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Thom Goolsby's "willful blindness" on white supremacist monuments

In an interview last week, Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby appeared on a conservative radio show to lament the fall of Silent Sam and echo his plea to not let “lawlessness and anarchy to reign.” He asserted that "liberals" and others who support tearing down the statue possess “willful blindness” to the rule of law. Of course, this is not first time Thom Goolsby has opined on the now crumpled metal and brass monument to white supremacy campaigns of the turn of the twentieth century. About a month ago Goolsby turned to his personal YouTube channel to demand Silent Sam be re-erected.

Historians and organizers have spilled too much ink over the past few years to entertain any of Goolsby’s points. Julian Carr’s dedication speech from 1913 to the Daughters of the Confederacy, in which he recounts a time when he “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” (found here) refutes any assertions made that Silent Sam has nothing to do with slavery or Jim Crow.

Silent Sam (as a physical monument, rallying cry, and symbol) serves as a crystallization of white supremacy embedded in UNC’s campus. Sam’s toppling ended one phase of extracting and making visible generations of anti-Black racism at a university built by enslaved people.

 Furthermore, Goolsby’s hysteria about lawlessness is ironic, considering the recent passage of Martin Luther King Jr. day. As avowedly racist politicians and law enforcement agencies tweet MLK quotes, popular memory continues to enshrine and mythologize him in white stone as a passive figure tolerable to white liberals and conservatives alike. In reality, Martin Luther King broke unjust laws and was jailed as part of a broader strategy of nonviolent direct action to end the economic, social, political, and legal landscape of segregation.

Ignore Goolsby, and pay attention to people who have written about the legacy of Silent Sam, direct action, and the way forward. Find a short list of writing below.

  • Shrieking Sam.” Danielle Purifoy, Scalawag Magazine, January 14, 2019.