White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Monday night attributed the Civil War to the “lack of ability to compromise” and described Confederate General Robert E. Lee “an honorable man.”
Speaking to Laura Ingraham on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle, Kelly called it “very dangerous” to remove monuments and artifacts honoring Confederate leaders.
“And it shows you how much of a lack of appreciation of history, and what history is,” he said. “I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man.
“He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which, 150 years ago, was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
Kelly did not elaborate, mention slavery or suggest what kind of “compromise” would have satisfied the two opposing sides.
He and Ingraham joked that if statues keep coming down there will be a shortage of people to honor. Kelly sarcastically suggested that “some cult hero” would replace some of the Confederate leaders.
“Andy Warhol or someone like that,” he joked.
[aeit_emebed_article url= http://www.diversityinc.com/news/time-confederate-statues-come/]
His comments inevitably drew ire.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, a nonprofit civil rights organization, said in an emailed statement to DiversityInc:
“Once again the Trump administration is attempting to whitewash history to ignore the systemic oppression and violence against Black people. General Kelly echoes Trump in his continued approval of white supremacists, and the statues that honor them. There is no compromise in the fight to abolish slavery. Honoring the legacy of slaveowners and explicitly ignoring their rebellion against the United States is nothing more than cloaked white nationalism. Make no mistake these are not just words, but a world view that plays itself out in policy and practice — fueling a culture from the administration that views the humanity, dignity and freedom of Black people as an issue with two sides. History will judge those with powerful political, corporate and media platforms who aid and enable this administration turning back the clock of progress, and we at Color Of Change will continue to hold these enablers in power accountable for their actions.”
The organization also emphasized on Twitter that there is no middle ground when it comes to slavery.
Chief of Staff John Kelly’s comments are wrong. There is no compromise between slavery and freedom. https://t.co/EtC9YqyQVt
— ColorOfChange.org (@ColorOfChange) October 31, 2017
Black people who are as nutty as Kelly and Trump are generally marginalized. Kelly and Trump ended up in the White House.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) October 31, 2017
Kelly is half right. The civil war was caused by an unwillingness to compromise … over slavery. https://t.co/ZTrSZGNnuJ
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) October 31, 2017
Kelly “on both sides’ed” the Civil War.
Good people on both sides who should have compromised.
The arrogant assertions of “history”
The lack of understanding of the good and bad in our history.
The ugly messages in those assertions…. pic.twitter.com/XgUtI56zl9
— Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) October 31, 2017
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice King, weighed in as well.
It’s irresponsible & dangerous, especially when white supremacists feel emboldened, to make fighting to maintain slavery sound courageous. https://t.co/qb2X7QhG7M
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) October 31, 2017
Kelly’s interview echoed remarks made by President Donald Trump, who said following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that there was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
“I think there is blame on both sides,” he said later. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”
James Clapper, a former director of U.S. national intelligence, expressed concern at President Trump’s performance, calling it “downright scary and disturbing.”
But only violence on one side left someone dead. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old counter-protester, was killed after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people protesting against the neo-Nazis.
The white supremacists were rallying against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Trump also called the removal of Confederate statues “foolish.”
The president called it “sad” that America’s history — the part engrained in a legacy of slavery and racism — was “being ripped apart.”
Kelly’s interview also forgot to mention a very important compromise that took place prior to the Civil War: the Three-Fifths Compromise, which stated that Blacks only counted as three-fifths of a person under the eyes of the U.S. Constitution. The 1787 Three-Fifths Compromise was reached when the North and South were debating how to count enslaved people among the population when it came to legislative representation. The North believed only free people should be included, whereas the South thought slaves should be counted as well.
The South’s reasoning was not to humanize slaves, though — including slaves in their population count gave southern states a legislative advantage because they had a larger population. This provided the South with a great advantage initially, and slaveholders disproportionately influenced politics as a result. By 1793, slaveholding states had 47 of the 105 seats in the House of Representatives, but they would only have had 33 if slaves were not counted at all in the population. Slavery was not abolished until the 13th Amendment in 1865 (this did not apply to people who had been convicted of a crime), and Black men were not afforded the right to vote until passage of the 15th Amendment in 1869.
Kelly may have forgotten to mention this in his interview, but John Hudak, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization in Washington, D.C., alluded to it in a tweet.
— John Hudak (@JohnJHudak) October 31, 2017