The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History (Stone Center) joins with our colleagues, the immediate community, and all people of conscience throughout the State of North Carolina in expressing our opposition to the University’s November 2019 settlement brokered with the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans (NC-SCV). The NC-SCV has, through this settlement, succeeded in connecting itself to the history of the University as a ‘partner’ in preserving a symbol of racial terror and hate.
At best, the settlement stands in counterposition to the stated mission and values of the University. But, in this instance, there is no ‘best’; the magnitude of this breach of faith with the spirit and letter of the University’s Mission Statement reveals a much deeper problem that continues to plague this campus and those tasked with responsibly overseeing its operations. Despite efforts to engage in ‘difficult dialogues’, or explore ‘race and reconciliation’ we have often slipped back into institutionalized patterns of behavior that, predictably, enabled the collaboration with the NC-SCV. This pattern of behavior is not limited to our campus; it is systemic and becoming more recognizable as the most prominent element of our public image. Despite efforts to suggest the matter would be settled with this forced compromise, we can see in the current campus climate that it has, in fact, brought about an institution-wide crisis of trust.
For the past 31 years the Stone Center has worked with campus and community partners and with colleagues from across the country to expand this University’s understanding of ‘lux, libertas’ – light and liberty, to include a sense of ethics and purpose. We feel that it is impossible to pursue ‘lux’ and ‘libertas’ without having, as a foundation, a strong moral compass and solid commitment to act ethically in the face of challenges to our beliefs.
The Stone Center has benefited from the contributions of faculty, alumni, and others. We also consider ourselves to be richly endowed with the wisdom of our students who, early on, were the most consistent, insistent and principled voices on the issue of Silent Sam. We feel, as they have insisted, the immediate imperative is to invest fully in reversing the financial settlement, while simultaneously continuing to support and organize campus-wide programs of research, study and discussion with the ultimate objective of principled change and transformation.
We here at the Stone Center pledge to re-commit ourselves and our resources to restoring community in a way that privileges the voices that struggle every day to make this campus one that is just and equitable. We are anxious to engage with all who see value in these objectives.