Wrong Robert Lee

I have somewhat mixed feelings about the current debate over the removal of confederate statues. I see the point of the defenders that they reflect pride and history. And I am against vigilantes pulling them down on their own. But I also see the point of the critics: that these statues were mostly erected in the 1920’s and 1950’s, when America was undergoing spasms of racial strife. Some — like the Battle of Liberty Place Monument — were specifically erected as an act of defiance against the federal government by racists. I probably end up where Radley Balko is: preferring they be moved from places of honor to museums or parks where their context can be given. But I certainly see the other side of this debate and don’t think it is entirely defined by racist shitheads.

The question always gets asked: where do you draw the line? Should statues of Jefferson and Washington come down, too? But first of all, you’ve already drawn a line. I doubt that anyone would want statues of Che or Mao or Stalin or Hitler in a places of honor. If you favor keeping the current confederate statues up, you’re just drawing the line behind Jeff Davis rather than in front of him. Second, line-drawing is what we do in politics. We say that consensual sex is OK, but non-consensual is not. We say that killing someone in self-defense is OK, but murder is not. We draw lines constantly. And I see no reason why we can’t at least debate where the line gets drawn on statues. Agreeing with the Lefty Kooks on one thing does not mean you have to agree with them on everything. There’s no law of nature or politics requiring that we let this be a slippery slope.

For example

On Tuesday night, [ESPN] confirmed that its management moved an Asian-American announcer, Robert Lee, off the University of Virginia’s home opener football game “simply because of the coincidence of his name.”

Earlier Tuesday, a source had told CNN that Lee was abruptly switched to the Youngstown versus Pitt game. He had recently been promoted by ESPN, so the switch was a sensitive matter.

News of the decision follows the violence that broke out earlier this month at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The night before the deadly violence, white nationalists marched across the UVA campus, carrying torches and chanting racist slogans.

This is … ridiculous. And I’m sure the network realized it about ten seconds into the ensuing uproar. There is a valid debate to be had over Robert E. Lee’s character and legacy. I can see why some people might be offended by venerating the man who fought for slavery. But, Christ, his name is not kryptonite to black people. Just hearing that name, or someone with a similar name, is not going to make them weep. Removing him isn’t going to ease racial tension by one iota. And while the debate over the confederacy’s legacy is an interesting one, it is not the most important race issue we face right now.

Comments are closed.

  1. West Virginia Rebel

    I don’t think Lee fought for slavery so much as he fought for his native Virginia-he freed the slaves he inherited and had mixed feelings about secession, apparently trying to stay loyal as long as he could before the war began.

    But this has gone beyond debate and descended into lunacy. New York City is removing subway tiles because they might look like Confederate flags. Bill De Blasio wants to get into the act with ALL statues. Maybe names are next, who knows?

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Actually heard a report about this on the radio this morning and Mr. Lee actually had asked to be removed after the event in Charlottesville.

    Let me know if there’s a link and I’ll update the post.

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  3. richtaylor365

    Actually heard a report about this on the radio this morning and Mr. Lee actually had asked to be removed after the event in Charlottesville.

    ESPN’s own statement contradicts this;

    This wasn’t about offending anyone. It was about the reasonable possibility that because of his name he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else. Think about it. Robert Lee comes to town to do a game in Charlottesville. The reaction to our switching a young, anonymous play by play guy for a streamed ACC game is off the charts – reasonable proof that the meme/joke possibility was real.

    So, when the protests in Charlottesville were happening, we raised with him the notion of switching games. Something we do all the time. We didn’t make him. We asked him. Eventually we mutually agreed to switch.

    No biggie until someone leaked it to embarrass us and him. They got their way.

    That’s what happened.


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  4. repmom

    We lived 8 years in Southern Louisiana – 1992-2000. I “get” the Southern Pride. Felt it somewhat even in Texas. I would never condone slavery, but have no problem with the statues, and hate seeing them come down, destroyed, kicked on.

    They are a a part of our history. What’s next? Burning down all the historical southern plantations?

    When we lived in Baton Rouge I was deeply troubled by the racism I saw, but I loved touring all the antebellium homes in the area.

    This with the ESPN announcer is just beyond ridiculous, regardless of whose idea it was.

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  5. FPrefect89

    Damn, I hit post without finishing.


    But in that article near the bottom is this:

    ESPN senior director of communications Keri Potts told SI.com late Tuesday night that the company did not mandate Lee switch games and that the announcer was more comfortable not doing the assignment because of the potential mockery that could come from doing the game.

    Now does that make it less of a joke, no.¬† But it wasn’t just ESPN’s idea on it.


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  6. repmom

    Thanks, rich. Will do. We’re north of Houston. Expecting a large amount of rain over the next several days, but otherwise should be fine. Unlike south Houston, little concern of flooding in our area.

    And not expecting the heavy winds like we had with Ike, that left us without power for five days, and no cell phone service. Fingers crossed for us and prayers for those along the coast. Harvey does look wicked.

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