Having a heritage is a privilege in itself

To the Editor:

I can trace my heritage back to Ireland and Scotland by more than my pale skin and light hair. I can find family records tracing back more than 200 years. I am fairly certain I have had members of my family who fought on both sides of the Civil War, which means I, like many, can claim ties to the bloodiest war in U.S. history as my heritage. Yet I cannot agree that by relocating the Confederate monument sitting in front of the library strips myself, or anyone, of their heritage.

It is important we, as white folks, recognize Black folks do not have the luxury of knowing their heritage the way I know mine. Heritage was something stolen from them the moment their ancestors were thrown onto a slave ship. Their culture, family, religion, everything offering identity and sense of community was ripped from them and deliberately erased by our white ancestors.

Yes, documents are more readily available now, but for many Black Americans, finding documentation of their family prior to the eradication of slavery involves lists of white-owned property. The surnames they see on the records and they inherit upon birth are the surnames of those who owned their ancestors. That’s if they find any documentation at all.

When any person of color says the monument sitting in front of the library is offensive and racist, white folks don’t get to argue that relocating the statue is stripping away their heritage. We have our heritage. We know where we came from. We can find records easily, and can be comfortable and happy with their contents.

It would do well for the citizens of Jackson County to remember that having a heritage is a privilege in and of itself. It is time Jackson County started listening to what people of color have to say instead of sitting in their privilege and ignorance while turning a blind eye to the devastation our ancestors have caused. We have an opportunity now to reconcile with the mistakes of our ancestors. Jackson County is a beautiful community with a rich heritage, yet that does not excuse its flaws and mistakes. We have an opportunity to do what is right, and that starts with listening to those affected by racism and intergenerational trauma.

Kendall Rhymer, Sylva

The compromise of Sylva Sam

To the Editor:

Last week the Jackson County commissioners voted to deny the town of Sylva‘s request to relocate the confederate statue from its current location. Since that time we have seen, predictably, the steps of our beautiful courthouse turned into an eyesore of chain-link fencing and orange police barriers.

The nightly vigil of guarding the statue continues with armed men, mysterious vehicles and now law enforcement.

How long is this going to continue? 

It is clear that the predetermined decision worked out by the commissioners prior to last week’s meeting never intended to consider our request for relocation but instead to “put this issue to rest” by removing “our heroes of the confederacy” and the flag from the plinth and then place a plaque on it. Their stated goal was to remove the Confederate images but honor those from Jackson County that fought in the war.

It was very encouraging to see the commissioners reject “the stars and bars” as the symbol of hate and division that is it today. It will not be missed.

Our request was carefully considered and intended not to erase nor destroy history, but to free up Sylva from exactly what we are seeing and will continue to see given the commissioners’ decision. Relocating the monument, not defacing and whitewashing its history, was our request.

Our job as Sylva commissioners is to do the very best we can for Sylva. We live in this town, not in some far corner of Jackson County. I realize that there are many in this town who agree that this monument and all that comes with it are not appropriate for our town, but are worried about speaking out due to the controversy that surrounds it. There are others that want the controversy and negative attention to just go away and feel that this decision will serve that purpose.

We see all too often that shortsighted decisions are made attempting to solve a problem which in turn creates even more problems going forward. It is incumbent upon all of us in leadership roles in this community, both town of Sylva and Jackson County commissioners, to make the hard decisions.

So today I request Jackson County to reconsider the decision to relocate “Sylva Sam” to a more appropriate location. A location that honors the soldiers and maintains the integrity of the monument and spares Sylva from the ongoing division.

Commissioners, are you prepared to answer to history that you maintained the goals of the white supremacists that erected statues like these that commandeered the legacy of the soldiers that fought and died in the war? To the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, how will you answer to your children when asked why you allowed the county to spoil and cheapen the monument that was put up for your ancestors? And who will answer to the residents of Sylva when violence erupts, property is destroyed and the businesses of the town suffer?

Ben Guiney, Sylva town board member

Concentrate on the election

To the Editor:

In the fall of 1964 and1965 I enjoyed playing football beside Tommy Love and Leroy Jackson, and got to watch how they dealt with racism as bad as what our Russian operative living in the White House has stirred up.

They and their parents received death threats before several away games and were refused service at a Swain County drive-in as we returned home on the bus after one of those games in 1964. My all time favorite coach, Mr. Frank Maennle, came over to the tables and told us the situation and asked what we wanted to do about it. Without hesitation quite a few of us were throwing our food trays in the river, yelling, and headed for the bus. Tommy and Leroy never said a word.

That is the night this “oppressive to many of us” Confederate statue standing in the middle of town should have been repurposed through the front door of that drive-in and onto private property for good. That was well over 50 years ago. Now recent polls indicate that over 80 percent of us believe the United States should stand for equality and freedom for all. What would 80 percent of the world’s population think of Germany if they started erecting public memorials of Nazi generals just for the sake of history? Yeah, just to honor their kin folk.

So what if most of us had kin that were forced into fighting the war about getting to own people. And after the war many of them just had to join the KKK. Then we had the White Supremacist Party. Then the Black Panthers Party. Won’t we always have plenty of natural and unnatural racism to go around?

So there are well intended opinions from several directions, and that is when it is all important to look at both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution for guidance. But don’t let the KKK or your 401K get in the way of democracy.

Thank you, Ron Mau, for the most important and truthful statement of the night. “With the statue staying there the issue will not be laid to rest.” But all of our commissioners are really good people and more than likely knew that in the heat of the moment this compromise was important for public safety above all else.

Now, let’s just forget about a stupid statue that will be gone before too long, and concentrate on getting a traitorous racist out of our government. The most important thing we can do for our democracy right now is to send this lying autocrat back to some of his many palaces. Hopefully he will take Jeffrey Epstein’s girlfriend and his two million doses of hydroxychloroquine with him! He would have never been anything but a New York City conman except for his great ability to deliver one big lie after another day in and day out. He’s about as evil and dangerous as people ever get to be.

Mike Clark, Cullowhee

Thanks to commissioners

To the Editor:

I am writing in appreciation for the hard work of both the Sylva town board and county commissioners in grappling with the issue of the Confederate statue.

After all, these people are our elected officials who are community members themselves. Though the outcome was not what I had hoped for, it is not about me or any other individual. It is about what is best for our community – all of us.

We are a culture of individualism; therefore resolution requires compromise. Compromise is the willingness to live with some of what I feel strongly about as well as allowing others to feel acknowledged for their feelings. Compromise is the product of responsible, respectful, adult behavior. Once again, I do not agree with the decision but am satisfied with the process and the integrity of the people working diligently to support their community.

R.A. Herbers, Sylva