The Get with Morgan Fogarty: Rev. Rob Lee IV

STATESVILLE, N.C. – From the MTV VMAs, where he stood on stage and told the country, “As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin,” to ABC’s The View, where he told the panel, “I want it to be said of me that there was a Lee who stood up for something that was right, instead of a General Lee who stood up for something that was wrong,” Reverend Rob Lee IV wants to shift the narrative.

He tells WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty, “If we remain silent, we are complicit in racism.”

General Robert R. Lee’s fourth-great nephew is 24 years old, and a columnist for the Statesville Record and Landmark. He says, “I was raised here in Statesville. I grew up in the shadow of this (Confederate Soldier) monument, walking by it as a kid, looking up at it, and I never even had the context to believe that it stands for something different than what we think here in the south is OK.”

Lee was the pastor of a Winston-Salem church, until he resigned last week, after backlash from his VMA speech, where he said, in part, “We can find inspiration in the Black Lives Matter movement, the women who marched in the Women’s March in January, and especially Heather Heyer, who died fighting for her beliefs in Charlottesville.”

Lee tells Fogarty he had concerns about centering himself, a white person, in the conversation about race, but came to this conclusion: “There are some people in this country that will only listen to other white people. I think that’s important for all of us in this movement, is that we’ve gotta bring people along with us. And so I viewed the VMAs as an opportunity to bring people along with us and to have this conversation in a way that hasn’t been had before.”

The violence that erupted in Charlottesville was centered around the removal of a General Robert R. Lee statue. Reverend Lee believes it, and others, including the Confederate Soldier Monument in downtown Statesville, should come down. He challenges those who disagree to do two things: ask a person of color what they think about the statues, and, learn the history of the statues. Lee says, “Most of the majority of statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals, the stained glass in the National Cathedral, weren’t erected until the Jim Crow South. It wasn’t right after the war, it wasn’t celebrating the war heroes, or the Confederate dead. It was celebrating white supremacy.”

Lee, who has his Masters of Divinity degree from the Divinity School at Duke University, believes politics and the pulpit go firmly hand in hand. He says, “I want to challenge your viewers to think about the last time they heard from the pulpit, racism is a sin. I want your viewers to think about the last time they heard from a white pulpit, white supremacy is evil. And it is not of God. And if they haven’t heard that in a while, I don’t think they’re doing church right.”

As for his ancestor, Reverend Lee describes the Confederate General as a “murky character” that history, even the Lee family, doesn’t fully understand. He says, “Ultimately, it comes down to what are we going to do now? Like, Robert E. Lee’s been dead for a while. We have to move on. We have to move forward into God’s unfolding future for us, and as a pastor, I am convicted to tell that story that in God, we have more future than past.”

Lee’s hope is to continue the conversation, and to get people to think. He says, “You don’t have to necessarily change your entire way of life. But you can change how you view the world. And how the world might view you.”

Reverend Lee and his wife live in Boone, where he is on faculty at App State. He tells Fogarty he isn’t sure what’s next for him, but he says, “I am confident that the God who created me, has a plan for me.”