Like everyone in the Carolina community, I have been paying close attention to recent events regarding the Confederate monument, Silent Sam. As director of a unit that supports research concerning people of African descent, the events are particularly concerning to me. At IAAR we have supported research on the mental health consequences of racism on campus for African American students. We have also funded projects exploring “commemorative landscapes,” including monuments to the confederacy. Our Faculty Affiliates have done critical work on the ways that civil disobedience has been essential for important social change that has transformed our country in positive ways. Some are currently researching topics like the history of institutional racism and racial trauma through commemorative events and structures.
From studies like these, we at IAAR know that evidence supports the psychological, emotional, cultural, and personal damage caused by structures that privilege and give credence to white people over black people. Silent Sam is a commemorative structure that pays tribute to white supremacy. Therefore, I lead IAAR in supporting the removal of Silent Sam and joining others who rightfully state that the statue does not deserve a prominent placement on campus. Given the concerns Silent Sam raises for UNC’s black community, I also wish to affirm IAAR’s commitment to our efforts that enhance the capacity for black communities to thrive.
Karla Slocum, Director, Institute of African American Research