Tag Archives: Robert E. Lee

Swastika: most offensive symbol of all

America is going to look back a year ago this weekend as it marks the time a riot broke out in Charlottesville, Va. It started when neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

It got real ugly when counter protesters showed up. One of the counter protesters died. One of the neo-Nazis is accused of murder.

I want to call specific attention to one of the hate groups’ symbols: the swastika.

The Confederate Stars and Bars offends me, too. The swastika, though, takes me to another level of disgust and revulsion. It symbolizes a European regime that started World War II with the aim of conquering the world.

Adolf Hitler’s tyrannical regime flew flags with that symbol while it eradicated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. It sought to subjugate nations under that tyranny.

More to the personal point about why the swastika is so revolting. Men who fought for the Nazi regime in Europe while wearing that emblem sought to kill my favorite U.S. veteran: my father.

Dad served in the U.S. Navy from early 1942 until late 1945. He saw the bulk of his combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He endured more than three consecutive months of daily aerial bombardment by German and Italian warplanes.

He damn near was killed by men flying with that swastika painted on the wings of their aircraft.

The swastika has become the symbol to this day, along with that Confederate flag, of the Ku Klux Klan; the neo-Nazis, of course, salute the swastika in the manner that it was saluted during those dark days of World War II.

How any American to this day can swear fealty to such an ideology to my mind surrenders his right to be called an American.

But … I know we live in a society that protects political speech no matter how vile it is. The swastika is as vile as it gets.

Explanation, please, for this resignation

James Allen isn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill anonymous municipal bureaucrat.

He also happens to be a politician of some renown in Amarillo, having served for years on the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

Until recently, Allen served the city as its Community Development administrator. Then he quit. His resignation also comes in the midst of the city’s debate and discussion over how it handles its homeless population, an issue that involves Allen’s former office directly.

The Amarillo Globe-News has called correctly for a more fulsome explanation from the city as to why Allen quit, citing the public’s need to know why one of the city’s more high-profile administrators has walked off the job.

For that matter, you could make the same request of Allen himself. He hasn’t been forthcoming as to his reason for quitting, or whether he was asked to resign.

Allen has been involved in some high-profile matters involving the Amarillo ISD, namely the “changing” (if you want to call it that) the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to, um, Lee Elementary School. More recently, Allen has led the board toward a discussion of how it can change its district-wide voting plan to a single-member district plan to ensure more minority representation on the AISD board of trustees.

He is not exactly disappearing from public view.

However, James Allen has departed a municipal administrative post with no explanation yet to the people who foot City Hall’s bill as to why he has resigned.

Let’s have it.

Can this school board revisit a tough issue?

I haven’t seen every scrap of social media chatter bouncing around Amarillo, Texas during the past couple of days.

What I have seen regarding an Amarillo Independent School District board non-decision has been — shall we say — less than flattering toward most of the board members.

The AISD board voted 4-3 the other night to “change” the name of Robert E.  Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School.

I believe Amarillo has just witnessed the unveiling of a profile in timidity, if not outright cowardice.

The school in question sits smack in the middle of a community that serves a significant population of African-Americans. Children attend a school that is named after a man — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — who led a military effort to defeat the United States in a war that began over whether states could allow the ownership of slaves.

Gen. Lee’s name has been in the news of late. Communities have sought to remove statues commemorating this man who I and others consider to be a traitor to the United States of America. They rioted in Virginia because white supremacists, KKK’men and neo-Nazis protested attempts to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park; the riot killed a young woman and injured scores of others. Moreover, it prompted an intense national discussion about how we commemorate the Confederate States of America.

AISD board members agreed to discuss and consider changing the name of the school. Then they choked. They fumbled. They missed their chance to send a powerful statement that this community would take a proactive step that removes the name of a national enemy from one of its public buildings.

“Lee Elementary” does not do a single thing to promote that notion.

So … here’s a thought. The AISD board represents a constituency that appears to oppose the non-decision the board made on the naming of a public school.

