Letter: We should have no pride in racist past

To the editor:

I was very interested in the history contained in James Brown’s letter of Sept. 17, “America shouldn’t be guilty of social, ethnic cleansing.”

Though there were several factual and historical errors in the letter, I will only address those having direct import on the current state of monuments to General Lee, which seems to be his particular concern.

Firstly, General Lee did own a small number of slaves. This is born out by his own writing in a letter to his wife in 1856 and by the testimony after the war of Lee’s former slave, Wesley Norris, about the brutal treatment he endured. While almost universally regarded as a man of impeccable character, he seemed to lack the moral fortitude to denounce the fundamental basis for the Civil War namely, that espoused by Andrew Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy.

Mr. Stephens said slavery and “the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man” is why the Confederacy exists. General Lee chose to fight on this side of the war not, on the side of freedom and equality among people.

Mr. Brown quite rightly points out we we should not be destroying our past. However, there is a big difference between teaching our history so as to not repeat it and memorializing individuals and an era about which we should have no pride. In Indiana, we show no pride in our leadership in the eugenics movement; why should we show any pride in our country’s racist past?

Thomas Blake