Local News

Confederate statue on UNC-CH campus vandalized again

Posted August 18, 2015 1:09 p.m. EDT
Updated August 18, 2015 6:07 p.m. EDT

— For the second time six weeks, vandals have spray-painted the "Silent Sam" statue on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

"Who is Sandra Bland?" was painted overnight on the base of the statue, which honors school alumni who fought for the Confederacy and died in the Civil War. The graffiti refers to a black Texas woman who died in jail last month days after she was arrested in a confrontation with a Texas state trooper. Authorities say she committed suicide in custody, but her family and others across the nation have questioned the events surrounding her death.

Over the July 4 weekend, someone spray-painted "KKK" and "Murderer" on the statue.

UNC-Chapel Hill students were divided Tuesday on the effect of the graffiti.

"This is a big symbol for the campus. The fact that it's the symbol of the Confederacy, something that was an anti-black movement, I think it's the perfect spot to put any display of 'Black Lives Matter,'" junior Nykeya King said.

"I think there are better ways to go about voicing your opinion," sophomore John Taylor said. "Defacing any monument, it takes away the good things that we can learn from this."

UNC-Chapel Hill spokesman Jim Gregory called the vandalism "unfortunate."

"Over the past few days, hundreds of faculty, staff and members of the Carolina community have come together to welcome first-year students and returning students. This is what Carolina is all about, and this includes our commitment to free speech and open dialogue on all issues, no matter how emotional and at times painful," Gregory said in a statement. "Vandalism like this is unfortunate because it is the antithesis of open discussion and the traditions and principles for which the University stands."

But Sara Smith, assistant professor of geography, took her Politics of Everyday Life class out to view the graffiti, calling it a teachable moment.

"Part of our class is understanding how space and place are political and that even places we pass by every day provide a moment to think about our relation to the world and other people," Smith said. "I wanted us to talk about what the monument means to different groups of people and how different people might understand the symbolism."