It happened quickly, the day before Thanksgiving: The North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the UNC System, on behalf of Silent Sam, and before the business day ended the UNC System offered a settlement of roughly $2.5 million, and the statue itself.
Perhaps the UNC Board of Governors, members of which spent months brokering this deal before the lawsuit was even filed, never considered the optics of such an act. But how could that be? Surely these fine minds behind the state’s citadels of higher learning have the collective ability to think a couple clicks out.
Maybe they don’t fully understand what they’ve done, which is go against the policies and spirit of the universities they represent by making a secret deal with a white-supremacist, political fringe group. And not only did they hand over the statue — the very existence of which is a powerful lesson on our country’s complicated racial history — they decided to cut a check. A really big one: $2.5 million is more money than has passed through the NC SCV coffers in a hundred years — or, at least, a single North Carolina chapter. The IRS website lists 112 organizations going by Sons of Confederate Veterans in this state, each with its own tax-exempt EIN.
Let’s be clear: This is not a settlement. It’s an endowment — enough to enshrine this monument to a shameful past in perpetuity, fund legal battles to fight the removal of other, similar tributes to our inhumanity, maybe even get the guys some brand-new matching jackets.
From a distance, it looks like the UNC Board of Governors has no interest in dismantling misguided, romantic notions about the Confederacy and North Carolina’s role in it. Quite the opposite, in fact.
From here, it looks like they want to fund it.
The board meets on Friday, during which they must vote on the minutes of the meeting where the Silent Sam fiasco played out.
Maybe, by the time they’re done, they will have a better explanation for their action.