Ryan Zinke Thinks Robert E. Lee Is Really a Lot Like Martin Luther King Jr.

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Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke is a man heavy with contradictions and light of knowledge. He is charged with preserving America’s natural splendor, but loves fracking. He pretends to be a geologist; but alas, he is not. Now, HuffPost reports that Zinke has once again managed to insult people of color, this time by likening Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who fought to preserve chattel slavery, to Martin Luther King Jr.

Over the weekend, Zinke traveled to Kentucky’s Camp Nelson, a Civil War-era supply and training depot for black soldiers recruited by the Union, in a ceremony designating the site as a national monument. For reasons I cannot comprehend, in his opening remarks, Zinke thought it would be a good idea to wax poetic about Lee.


Speaking of the placements of the Arlington National Monument, located on Lee’s former plantation, and national monuments honoring Lincoln and King Jr., Zinke said: “I like to think that Lincoln doesn’t have his back to General Lee. He’s in front of him. There’s a difference. Similar to Martin Luther King doesn’t have his back to Lincoln. He’s in front of Lincoln as we march together to form a more perfect union.” Bro...why?

In an email to HuffPost, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People expressed disappointment with Zinke’s remarks:

“To attempt to link Lee’s achievements for the Confederacy which embraced White Supremacy to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a slight oversight but a huge historical misappropriation that the descendants of enslaved Africans cannot accept or tolerate,” Malik Russell, an NAACP spokesman, said in an email. “Dr. King’s work united our nation and bent the moral arc toward justice, while General Lee acquiesced to the ignoble norms of his time.”

I wonder how Zinke will defend himself this time.

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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