johnson said.

At issue are three monuments on the capitol grounds, among about a dozen other statues. They are:

* The 75-foot Capitol Confederate Monument, erected in 1895, which commemorates North Carolina’s “Confederate dead.”

* The Henry Lawson Wyatt Monument, erected in 1912, which commemorates the first Confederate soldier killed in the Civil War combat at the Battle of Bethel on June 10, 1861.

* The Monument to North Carolina Women of the Confederacy, erected in 1914.

Last September the full historical commission put off a decision on removing three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol grounds. Instead, the commission formed a task force to study the politically fraught issue, which the North Carolina General Assembly dropped into their laps with a 2015 law that makes it more difficult to remove such statues.

The study committee consists of:

  • Chris Fonvielle, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
  • Valerie Johnson, the Mott Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies and Director of Africana Women’s Studies at Greensboro’s Bennett College and chair of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission.
  • Noah Reynolds, a real estate investor and entrepreneur and trustee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
  • Sam Dixon, an attorney and preservation advocate from Edenton.
  • David Ruffin, a banker and chairman of the commission.

It’s not yet clear what will happen if the North Carolina General Assembly, which began its legislative session this week, ends its session before the Historical Commission makes its final recommendation. Legislative leaders in the GOP controlled state House and Senate are on record opposing the statues’ removal. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has advocated for their removal.

 

 

News

Governor’s suggested budget includes teacher, state employee raises

Gov. Roy Cooper rolled out his budget proposal in a Thursday press conference.

Gov. Roy Cooper rolled out office’s recommended state budget Thursday, ahead of the legislative session that begins May 16.

The $24.54 billion proposal  includes some major proposals that do not sit well with the Republican-led legislature, including freezing tax cuts for businesses and wealthy North Carolinians to fund raises for every teacher in the state of at least 5 percent.

“They should not have to take to the streets to get what they deserve,” Cooper said of the state’s teachers, referring to a massive teacher demonstration planned by teachers for the opening day fo the legislative session in Raleigh. The planned protest has already led 17 school systems across the state to close on the day of the protest.

Under Cooper’s plan, all teachers would receive at least a 5 percent raise. The average raise would be 8 percent with some getting up to 14.8 percent. Principals would also get an 8 percent raise.

The plan would fund that by freezing the corporate income tax rate at 3 percent and the individual tax rate at 5.499 percent for all income over $200,000 a year. That would free $110 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year that begins July 1, Cooper said – and $260 million  the next year.

Under the current plan passed by the legislature, the corporate tax rate would drop to 2.5 percent in 2019 and the indivudual rate would drop to 5.25 percent.

Cooper and State Budget Director Charlie Perusse emphasized that under their plan 95 percent of North Carolinians would still see that 5.25 percent individual tax rate and all income up to $200,000 would still be taxed at that rate.

GOP legislative leaders released a statement condemning Cooper’s plan even before it was officially released, saying the $23.92 billion they’ve agreed to budget in the coming year – about $886 million more than this year – is more realistic.

“What we are hearing appears to be more of an unserious attempt to score political points in an election year than a responsible, sustainable budget for ten million North Carolinians,” N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a joint statement.

Other priorities Cooper highlighted in his budget proposal include: Read more

News

Google bans ads for bail bonds on all its platforms

Regular Policy Watch readers have been reading for months about the problems of the bail bond industry and the inequity of the cash bail system.

Today Google announced it will ban advertisements for bail bonds on all of its platforms, citing ethical concerns about the predatory nature of the industry and particularly its affect on those living in poverty and communities of color.

From the company’s announcement:

Studies show that for-profit bail bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years.

We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us, including the Essie Justice Group, Koch Industries, Color of Change and many civil and human rights organizations who have worked on the reform of our criminal justice system for many years.

According to Gina Clayton, executive director of the Essie Justice Group, “This is the largest step any corporation has taken on behalf of the millions of women who have loved ones in jails across this country. Google’s new policy is a call to action for all those in the private sector who profit off of mass incarceration. It is time to say ‘no more.’”

Enforcement of this policy will begin in July 2018. This policy change is part of our ongoing efforts to protect users on our platforms.

Google also announced it will be partnering with Koch Industries, the powerful multinational owned by influential political financiers Charles and David Koch, to take on bail reform.