Robert W. Lee IV grew up with a Confederate flag displayed in his room, taught that the Confederacy was a just cause fought to preserve states' rights. Now an adult, father and pastor of a Christian church, Lee broadened his education and understanding of the Lost Cause and its hero, Gen. Robert E. Lee. A descendant of the general's family, he agrees with Virginia's governor that the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond should be removed and pride in Southern heritage allowed to fade. "I have borne the weight and responsibility of that lineage," Lee writes in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, adding that he realizes that removing the statue worries some Southerners. "If we are honest with ourselves, many of those fears are anxiety about a shifting way of life, a loss of a certain understanding," Lee writes.
But Lee, who's worked for years to get the statue removed, believes it's in our way. "For me, this symbolic gesture stands at the start of a new way of life in the South, a new cause that could replace the Lost Cause mentality if we get this right." We have a broken, racist system, Lee writes, descended from a failed, racist system. Southerners can offer the rest of the world more than a distorted version of history and an "oppressive understanding of the world," he says, adding, "The statue is a hollow reminder of a painful ideology and acts of oppression against black people." Removing the statue from our path can help with the redemption, atonement and other work that lies ahead, Lee writes, on a different cause: "justice, equality, peace and concord." (Confederate monuments have been defaced during the protests.)