Perhaps the AISD board members can reflect just a bit on the nutty notion they thought would eliminate a community controversy.

This so-called “name change” didn’t do anything of the kind.

There’s not a single thing wrong with acknowledging a mistake, AISD trustees. Nor is there anything wrong with taking measures to repairing it.

AISD chokes when given a chance to make a big statement

I had high hope that Amarillo’s elected school board of trustees would do the right thing when it decided to consider changing the name of one of their elementary schools.

Then a slim majority of the board dashed my hope. Sigh!

The Amarillo Independent School District board voted 4-3 to alter the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to, um, Lee Elementary School.

There had been considerable community chatter about a school that serves a large African-American student base carrying the name of a Confederate army general who led forces seeking to allow states to retain the enslavement of human beings.

Many of those voices came to the school board meeting Monday night to be heard. They spoke out. A large majority of the voices gathered in a packed AISD administration building meeting room spoke against “Robert E. Lee Elementary School.”

The non-decision by the AISD board is disappointing. It borders on shameful.

Trustee James Allen — the lone African-American on the board — had pitched a perfectly reasonable option: Change the name to Park Hills Elementary School, which would be consistent with AISD’s current building-naming policy of identifying schools with the community they serve.

Did the board follow Allen’s lead? Nope. They wanted to “compromise” by dropping the Confederate traitor, er, general’s first name and middle initial from the building’s name.

As if that would wipe away the connection between a local school and the darkest, bloodiest period in our nation’s history? Please.

The national discussion about these name changes had found its way to Amarillo. I hoped our community’s elected school board would take up the cudgel and declare that it, too, would stand on the right side of history.

Sadly, AISD did nothing of the sort. Its board choked.

I’m out!

This is proactive leadership? Hardly

Amarillo’s public school system governing board had a chance to do something courageous. Instead, in a 4-3 vote, it decided Monday night to take a significantly more timid path.

I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Amarillo Independent School District decided to remove “Robert E.” from the name of a school that carries the name of a Confederate States of America army general. Beginning with the 2018-19, the school formerly known as Robert E. Lee Elementary School will be known as Lee Elementary.

There. How does that go down?

AISD had decided to consider changing the name of the school in the wake of serious national discussion about whether Confederate figures should be memorialized at all. It all came to a nasty head this past summer in Charlottesville, Va., when white supremacists, Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis instigated a tragic riot when officials there wanted to remove a statue of Gen. Lee from a public park.

The debate found its way to Amarillo, where the school district is home to a school named after the same general. That school sits in the middle of a neighborhood comprising a significant African-American population.

Why the question? Well, Gen. Lee led an army against the United States of America during the Civil War. He fought to protect states’ right to allow the enslavement of human beings, who — I need to stipulate — were black Americans.

I favor removing Lee’s name from that public school building altogether. An AISD board majority feels differently.

Here is what Panhandle PBS posted on its Facebook page about AISD’s bizarre “compromise”:

Learn Here: Amarillo ISD’s board has voted 4-3 to drop “Robert E.” from the name to just Lee Elementary. Board members Jim Austin, Scott Flow, Cristy Wilkinson, and Renee McCown voted in favor of the partial name change, which was viewed as a “compromise” idea during the months of discussion. The motion was made by Cristy Wilkinson, and the change will go into effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Scott Flow seconded the motion.

James Allen, John Betancourt, and John Ben Blanchard voted against, wanting a complete name change after the surrounding neighborhood, Park Hills.

The vote came after an hour of public comment during which 25 people spoke on the issue, with only six in favor of keeping the name.

I am puzzled by this non-decision. How in the world does keeping the “Lee” on the building address the concerns of those who believe it somehow honors the name of a man who fought to destroy the United States — for the purpose of keeping human beings in bondage?

Did the slim school board majority conclude that hiding the full name of an enemy of the Union would somehow make it disappear all by itself?

I believe the AISD board of trustees has made a mistake.

Amarillo school may get an ID change

Amarillo public school officials are about to jump with both feet into a national debate over the naming of public buildings after Confederate icons.

