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.
- “Why White Southern Conservatives Need to Defend Confederate Monuments.” William Sturkey African American Intellectual History Society Blog, December 26, 2018.
- “Here’s Why Republicans’ Disturbing Romance with the Racist Confederacy is so Troubling.” William Fitzhugh Brundage, Alternet, August 16, 2018.
- “Carr was indeed much more than Silent Sam.” William Sturkey, Durham Herald Sun Opinion, October 31, 2017.
- “Defenders of Confederate Monuments Keep Trying to Erase History.” Adam Domby, Huffington Post, September 15, 2017.
- “No, the law doesn’t require Silent Sam to be returned to his pedestal in 90 days.” Eric Muller, News & Observer Opinion, August 27, 2018.
- “Why a Protester at Chapel Hill Doused a Confederate Monument in Red Ink and Blood.” Vimal Patal, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2018.
- “Shrieking Sam.” Danielle Purifoy, Scalawag Magazine, January 14, 2019.
- “Why UNC’s attempt to restore a Confederate statue could delay final grades.” Sarah McNamara and Jessica Wilkerson. Washington Post, December 13, 2018.
- “Statues, Symbolism, and White Supremacy.” Devyn Spence Benson, Black Perspectives, October 5, 2018.
- “On Silent Sam and the Study of the South.” Malinda Lowery, Center for the Study of the American South, August 20, 2018.
- “‘Silent Sam’: A racist Jim Crow-era speech inspired UNC students to topple a Confederate monument on campus.” Antonia Noori Farzan, Washington Post.
- “Who Gets to be Remembered in Chapel Hill?” Jonathan Michels, Scalawag Magazine, October 8, 2016.