WLU ’20 — Lee

Recently, I got the chance to show a friend of mine around W&L and Lex. This place has become my home, and I was excited to show her around. 

I’ve had the privilege of never quite comprehending just how prevalent Lee, the Confederacy, and racism are in this community. I‘ve learned about this town and this school gradually, and it’s so easy to become desensitized given how the history is portrayed. But to my friend, it sounded like this:

This is where Robert E. Lee is buried. That’s the professor who told the class he has a “colonizer fetish.” That was around the time the KKK came to campus. Turn right onto Lee Highway. That’s George and Bob. Yeah, it’s a cute nickname we have for him. Yeah, he did kill Americans.

It’s across from Lee Chapel. Some KKK members make “pilgrimages” here. I took him to Stonewall Jackson hospital. There were 16 Black students in my year. It said “KK-Keep the name the same.” That’s where the flaggers will stand. The KKK targeted that restaurant. This is my diploma. That’s a Confederate general. You pass by Stonewall Jackson cemetery. At the front is a portrait of him in his Confederate uniform. Yeah, he didn’t want that. They told us Lee created the Honor System. Turns out he didn’t. They hung a Confederate flag there when Trump was elected. The War of Northern Aggression. It was Lee-Jackson Day.

And those are just the things that I hear. I am a straight, white student. I don’t hear the racist slurs when I walk into a party. No one questions to my face how I got here. 

My visiting friend is from South Carolina. She was appalled. She was shocked that we could say Washington and Lee’s names in the same breath—someone who helped create our country, and someone who helped tear it apart. 

She is an International Relations major, and kept asking if the students pushing to keep the name the same know that Lee was a traitor. That his army killed far, far more Americans than 9/11 did. That no one outside of Lexington, including in the South, has any clue what you mean when you say “Lee the Educator.”

5 Replies to “WLU ’20 — Lee”

  1. When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks! Sara Burl Sheffy

  2. By coming to Washington and Lee you are entering a community that supports a strong, vibrant Greek Life. As members of Washington and Lee’s Greek community, we have found that involvement in a Greek organization helps foster personal growth and offers countless leadership opportunities. Our Greek members are actively invested in the greater campus community, and our members boast leadership positions in nearly every organization and student government body on campus. Washington and Lee is an excellent University thanks to the contributions of students like you. If you choose to become a member of our Greek community, you join a long-standing tradition of excellence, and a tradition whose values will benefit you long after graduation. On behalf of Washington and Lee’s Panhellenic Community, we would like to welcome you to our campus. During your first year, you have countless opportunities and the capability to shape your own college experience. As you begin to make decisions about the right path for you, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with sorority life and to consider joining the strong Greek tradition at W L. This Recruitment Book will aid you in the process.

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