On the Horrible Violence in Charlottesville—by Peter Eisenstadt

Let no one mistake who is behind the violence in Charlottesville, that took the life of at least one protestor against the neo-Nazis, and left many more seriously injured. It’s not David Duke, it’s not the so called “alt-right,” it’s not even our miserable president, who is incapable of making even a grudging gesture to the cause of justice. It is that notorious traitor, Robert E. Lee, the man responsible for the death of more US military personnel than Adolf Hitler.   The protests are over a statue of Lee that the city of Charlottesville wants to remove. This statue was erected in 1924. It’s time for it to go.

This is an issue throughout the states of the old Confederacy; statues, buildings, streets and other geographic markers named after Confederate soldiers, Reconstruction era racists, and other reminders that until the 1960s, this racist legacy was honored and installed throughout the South. In recent years there has been some successes, but many more failures. In Clemson, South Carolina, where I lived, there has been a struggle for several years to rename the main building on the campus, currently named after “Pitchfork Ben Tillman” one of the most notorious racists and defenders of lynching in American history. He has no place being honored on a college campus. The faculty senate, a few years ago, voted 17–2 to change the name. The Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to keep the name as it is. The college has tried, in recent years, to ameliorate the situation, recognize the black contribution to the campus (such as the crucial role of black convict labor in building the campus c. 1900.) It’s not enough. To break with the racist past; Tillman Hall has to be renamed; statues of Robert E. Lee have to be taken down.

The members of the board of trustees of Clemson University are lawyers and business people, persons of wealth and standing in their community. For me, they are just as guilty as neo-Nazi skinheads in keeping the legacy of the old Confederacy alive, and more so, because they represent a “respectable” façade for white racism. This is the political base of our president. The reason he can’t condemn the violence in appropriate terms is because in too many parts of this country, Robert E. Lee is still a hero. And the point of the violence is to say to Charlottesville, to Clemson, to New Orleans; you try to deal with your legacy of racism, we will make things so violent that you will be sorry. We cannot be intimidated. I am less concerned with neo-Nazis than the respectable white South that either can’t be bothered or tolerates the presence of hateful, racist reminders of the past in their cities and towns. And the fact that our evil and malign president, in everything he says and does, aids and abets these voices. And please, no more crap from the far left that we are exaggerating the danger that Donald Trump poses.