By Thomas Fellows
First, we must force ourselves to remember that times back then are very different than they are today and while some say that does not matter, it does. It is important to note that Lee himself was not in favor of erecting statues of Southern heroes. After the war, he was clearly against it, stating: “I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it has engendered.”
Here, Lee encouraged The United States to look past the Civil War and unify as one country.
While Lee was against slavery, he was also a white supremacist. However, it is important to note that Robert E. Lee was not the only white supremacist… Abraham Lincoln was just as guilty if not more so of being labeled as such. While Lee wanted the black slaves to stay in the United States, Lincoln was in favor of shipping them to West Africa.
To fully understand race relations back then, you have to understand the times. The majority of white Americans in that day were white supremacists. It wasn’t that they were evil. They were just ignorant that all people were truly created equal, regardless of their skin color.
From personal experience, I have been discriminated against because of my mental illness. While it stung at the time, the person didn’t treat me that way because she was evil, she treated me that way because she was ignorant. Even though that she made a mistake, it doesn’t make her a “bad person.”
I do agree with Lee in that we should take down all Confederate statues. I ultimately believe this because as white people, and as Atticus Finch would encourage us, we need to step into the skin of black people and realize why they might be offended by the statues still being there. We need to live out the Golden Rule.
At the same time however, to paint a broad-brush stroke and say that all Confederate war heroes were evil people is a mistake. After all, if you think that, you must be ready to put President Lincoln in that category as well, which is something nobody wants to do.
Fellows is author of “Forget Self-Help: Re-examining the Golden Rule.” The book analyzes the characters actions in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Robert E. Lee in real life, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. in real life, and how they lived out the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12. The book’s release date is the first week of October and can be found on Amazon. Fellows is the Competition Sales Team Instructor at Morehouse College in Atlanta.