I read with interest the letter presented to you by your student, Trude Lamb. Her words demanded some reflection on my part.
I grew up proud of my Southern heritage and the flag that represented it. I took comfort in the striking image of Robert E. Lee hanging in my bedroom. I cherished the brotherhood of other REL rebels at school. I toured Southern battlefields with Bob Wyche as a member of the Rebel Guard. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more pride than I did then dressed in that Confederate uniform, firing that cannon. On reflection, I felt then that it was all quite innocent. No one, not even Wyche — who remains among the finest educators I have ever known — told me that like the rest of the South in 1860, Tyler was built largely by slaves, who comprised 35 percent of the town’s population. I didn’t know that citizen mobs burned two black men who were accused of attacks on white girls at the stake in the courthouse square as recently as 1912. Whether they had done what they were accused of is irrelevant, although many lynching victims, like Emmett Till, were innocent. No one told me these things, and I was not yet curious enough to ask.
Now, a courageous young Black woman who came from Ghana to make Tyler her home is trying to tell us that our innocence is not harmless. That Lee’s glory was carried on the backs of slaves — her brothers and sisters. I, too, have seen the Ghanian slave castles. Ms. Lamb is trying to tell us that the name Robert E. Lee and what the general stood for during the glory years of the Confederacy is toxic to a growing portion of Tylerites, and it will only grow more toxic year by year.
It’s time to let go of our tarnished heritage and allow Ms. Lamb the opportunity to be proudful of hers without fear. Our two heritages need not be a source of pain in a foreword-looking world. There is a way for Black and White Southerners to honor their individual histories — the sacrifices of their ancestors — with integrity and in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The task set out for all of us, of all races, is to seek that way forward, ardently, and with the courage of our convictions. None can deny that it took courage for Ms. Lamb to stand before your board and plead her case for justice in the name of her ancestors. It rests now with the board to honor that courage with action and find a new name for my alma mater that honors all students.
I will always revere Robert E. Lee, the man. But I ceased long ago to entertain the notion that his valor somehow excused the fact that he fought to keep his fellow human beings in chains.
As an REL alum, I hope you will consider carefully Ms. Lamb’s words and do the honorable thing.
REL Class of 1968
I am utterly amazed that you and your Tyler Paper have today become publicly part of the change everything crowd here in Tyler and elsewhere. I thought your previous front page highlighted protester photos and the (one time) protester editorial page column were just temporary management or reporting misjudgments based on lack of knowledge of the subject. But today’s paper edition, July 16, leaves no doubt that you are in fact a major part of and encourager of the ongoing “change everything” movement. You hid (on page 4A) the most meaningful and truthfully researched local detailed write-up on the issue of school name change (which included the important subject of the immense “outside-of-Texas influence”).
At the same time, you highlighted and headlined on the front page the quoted feelings of an alleged disaffected out-of-state Lee family member … from one of those “change everything” propaganda/information networks! I personally know a number of real Lee descendants, and know of many, many more, who are quite upset and disappointed in the Lee bashing going on by all these radical suppress-history extremists, and the clueless, gullible media who report these nefarious activities like ordinary news and not as hate crimes, which they are.
Some folks I know may cancel their subscriptions to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, but I won’t. I’m a believer in “learning and knowing what the enemy is thinking,” a well-known leadership strategy point in Sun Tzu’s (5th century BC) book, “The Art of War.”