This letter is in response to a question raised by Jeff Adelson’s March 31 story: “If the New Orleans City Council won’t allow Robert E. Lee to stand above Lee Circle, why should Andrew Jackson remain in Jackson Square?”
Andrew Jackson relentlessly pursued a campaign of savage cruelty against American Indians throughout his career. He was responsible for the confiscation of millions of acres of their land and the forced relocation and deaths of tens upon tens of thousands of men, women and children. This is not in dispute, and it is by any definition of the word, genocide.
However, Andrew Jackson is not committing genocide today. On the other hand, Robert E. Lee still has troops in the field. To this day, long after Lee’s “yield to overwhelming numbers,” what are effectively remnants of the Confederate Army labor to deny African-Americans their rights as citizens and human beings.
Widespread discrimination in housing, public accommodation and the workplace are well documented, and the disparity in educational opportunity afforded the average black child is a shame to us all. The struggle against what the Supreme Court referred to as “badges and incidents of slavery” did not end with the Civil War, and it did not end with Jim Crow. Lee serves as a rallying cry and a source of inspiration to everyone on the wrong side of that struggle.
Should New Orleans tear down statues of both men? Maybe so. But there’s no need to rush to get it all done at once. In a city populated by the descendants of slaves, it makes perfect sense to start with Lee.