At issue is the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School, which sits in the midst of the city’s African-American community.

Amarillo Independent School District trustees are going to discuss on Monday whether to change the name of the school.

My own preference? Change the name.

This entire Confederate name-change discussion erupted in the wake of that riot in Charlottesville, Va., when counter protesters clashed with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who gathered to protest the taking down of a statute of Gen. Lee.

The Amarillo NAACP chapter favors changing the name. No surprise there. NAACP chapter president Floyd Anthony says Gen. Lee’s name on a public building that serves a hugely African-American student body — and their parents — is a slap in the face to those residents.

He makes a good point.

Gen. Lee led the Confederate States of America army that fought against the United States of America. They committed an act of treason by seceding from the Union. Why did they secede? They fought to something called “states’ rights,” which was code for allowing states to continuing the enslavement of human beings.

They were black human beings.

The war killed 600,000 people. It was the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history.

More than 150 years later, the vestiges of that war remain with these public monuments to the men who stood foursquare against the Union.

And spare me the “heritage” argument. The Confederate battle flag has become the very symbol of hate groups such as the KKK. Do we want to honor the Klan? I think not.

To the Amarillo ISD board members, I wish them good luck as they ponder their potentially huge decision.

I hope it’s the correct one.

Oh, Gen. Kelly, you are beginning to disappoint

John Kelly took command of the White House staff amid great expectations that he’d continue to earn the respect he deserved as a decorated Marine Corps officer — and a Gold Star father.

This week, Gen. Kelly knocked himself down a few pegs in my estimation. For what purpose? To declare that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” who fought on behalf of his state during the Civil War.

No! No! No! Gen. Kelly, he fought against the United States of America. Gen. Lee wanted to preserve slavery. He wanted to keep human beings in bondage. He wanted to maintain a federal policy that said slaves were three-fifths human.

How can that be honorable? Moreover, Gen. Kelly, how can you suggest with a straight face that a “failure to find compromise” was the reason the nation tore itself in two, killing 600,000 Americans on both sides of the Civil War?

No, sir. Slavery could not be compromised. It was an evil chapter of American history. It needed to be wiped out, eradicated. The Civil War commenced because the Confederacy was unwilling to surrender to demands to end the enslavement of human beings.

Reaction is swift

The Congressional Black Caucus, understandably, has been quick to challenge Kelly’s assertions about the cause of the Civil War. Kelly critics have suggested he needs to re-read some historical accounts of what drove the nation into this horrible, bloody conflict.

I so had hoped Kelly would be the right tonic for the White House operational mixture that boiled and simmered under Reince Priebus’s tenure as chief of staff.

I heard someone say a few weeks ago that Donald J. Trump has the rare skill of making everyone around worse than they were before they joined him. I fear he might be having that kind of impact on Gen. John Kelly.

Sad, eh?

Glad to see Confederate debate arrive

I am delighted to see that Amarillo, Texas — my current city of residence — has entered a serious debate that many other communities have already joined.

How do we remember those who fought for the Confederate States of America? Should we remember them? Should we forsake them?

This is an important discussion that erupted in August as a riot ensued in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis marched to protest a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. Counter protesters emerged to challenge the first group. A young woman was killed when she was run over by a car allegedly driven by a young man with white supremacists sympathies.

The debate hasn’t really let up since.

Now it’s arrived in Amarillo. On Monday, the Amarillo public school system is going to discuss whether to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary School. The Robert E. Lee school situation presents an amazing irony, given that the school is located in a historically black neighborhood. Think of that for a moment: That school is named to honor a man who fought to destroy the United States. And for what purpose? To preserve the enslavement of black Americans!

There’s more discussion about the status of a Confederate soldier statue at Ellwood Park.

A pro-Confederate advocate is urging the City Council to “leave history alone.”

I come at this from a different angle. I am a transplant who chose to move to Amarillo in early 1995. My wife and I came here from Beaumont, Texas, where we lived for nearly 11 years prior to moving to the Panhandle. Indeed, we have witnessed our fair share of racial strife since we moved to Texas in 1984 from Oregon, where I was born and where my wife lived for many years.

