Maya Little, a member of UE Local 150 and a graduate employee at the University of North Carolina, is facing a university “Honor Court” trial today for an act of civil disobedience protesting the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue on UNC’s campus and racism at UNC. The Honor Court could potentially expel Little, which would result in the loss of her job.
In April, Little poured her blood and red ink on Silent Sam, insisting that the statue should be seen in the context of the system that it was erected to commemorate and defend. Like most Confederate statues, Silent Sam was not erected after the Civil War but later, as part of the effort to impose and defend Jim Crow segregation.
At Silent Sam’s unveiling in 1913, UNC Trustee and Confederate veteran Julian Carr explicitly called for remembrance of “what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo-Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.” He illustrated this “courage and steadfastness” with a story of how he himself had publicly beaten an African-American woman in Chapel Hill after returning from the war.
Little is not the first student to paint UNC’s Confederate statue. It has also been painted red by North Carolina State fans and powder blue by UNC fans. “At UNC, dousing the monument in paint in the name of basketball is deemed a pastime while doing the same to contextualize and fight racism is a crime,” said Little in a statement earlier this year. “Revealing the racist violence upon which Sam was built —exposing a truth the university would like to keep covered — could result in my expulsion.”
In a letter sent to officials of UNC’s Honor Court yesterday, UE’s national officers stated that “Disciplining Maya Little for defacing a symbol of white supremacy and racism while not disciplining others for the same offense of defacing the statue would be a grave injustice. It is hard not to conclude that Ms. Little is being disciplined, not for her actions, but for what her actions represent. We therefore call on the UNC Honor Court and any other UNC administrators or disciplinary bodies not to discipline Maya Little and to drop all Honor Court charges against her.”
Little’s supporters, including other members of UE Local 150, will hold a rally today before her Honor Court hearing. The rally will also be a memorial for James Cate, an African-American man who was murdered on UNC’s campus in 1970 by members of white-supremacist biker gang. Cate’s murderers were never brought to justice, with three members of the gang being acquitted by an all-white jury.