Robert E. Lee's descendants support the removal of his statue from Charlottesville

Robert E. Lee's descendants support the removal of his statue from Charlottesville

The recent violence in Charlottesville has dominated the headlines over the past week or so, with plenty of debate over the prevalence and legitimacy of white nationalist groups throughout the United States.

20-year-old James Fields has been charged with second degree murder after he drove his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring a further 19, while President Trump has come under heavy fire for failing to condemn the actions of white supremacists.

The entire conflict was sparked by a Unite the Right movement in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a large group of people protested the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Genera Robert E. Lee. The decision has been criticized, not least by the president himself, but his very descendants are not among the people who wish for the decision to be reversed.

Charlottesville protesters Credit: Daniel Hoster

Robert E. Lee V is the great-great grandson of Robert E. Lee, and alongside his sister Tracy Lee Crittenberger, the 54-year-old released a statement expressing that removing the statues may be "appropriate", while condemning "hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK or neo-Nazis" at last weekend's rally.

"Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that's the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine.

"[...] Those sorts of acts on Saturday, that's just not to be tolerated. We feel strongly that Gen. Lee would never ever stand for that sort of violence. We just want people to know that the Lee family just really wants to send their best to the people in Charlottesville."

Statue of Robert E Lee Credit: Billy Hathorn

Now working as an athletic director at a school in Virginia, Robert E. Lee V believes that his notorious ancestor would not have approved of the "senseless" violence, and criticized the idea of white nationalists hiding behind his great-great grandfather's name in order to commit these atrocious acts.

"Our belief is that General Lee would not tolerate that sort of behavior either. His first thing to do after the Civil War was to bring the Union back together, so we could become a more unified country."

Charlottesville victims Credit: Chip Somodevilla

Rather than destroying the statues, however, Lee believes that it would make sense to move the statues depicting the Confederates to a museum, so they can be appreciated in their proper historical context.

"I think that is absolutely an option, to move it to a museum and put it in the proper historical context. Times were very different then. We look at the institution of slavery, and it's absolutely horrendous. Back then, times were just extremely different. We understand that it's complicated in 2017, when you look back at that period of time...  If you want to put statues of General Lee or other Confederate people in museums, that makes good sense."

Charlottesville Riots Credit: Edu Bayer

While it's certainly a good idea to remove statues of Confederate leaders from public view in the United States, it certainly can be argued that times have changed drastically since the Civil War, and Robert E. Lee V says that by moving the statues to a museum, we can consign them to little more than a reminder of America's past.