My Say: General Lee, Flags, Tee-Shirts, Et Al


In the last years of the 20th Century and certainly the first years of the 21st Century, we have seen an assault on just about any aspect or symbol of the Confederate States of America. Certainly number one target on the list has been the "Confederate flag" although exactly what Confederate flag at times is unknown, but generally the naval jack. The NAACP has called for its removal from any government owned property – state, local, or Federal. Kids have been booted from schools for wearing clothing with the Confederate flag, any style or version of the flag, and even the name "Dixie." The NCAA has punished college and university sports programs in South Carolina and Mississippi because their states either feature the Confederate flag on a memorial or as a part of their state flag. Local governments have been pressured to ban re-enactors from parks and battlefields because they "glorify" the Southern military that existed in the 1860’s. And finally, the pressure groups have taken up the task of recreating a respected citizen and soldier as a worthless racist in the two hundredth year of his birth.

First, the Confederate flag never deprived any child of an education. It is funny that we have urban schools with virtually no white students (and therefore no Confederate clothing or flags) that have consistently low achievement test scores and a maximum of violence. In so-called modern integrated schools we have calls to ban Confederate clothing because it will promote violence. That brings to question: Who runs the school? Rowdy students or the administration. In my student days, students who were so overwhelmed by a lack of respect for their fellow students who were assaulted, were pulled into the principal’s office and had their butts worn out with an oak paddle and/or thrown out of school. If you had a town hall meeting with Democrats and Republicans with heated debate is violence to be tolerated because of viewpoint? If fists were thrown, the person who started it would be jailed for assault no matter what the topic. Why isn’t that enforced within our schools? Where is this concept known as respect to all viewpoints? That is what separates and elevates us from the false dictatorships in Third World countries.

Second, we have elected government in this country at the local, state, and national level. We have elections and the voters settle who and what party. If the elected legislature of South Carolina — which includes black members elected by black voters — decides on an on-the-statehouse-grounds Confederate memorial, that’s the decision. If you don’t like the decision try the constitutionally proclaimed process at the next election, put someone in office who agrees with your views. But in the meantime don’t meddle with the process of government that wisely was invented over two hundred years ago – because it works. Many of those people being punished in South Carolina and Mississippi are common citizens and the players on teams — black and white — who have no control of elected legislatures. It was nice the NCAA ban was not extended. Now it is time for a legal citizen of one or both of the affected states to file suit and get rid of it entirely.

Third, the re-enactors serve as a valuable educational tool. You can read any book, but getting on a school bus and visiting a re-enactor’s camp and seeing who the soldiers lived is an irreplaceable educational tool. I have never heard a racial insult or comment on another person’s race in a negative manner from a re-enactor.

Fourth, state and national leaders of the NAACP badmouthing Robert E. Lee serves no useful purpose and the volumes of misinformation have almost universally been discredited by serious historians and academic personnel all over America, North and South. Lee was of noble and upper-class birth, but his father was broke and discredited. Lee’s relatives helped him along and that’s probably why he earned an appointment to West Point. Lee did not own slaves, didn’t approve of slavery, and was a military man without plantation or great wealth. His wife had inherited wealth which included slaves, but when he was executor of his father-in-law’s will, Lee freed those slaves as the will instructed and did everything to help those blacks he just gave freedom to. When Lee was faced with a terrible decision when Virginia, his home state, left the Union, he sided with his friends and neighbors when the Union started to invade Virginia and commit war against the state. Everything he did before, during, and after the Civil War squared with the code of conduct of a professional soldier and there wasn’t one bit of hate or racial prejudice in his words or actions. Frankly, if you want a role model for the youth of today — no matter what their skin color — you would be hard pressed to top Robert E. Lee. He was, after all, a genuine American hero.

To the NAACP, NCAA, Black Coaches Association: Sit down and shut up. As my late mother told me, "You never make yourself look good by trying to make someone else look bad."

Alton Lanier
Arlington, Tennesse

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