Congressman Don Beyer (D-Arlington) is calling for the mansion in the middle of Arlington Cemetery to be renamed. Currently called “The Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial,” Beyer wants it to just be “The Arlington House.”
“The choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments,” Beyer said in a statement to the AP. “Given these considerations and requests from members of the community, including descendants of enslaved people in the area, I am working on legislation to remove the reference to Robert E. Lee from the official name of Arlington House.”
Beyer’s announcement comes as part of a trend of Virginian politicians questioning local memorials to Confederate leaders. Multiple Virginia localities have renamed the Jefferson Davis Highway to the Richmond Highway. School districts are pondering new names to replace Confederate leaders. Monuments across the state are coming down.
However, a June Huffington Post/YouGov poll showed that close to half of Americans opposed removing Confederate names from buildings, schools, and streets. Only a third were in favor of removing the names. The poll showed that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to oppose removing the names.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have used the issue to reach their bases. Democratic leaders like Governor Ralph Northam are calling for the names to be changed, while President Trump has said military bases named after Confederate generals are symbols of American victory.
Beyer said, “Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols. I absolutely support that process, including the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol and taking other actions that make it clear we do not revere Confederate leaders or approve of the cause for which they fought.”
State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) said, “Obviously, you know I don’t support any of this. It’s completely wrong to attempt to censor our history, it’s a complete violation against the First Amendment.” Chase continued, “Virginians are just quite frankly angry about it. All races are upset about this, black, white, everybody. The media wants you to believe that everybody’s all upset about it. We’re tired of being told what to think.”
Chase said monuments and memorials are key pieces of Virginian culture. “For those of us who grew up in the South it was iced tea and having good manners, it didn’t even have to do with the color of your skin. I don’t know where kids are learning this in school, that the Confederate flag is somehow a symbol of hate. A lot of us just did not grow up with that. It was considered southern pride.”
Chase added, “We are proud to be southerners. We’re a different type of people. We’re proud of our manners and genteel nature, I mean it’s just a different type of culture, but it has nothing to do with racism.”
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