Remove the Confederate Monuments in Wilmington, NC!
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Dear Mayor Bill Saffo,
On Tuesday, August 15, WECT reported on your response to Governor Roy Cooper’s recent call for the removal of Confederate statues in North Carolina:
“It will only inflame some other group that will want to have some retaliation or deface another monument in our community," Saffo said. "Wilmington has a long history. It has a very rich history, and we want to preserve as much of that history as we can, but we want to make sure we do it in a way that the community embraces and the community supports."
"We have to do it in a respectful manner," he said. "We have to do it in a lawful manner. The most important thing is, we don't want to see what happened in Charlottesville happen in Wilmington. I think there is a way to have a discussion in a cordial and a good way without trying to hit each other and going after each other and not trying to kill each other."
We, the undersigned, share your love of Wilmington. We are longtime residents and newcomers, frequent visitors and potential tourists, students at UNCW, friends and family and allies.
We share, too, your desire to maintain peace in the Port City.
We also embrace your desire to protect so many of the important monuments to Wilmington's past—such as 1898 Memorial Park, the informational kiosk about William Benjamin Gould at the Riverfront, and the Alex Manly sign on Third Street, to name but a few—from racist retaliation.
Therefore, we support your call for a respectful reconsideration of the role of Confederate monuments in the cultural life of our city.
These monuments are relics of Jim Crow and of oppression. The history they speak of is a history of racial hatred. It is time to confront that history in order to develop a more accurate ways of acknowledging and remembering our long and rich history.
We want peace, as do you. We will strive for peace.
But we also want justice.
Remove these statues immediately.
Removing statues might be illegal—thanks to laws passed only two years ago—but it is still moral. It is within your power to get rid of these statues. Why would the current Attorney General punish a local municipality for doing what is right?
To take down an object from public property is not in of itself violent. What you are afraid of is the response to their removal. And to whom, in truth, are you referring when you allude to groups “trying to kill” others? As evidenced by the events in Charlottesville—from the savage beating of Deandre Harris to the murder of Heather Heyer—only one side is the aggressor: the side of the Ku Klux Klan, the League of the South, the “alt-right,” and other hate groups. When you speak of fear of retaliation from white supremacist organizations, you in effect suggest that Wilmington is not willing—let alone prepared—to protect its residents from neo-Nazis. That is disgraceful.
Moreover, your invocation of “history” worries us. The statues represent aspects of the city’s history, but they do not stand outside of that history. They are themselves each a product of specific time and place. As much as they may commemorate the Confederacy, they also testify to a legacy of racism, Jim Crow, and white supremacy that continued well into the twentieth century—and, as is apparent in the entrenched segregation of our neighborhoods and schools, that continues to this day.
The George Davis Monument was unveiled in 1911, two years after the founding of the NAACP and a mere thirteen years after the brutal massacre that left at least 60 black Wilmingtonians dead. It stands not simply as a tribute to George Davis, but also to the reactionary racist politics the precipitated the collapse of Reconstruction and the violent expulsion of the city’s black citizenry.
The Confederate Memorial, meanwhile, was erected in 1924, during the second wave of the KKK. It is a monument to white nationalism that uses the Civil War—a war waged over the enslavement of the relatives of many current Wilmingtonians—as a pretext for its message.
In short, these statues' continued presence in downtown proclaims, loudly and clearly, In Wilmington, black lives do not matter.
Put the Confederate Memorial and the George Davis Monument in a museum, and in their place erect statues that do greater justice to the complex history of the city of Wilmington.
Do what is right. Do it for the past. Do it for the present. Do it for the future. Remove these statues.
Current and Former Wilmington Residents and Their Allies
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