Robert Lee IV: People of Color Were Treated ‘Unfairly’ in Harvey Response

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Robert W. Lee IV, the great-great-great-great-nephew of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, said people of color have been "disproportionately treated unfairly" by Hurricane Harvey response teams – without offering evidence – on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday.

Lee resigned as pastor of his church this week, following his appearance on MTV's Video Music Awards. During his appearance, Lee spoke out against his ancestor and white supremacy. His appearance at the VMA's caused disruption at his church, ultimately leading to his resignation.

Host Joe Scarborough expressed shock at Lee's resignation, and asked the pastor to explain what caused it.

"Well, I can ultimately say that it detracts from the message that we're trying to communicate with, which is that black lives do matter, and that there are black and brown bodies in our streets and people are being disproportionately treated unfairly by the hurricane response teams simply because of the color of their skin. And all of this is just detracting from the message," Lee said.

"But ultimately, when you speak up, and when you speak out about issues of justice, sometimes the cost is great. And ultimately, I found out for me the cost would indeed be great – losing my job over this," he added.

Lee added how a "small fraction" of the congregation was uncomfortable with the amount of media attention he was bringing on the church as a result of his public appearances.

"There was a small faction of the church, that had a loud enough voice, that was saying I should not be speaking up about these issues. They were not comfortable with me speaking about, and uplifting, these movements, and they were not comfortable with the media attention they were receiving about it," Lee said.

Lee explained that, as a result of the congregation's concern, he chose to resign as pastor.

"I just felt that with a vote coming on my tenure there, I could no longer simply sit by and allow that to happen. So instead, I chose to resign," Lee said.

Co-host Mike Barnicle followed up on Lee's comment about how people of color are being treated unfairly by Hurricane Harvey response teams.

"Reverend, where have hurricane victims been treated differently because of the color of their skin, as you just indicated?" Barnicle asked.

Lee said the mistreatment is obvious because black people live in poor communities, and they are not being cared for.

"Well, I mean it's obvious that the disproportionate number of black people that are being treated unfairly, and not cared for, because they live in poor communities – the response has been just unfortunate. You know, we see…Joel Osteen, not opening up his doors for people," Lee said. "That's not good for Christians. That's not responding to persons of color who are white allies. I think we have to speak up and speak out about these issues and name them for what they are."

Lee referenced megachurch pastor Joel Olsteen being criticized for not immediately opening his doors to victims during the initial flooding in Houston. Olsteen subsequently fired back at critics, saying that Lakewood Church was initially inaccessible due to severe flooding and began to receive people as soon as the water started receding.

The pictures and videos of people responding to hurricane Harvey differ from Lee's description. Video shows people of all different races and backgrounds helping one another during the storm.

Andrew Kugle   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Andrew Kugle is the assistant social media editor for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 2013. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, he worked as a Staff/Press Assistant for South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Andrew is from De Pere, Wisconsin and lives in D.C. His Twitter handle is @AndrewJKugle. You can reach him at kugle@freebeacon.com.

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