Black Students Threaten Taxpayer-Funded School With Federal Lawsuit Unless Statue Is Removed

Silent Sam North Carolina statue Creative Commons/Yellowspacehopper

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Attorneys representing both the Black Law Students Association and a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have promised to sue the taxpayer-funded school in federal court unless officials remove a century-old statue of a Confederate Civil War soldier from campus.

The statue under legal threat is “Silent Sam,” a 1913 memorial commissioned by the North Carolina branch of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to honor UNC Chapel Hill alumni who “answered the call of duty” during the Civil War.

The threatened lawsuit will rely on Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, reports The Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper.

Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 fosters desegregation in public schools.

Title VI of the 1964 law bans racial discrimination at institutions receiving federal money.

“Because Silent Sam violates the rights guaranteed by these and other federal laws, we request that you authorize its immediate removal in order to avoid needless litigation,” a trio of attorneys wrote in his letter to UNC Chapel Hill’s president, board of trustees and board of governors.

“We are providing legal notice of an additional reason why Silent Sam must come down now: the statue violates federal anti-discrimination laws by fostering a racially hostile learning environment,” the letter also says.

“Any federally funded institution (such as UNC) that is deliberately indifferent to a racially hostile learning environment runs afoul of federal law.”

The letter suggests that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights “defines a hostile environment under Title VI as ‘harassing conduct'” that is “sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services.”

The letter fails to suggest how the existence of a single statue honoring Confederate soldiers is “harassing conduct” that is in any way “severe” or “pervasive” or preventing anyone from receiving services.

Instead, the letter argues that Title VI applies to the “Silent Sam” statue because 104 years ago, in 1913, the dedication ceremony for “Silent Sam” featured a long and boring racist speech by a racist speaker who said, among much else, that he had once “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds.”

This spectacularly obscure speech “remains a rallying cry” for “white supremacists,” the letter says.

“Should UNC fail to act, we reserve all rights to seek appropriate and immediate relief in federal court,” the letter states.

At least two of the three attorneys, Hampton Dellinger and Stacey Grigsby, work for the New York City-based law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, which is most famous for failing to help Al Gore win in the 2000 litigation surrounding the contested presidential election and Bush v. Gore, a U.S. Supreme Court case.

A UNC Chapel Hill spokesman, Joel Curran, said school officials are preparing a response to the letter.

“We have received the letter and understand that for many people the Confederate Monument’s presence can engender strong emotions, and we are respectful of those emotions,” Curran said, according to the Daily Tar Heel.

“While we do not have the unilateral legal authority to move the monument, these students have raised questions about federal civil rights law that will need to be addressed, and we will work with our Board of Trustees and Board of Governors to do so.”

Campus Reform notes that a North Carolina state law requires the North Carolina Historical Commission to approve the removal of state-owned statues and memorials.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is most famous, of course, because taxpayer-funded officials at the school published — and then deleted — a document entitled “Career corner: Understanding microaggressions” which identified golf outings, Christmas vacations and the word “boyfriend” as “microaggressions.” Another “microaggression”, UNC Chapel Hill, told students, is telling a woman “I love your shoes!” (RELATED: University Of North Carolina: CHRISTMAS VACATION Is A ‘Microaggression’ Now)

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