A descendant of Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee believes that reparations are necessary to tackle racism.
The Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, the general’s distant nephew, recently appeared on “CNN Tonight” after the House held a hearing on reparations for slavery. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had come under fire for saying he didn’t think reparations “for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.”
“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it,” McConnell said.
Lee disagreed with the majority leader.
“It’s going to take both people of color and white people to fix the mess that white people have made, Lee said. “I’m a white man, I’ve got a lot of privilege .... How can we use our privilege to literally put our money where our mouth is. If people are saying they want to fix racism or ... fix this issue in our country, then they need to put their money where their mouth is, and that comes in the form of reparations.”
In response to those who feel the concept of privilege doesn’t exist, Lee plainly stated that “just because you say something doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Vann Newkirk, a writer for The Atlantic who appeared on the same segment, added that white privilege has taken shape institutionally. Citing discriminatory housing practices and home contract-buying schemes that cost black families in Chicago billions of dollars, and the millions of acres of farmland stolen from black farmers, Newkirk said, “We actually have material documented estimates of exactly how much was stolen from black people by slavery and Jim Crow.”
“These are things we can put on a ledger and say that the United States government was actually part of the party that was responsible for doing this,” he said.
Lee previously made headlines after criticizing President Donald Trump for calling the Confederate general a “true great fighter and a great general.”
“Last night I was disheartened to hear Donald Trump, our president, make comments about Robert E. Lee as a great general, as an honorable man. These were far from the truth,” Lee said.
He added: “Robert E. Lee fought for the continued enslavement of black bodies. It was for state’s rights, yes, but it was for state’s rights to own slaves.”