Do we honor traitors?

I see the Confederacy as an aftertaste of the nation’s bloodiest armed conflict. The Civil War killed more than 600,000 Americans. Why did they fight? The Confederacy came into being as a protest against federal policy that the Confederate States believed interfered with their own right of self-determination.

Let’s not be coy about what those states wanted to preserve: One of their goals was to maintain slavery.

They separated from the United States of America and then went to war. Where I come from, I consider that an act of treason.

Is that the history we want to preserve? Is that what we honor?

I don’t have any particular concern about those who plaster Confederate flags on their bumpers or fly the Stars and Bars from their car radio antennae. That’s their call. Do I question why they do these things? Sure, but I don’t obsess over it.

Putting these symbols, though, on public property — be they parks or public schools — is another matter.

Preserving and honoring history is fine. I’m all for it. The Civil War, though, represents a dark and grim chapter in our nation’s history that should be remembered, studied and discussed. But do we honor that time? That’s why we have historical museums. We’ve got a damn fine historical museum in Canyon, at the West Texas A&M University campus.

So, let’s have this discussion in Amarillo about the Confederacy. Keep it civil and high-minded.

AISD might join important national debate

Amarillo isn’t known as a community to get involved deeply in intense national debates.

So it is with some surprise that I have learned that the Amarillo Independent School District is considering whether to change the name of an elementary school named after a Confederate army general.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School is now in the AISD crosshairs, joining other such public structures that have been targeted in the wake of recent controversy surrounding the a sad and tragic chapter in our nation’s history.

Lee School sits in the middle of a largely African-American neighborhood. We all know, of course, who Robert E. Lee was. For those who don’t, I’ll just explain briefly: He was the commander of Confederate army forces that fought on the losing side of the American Civil War. Oh, and why did the Confederates fight against the United States of America? They wanted to break up the Union.

Those who fought for the Confederacy fought against the United States. By my way of looking at it, the Confederates were traitors. Do we honor them, therefore, by putting their names on public buildings?

So, AISD trustees next week are going to visit with legal counsel to discuss a possible name change. The decision to consider such a thing has met with approval from local NAACP leaders.

AISD building-naming policy follows that new schools are named after the neighborhood they serve. AISD does make some exceptions, such as naming a school in a largely black neighborhood after a man who fought to preserve slavery.

This issue came to a full boil in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., riot involving white supremacists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis who fought against counter protesters. It’s simmered down somewhat, but a serious national conversation has continued.

It has arrived in Amarillo, Texas.

AISD board president James Austin said he hasn’t yet made up his mind on whether to support a name change. That’s fine. Take your time, Mr. President.

I happen to think a name change is in order. But that’s just me.

ESPN spooked beyond all reason

The executives who run ESPN have been bitten by the bug that gives human beings a case of the heebie-jeebies.

The bite came from that riot that erupted two weekends ago in Charlottesville, Va. Neo-Nazis, Klansmen and assorted white supremacists gathered to march against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park; counter protesters showed up, too, and a clash commenced. A young woman was run down by someone who allegedly has white supremacist sympathies.

How did ESPN react to all of this? It pulled a sportscaster who was scheduled to call a college football game this weekend between the University of Virginia and William & Mary College. Oh, yes, UVa is located in Charlottesville. The sportscaster’s name: Robert Lee.

Good grief, ESPN! Get a grip here.

I consider this to be a serious overreaction. Yes, the issue at hand also is serious. ESPN wants to remove any potential for controversy or conflict. So, it yanked a young man with the name Robert Lee off its broadcast? ESPN issued a statement: “We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name. In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play by play for a football game has become an issue.”

Please.

I have an option for ESPN to ponder: Refer to him on-air as Bob Lee, or Bobby Lee, or Robby Lee. I suppose I also should mention that Lee is of Asian descent.

I believe ESPN has gotten spooked beyond what is reasonable.