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Maya Little on the Fight Against Racist Confederate Statues (Part 2)

Web ExclusiveAugust 22, 2018
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On Monday night, hundreds of student protesters in Chapel Hill toppled the “Silent Sam” Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina. We continue our conversation with Maya Little, the UNC doctoral student facing charges of property destruction and possible expulsion for pouring red ink and her own blood on the statue during an earlier protest in April.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we bring you Part 2 of our conversation with Maya Little, who was there Monday night at the University of North Carolina when hundreds of students toppled the Silent Sam Confederate statue, this on the eve of the first day of classes, the statue erected in 1913 to honor Confederate soldiers.

Maya, in Part 1, we talked about what happened and also you throwing your own blood and red ink on the statue months before, in April, for which you’re going to go to trial. I was wondering what message you have for students on other campuses and people in other communities where Confederate statues still stand.

MAYA LITTLE I would tell the students who are there—and there are so many students who are already working, who are struggling against white supremacy, both symbolic and institutional, at their university–to keep fighting. When these administrators, when the campus police, when city officials do nothing, we can act for each other. We can take care of each other. And we can make a university that is truly equitable.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you remember when you first learned what that statue you were walking past on campus—you’re a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina—what it was and what it represented?


AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe what you learned?

MAYA LITTLE: I remember thinking about the statue, the fact that there was this armed, smirking soldier, facing north, standing at the forefront of our campus, the first thing you see when you come on the campus, and not only facing north, but also facing a historically black neighborhood in Chapel Hill. I felt degraded. I felt disgusted. And as I—but as I learned about the history of struggle and resistance around the statue, I felt very hopeful.

AMY GOODMAN: And now that—

MAYA LITTLE: There’s been a long legacy of that struggle and that resistance, which UNC has tried to hide and tried to subvert. And it’s continuing. And it’s continuing now that the statue is gone, too. Every facet of white supremacy at UNC will be removed, will be fought against.

AMY GOODMAN: What are those representations at UNC, those statues and other—what you think are monuments to white supremacy, to racism?

MAYA LITTLE: Well, as we know, when it comes to the symbols we put in the public square, they reflect the law and politics, media and culture that we have in our society. So, this towering statue stood over what has been years of exploitation and abuse towards black people at UNC and in Chapel Hill. That includes the incredibly low retention rate for black male student athletes, despite the hundred million dollars a year this university makes through athletics. That includes the fact that UNC workers, who are largely black and brown, do not receive a living wage. That includes the gentrification and the continued policing of Franklin Street and Chapel Hill to remove black people from these areas and these neighborhoods which they have lived in.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Maya, this toppling of the statue, the Confederate statue at your school, at the University of North Carolina, happened soon after the first anniversary of the Charlottesville attack, the white supremacist march last year that killed Heather Heyer, young anti-racist activist. Your thoughts on the connection between the two?

MAYA LITTLE: Again, there is so many people fighting back against white supremacy and racism in their communities, both the white supremacists who march on the street, police officers who target black and brown people, and city officials and institutions that commit themselves to white supremacy. We’ve seen that in Durham. We see that in Charlottesville. We’ve seen that in Chapel Hill.

AMY GOODMAN: Maya Little, activist and doctoral student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She threw her own blood and red ink on the Silent Sam Confederate statue that was toppled on Monday night. She engaged in her action in April, and she will go to trial for it in the next few months. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports at least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country, mostly in the Deep South.

To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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