TO THE EDITOR:
I am proud of Jackie Pittman for keeping public concern about Carteret County’s Confederate statue in the public eye. [Letter to the Editor 12/9/20]
We live in a county where our commissioners choose to separate citizens from each other by stoking fear. Putting an expensive fence around a statue that no one has defaced, a statue where people choose to protest silently, squelches open conversation about how that statue came to be on our courthouse lawn and what we should do about it.
This is the conversation we should be having: Where is the statue to the sacrifices enslaved people made for Carteret county? They comprised 28 per cent of our population in 1860. Where is the public recognition that Beaufort, held by the Union for the last three years of the Civil War, became a refuge for enslaved people?
The Confederate soldier has no proud history in Beaufort. In fact, historian David Cecelski writes in The Waterman’s Song that during this time Beaufort “was the scene of a remarkable experiment in race relations.” He also writes that, “Beaufort became the scene of an extraordinary African American cultural renaissance and religious revival between 1862 and 1865.” This was aided in part by the presence of the Union soldiers, but also by many Beaufort residents. Again quoting Cecelski, “Overall, Beaufort’s white residents had not been strong supporters of secession, and the occupying troops were surprised initially at the extent of white sympathy for the Union.” [pps. 163-167]
We live in a county where Commissioner Chadwick used his bully pulpit in the commissioner’s meeting on October 19 to urge watchers to vote for the Republican candidates, saying: “...reelect Commissioner Cavanaugh, Commissioner Wheatly, and Commissioner Farrington. The other team doesn’t have a plan. They are the plan of high taxes, defund the police, and riots in the street.”
This fear mongering and an unnecessary, costly fence is our officials’ response to the Black Lives Matter movement. That movement is a significant effort to, sadly once again, bring racism to the forefront for those who would deny its effect and its very existence.
Rather than protecting a questionable monument erected during the height of our shameful Jim Crow era, we should look to a time when we will celebrate Beaufort’s role as a “remarkable experiment in race relations” and become a county where racial equality and social justice are ensured.
Thank you Jackie for continuing to raise your voice.
Susan DeWitt Wilder