After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee accepted a position as president of what was then called Washington College. By all accounts, he served the school well and had a nice end of life. After his death, Washington College was renamed Washington & Lee.
Today, many black people attend the university that bears Marse Robert’s surname, so I guess we won. But a group of black law students at Washington & Lee Law School is getting really sick of the university’s consistent, stars-and-bars waving support of Lee’s legacy and the whitewashing (no pun intended) of what that legacy represents.
They’ve got a list of some very specific “demands” for the Washington & Lee administration…
On the one hand, I’m kind of surprised that black students at Washington & Lee are just now threatening “civil disobedience” over the school’s longstanding remembrance of the Confederate cause. The thing is called Washington & Lee, not Washington & GRANT. I mean, here’s a line taken right from the school’s “about” page on its website:
Founded in 1749, Washington and Lee University is named for two of the most influential men in American history: George Washington, … and Robert E. Lee, whose presidency and innovative leadership brought the University into the national limelight.
Right… the two “of the most” influential individuals are George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Not Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Not even Washington and John C. Calhoun… you know, the guy who came up with the whole, bollocks secessionist legal reasoning. But Washington and Robert E. “I’d rather fight for my state than combat a great evil for my country” Lee. Lee’s logic is akin to me fighting the Orkin Man because the “New York City” rats shouldn’t be subjugated to a “national” company, but whatever.
Again, black people could have probably known what kind of university they were getting involved with when they applied to Washington & Lee, but if you want to know what’s pissing the black law students off, I can begin to explain in a picture:
Now, I don’t know if a tomb to a dead general crosses that intangible line from historical preservation to offensive nostalgia. But when you couple those traditions with other things black law students at W&L are complaining about, you can understand their problem. Here is a list of demands from a group of black law students calling themselves “The Committee”:
Here is a list of the FOUR DEMANDS:
1. We demand that the University fully recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the undergraduate campus.
2. We demand that the University stop allowing neo-confederates to march on campus with confederate flags on Lee-Jackson Day.
3. We demand that the University immediately remove all confederate flags from its property and premises, including those flags located within Lee Chapel.
4. We demand that the University issue an official apology for the University’s participation in chattel slavery, including a denunciation of General Robert E. Lee’s participation in slavery.
If the school does not act by SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 we WILL engage in civil disobedience.
Really, this is a Confederate Battle Flag issue. To me, it’s a symbol of racial oppression. To others, it’s a symbol of Southern pride. My question to the Southern Pride people is always: what about all the black Southerners? Are they not allowed to be “prideful” of their Southern roots as well? Or are they supposed to wave around a Confederate flag in support of their “state’s rights”?
Click through to Above the Law: Redline to see the response from the Washington & Lee administration. Apparently, they have black friends….