Sam Speaks

There’s talk of tearing him down, along with all other monuments of antebellum, of Southern pride and Confederate valor.

Nine miles down the road, the General was snatched from the chapel entrance. “So students can feel safe to come worship,” the school president explained. Massacres in Charleston still fresh on everyone’s minds.

After careful consideration the board has voted. During Fall Break, while campus is void of supporters and counter-protesters who could potentially become violent, Silent Sam will become the latest casualty in the ongoing war against a revived Confederacy.

Tonight we drink to the downfall of white supremacy, to the total destruction of Neo-Nazis, to the death of the Klan.

But after everyone has returned to their dorms, I still can’t sleep.

Alcohol sloshes around in my stomach. All I’ve had to eat today was toast for breakfast. I walk down Franklin Street, barely able to step in a straight line. I turn up toward McCorkle Place and come face to face with the statue legended to only speak to virgins.

I don’t expect an answer, but I ask anyway, “Who do you point your gun to?”

A statue of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Silent Sam stands on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S. August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
REUTERS | Jonathan Drake

He stares over my head, eyes set on the North, on a mission to save the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.

“We never asked to be here!” I scream, making myself dizzy, all the blood rushing to my head. I climb a step, lean forward against the concrete base, touch the bronze shoulder of the boy leaving his studies for war. It’s cold under my fingers, and maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m too drunk to focus that I feel it flinch.

“You brought us here. Why do you hate us so much?”

I try to see his face under the moonlight. Did he just wink, or was it a shifting shadow from the surrounding trees? If he wasn’t memorialized by racists for killing and terrorizing my ancestors, I would think him attractive.

But it could also be the liquor impairing my eyes.

“Is it because we’re not your slaves anymore? Because we actually want to be treated like humans?”

I hear the clinking of heels against the brick sidewalk behind me. My dorm adviser must have followed. Or maybe it’s the campus police. I touch a corner of the monument, and my fingers slide down to something wet. UNC has no place for racism, in a fresh coating of white paint. It couldn’t have been done no more than an hour ago.

I look up and notice a curl at the corner of his mouth. He would love to see me accused of the vandalism. He would love to see them shoot me.

I clinch my fist, flare my nostrils, stamp my feet like a three-year-old child. “I’m glad they’re getting rid of you! And I hope the crane drops you and slips you in two!”

I spin around, prepared to meet my fate by the bullet. But I find myself alone in the quad. A sudden breeze chills me too the bone, a mass of air behind me stills my breathing, overhead, the trees, with their leaves barely hanging on, whisper.

A large shadow stretches out before me on the sidewalk, looming like a tower.

“Will you kill me?” I ask trembling.

On a low sigh, softly exhaled past my ear, he says with the wind, “No,” then dissipates, and with him, my legs go numb, collapse under my weight in a drunken heap until dawn.

—Nortina

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