The Rev. Robert Wright Lee IV took the stage at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards and attacked racism head-on with a speech that roused the crowd to raucous applause and cheers.
Lee, who is a descendant of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, took the stage in a rallying cry against racism, which he called “America’s original sin.”
Lee, looking nervous to be on the stage, began by lamenting that his ancestor had become an “idol of white supremacy.”
“My name is Robert Lee IV,” Lee introduced himself. “I’m a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the Civil War general whose statue was at the center of violence in Charlottesville. We have made my ancestor an idol of white supremacy, racism, and hate. As a pastor, it is my moral duty to speak out against racism, America’s original sin.”
He added, “Today, I call on all of us with privilege and power to answer God’s call to confront racism and white supremacy head on.”
Lee suggested that to “find inspiration” to fight racism and white supremacy, the U.S. doesn’t need to look any further than the Black Lives Matter movement and the women who marched in the Women’s March in January. He went on to praise Heather Heyer — the young woman killed in a terror attack earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, allegedly perpetrated by a man believed to be a white supremacist — who, he said, “died fighting for her beliefs.”
— MTV (@MTV) August 28, 2017
After his speech, he introduced Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who took the stage to hand out the award for “Best Fight Against the System.”
Additionally, Bro revealed the launch of a foundation in honor of her late daughter, which aims to provide scholarships to social activists in need.
Despite several artist nominations for “Best Fight Against the System” through music, it was later revealed that all five of the nominees won the award in a symbolic gesture of unity.