From The Better School, Better Name, Better Tyler Ad Hoc Coalition:
The Better School, Better Name, Better Tyler Ad Hoc Coalition is thankful that the Tyler ISD Board of Trustees has called a special meeting for Monday, August 6th, to vote on whether to #ChangeTheName of Robert E. Lee High School or not.
The ad hoc coalition believes that Tyler is a good community in which to live, work, and play that is represented well by its trustees. Additionally they are certain that all trustees care about the educational interests of the increasingly culturally diverse student body, currently comprised by almost 80% people of color. And they are also convinced that if and when trustees are fully informed on an issue they will more often than make choices in that best represent the interests of all students and the families that send them to public schools.
Almost one year ago, on August 11th & 12th, the Unite the Right rally gathered large numbers of white supremacists and white nationalists in Charlottesville to show their virulent support for a monument of their hero, Robert E Lee. The violent protesters were members of the far-right and included members of the alt-right, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and various militias. These groups chanted racist and antisemitic slogans, carried semi-automatic rifles, swastikas, Nazi symbols (such as the Odal rune, Black Sun, Iron Cross, and the Valknut), Confederate battle flags, Deus Vult crosses, and other symbols of various past and present antisemitic groups.
These riots brought to the surface the still present wounds of the Civil Rights Era, Jim Crow laws, and present day discrimination, institutional racism, and the general racial discord still at work in America. It was into this climate that the Reverend Robert Wright Lee IV (Rob Lee), a great nephew of Robert E Lee, joined other religious leaders nationwide to speak out against the Confederacy, its heroes, and more importantly the ideals those icons and symbols still engender.
Regarding Monday’s upcoming vote, Rev Rob Lee said, “As a clergy person and collateral descendant of Robert Edward Lee, I must remind the citizens and school board of our moral responsibility to stand in times of unrest and upheaval.”
“I was hesitant to make a statement based on the locality of these issues but it is clear to me that the community of Tyler, Texas is a community to be imitated by many communities across this great country. Robert E. Lee, a person in our history was clear he did not want monuments to his glory in a letter dated 1871 to a person trying to erect a monument. He felt that it would enable feelings engendered in the south to continue their pernicious march through history.”
Rev. Rob Lee continues, “Now we come to a crossroads: will this community choose the context of history over a heritage of enslavement? As a nephew, generations removed from Robert E. Lee I call on your school board to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School for the sake of a better and more fruitful tomorrow.”
In a Washington Post opinion piece written before the Charlottesville riots, Rev. Rob Lee shared his feelings about his family history. He wrote, “I can’t erase the history of my family’s past, but I can say this: If you don’t use the power you’ve been given for the good of this world, then you are part of the problem like the Lee family was long ago.” He continues by providing a context for doing good, “Jesus is deeply concerned with how we react to the world…Jesus is concerned because what we do matters."
Earlier this year, in a magazine interview, Lee reminded us that, “There is a right and a wrong side to history and we have to realize that, and recognize that, and to do something about it.”
It is our hope and prayer that the trustees unanimously vote to change the name of Robert E Lee High School.