To the Editor:
I moved to Jackson County in January of 2013 and have been in love with everything about this area until recently. Increasingly, I wonder if this is home anymore. Home is often a place that you feel safe, secure, and loved – those haven’t been my feelings lately as I have spent time in town and seen armed men guarding the statue of the Confederate soldier often referred to as Sylva Sam that stands overlooking our beautiful town.
Several Town of Sylva board members have been present at recent protests and events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, one has even spoken during the public comment portion of a County Commissioners meeting in support of removing Sylva Sam. I have read statements from County Commissioners who seem to either be in support of keeping Sylva Sam in his present place, would like to remove Sylva Sam, or would like to create a task force to provide commissioners with some direction on Sylva Sam. I find it concerning that our elected officials aren’t listening to those who recently spoke at a board meeting in favor of replacing the statue since no one other than the Chairman of the board of commissioners provided support for keeping Sylva Sam in its current place.
The idea of creating a Task Force is just as unsafe as keeping Sylva Sam present overlooking our community.
I assume this task force would be made up by a diverse group of individuals in our community that aren’t in support and that are in support of Sylva Sam. This task force would put black and brown individuals in our community in an unsafe position, putting them in direct contact with the same individuals who stand armed to guard Sylva Sam. This task force would slow down the progress that is being made regionally, state-wide, and nationally to address these racists monuments. While I applaud the effort to include community members in the conversation, I believe this is best left to those who myself and many others have elected to make decisions on my behalf in this community.
Now is the time for our local elected officials to provide us with the leadership that they agreed to provide and anything other than that leadership is negligent on their part. This lack of leadership shows that they don’t represent all of the individuals that voted for them. As an African American voting member of this community I would like to feel safe at home again and hope they will hear me in asking them to do what is right for someone that voted for each of them! The way forward may be hard and require them to be uncomfortable and to confront their own biases, but it is right. I hope they will be able to proudly tell your grandchildren they were on the right side of history in deciding to remove a statue that depicts racism and hatred in our region.
This Letter to the Editor appeared in The Sylva Hearld and Smoky Mountain News, September 2020.