Proud member of President Donald Trump's evangelical advisory board and leader of the Harvest Praise and Worship Center in Easley, South Carolina, Pastor Mark Burns has some advice for Americans advocating the removal of confederate statues — let them stand.
In a broadcast on Periscope Tuesday, Burns defended confederate statues as a legitimate part of American history.
Despite the ugliness the statues represent, he said, Americans should rally for new statues of civil rights leaders to be erected instead of trying to remove "historical artifacts."
"As everyone already knows, I always speak the truth and I know people do not like, especially coming from a black man because it destroys the narrative that sells papers that gets people to watch fake news. But I'm going to just give you what I believe is a solution to the statues and the removal of these historical artifacts that are across our nation because of incidents that took place in Charlottesville," Burns said.
"I just truly believe that it's so important that we don't destroy history but we create new history. I think that's the key to our situation. You don't remove statues whether you agree with it or not. Whether they owned slaves or not, it's irrelevant. My wife is white but I'm pretty sure if you research her family history, who is from Texas, I'm pretty sure that her great, great, great-grandfather probably owned slaves, a high percentage chance. But do I hold my white wife accountable for what her great-great-great-great-grandfather did?" he asked. "No, I do not. We don't eliminate that history because from that history birthed six beautiful brown babies."
Anger among white nationalist socialist groups was triggered earlier this year when the Charlottesville City Council in Virginia voted in February to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from what was then called Robert E. Lee Park. City officials renamed the Robert E. Lee Park as Emancipation Park in June.
Last month, white nationalist socialists marched through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, led by Richard Spencer, a graduate of the school, holding tiki torches ahead of a so-called "Unite the Right" rally — organized by Jason Kessler, a man who used to be an Obama supporter and an Occupy Wall Street activist — to demand protection for the statue of Lee. They chanted "white lives matter," "you will not replace us," as well as the Nazi-related phrase "blood and soil."
The rally came to a head on Aug. 12 when James Alex Fields Jr., 20, an alleged Nazi sympathizer, plowed his car into a crowd of activists, killing one person and injuring 19 others.
Since then, several cities across the country have responded by removing confederate statues, sparking a more intense national debate that drew a response from President Trump. In a series of tweets Trump called the removal of the monuments "sad" and "foolish."
"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" he said. "Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"
Burns urged those advocating for the removal of statues to honor the more noble parts of history instead of trying to hide the dark parts.
"We don't need to be removing statues ... but we need to be erecting new statues. It's really that simple. We need to be erecting new statues. There are so many civil rights leaders — whites and blacks — that have lost their lives, that have died for a fight so that I can even stand here today and talk to you free," he said.
"There are so many, even during the time of slavery, that risked their real lives and experienced real slavery, real racism. I'm not talking about no white cop pulled me over and I'm assuming that he pulled me over because I'm black. Those cases do happen, but [I'm talking about] real racism. The white person, whatever the case may be, had a bad day that day and I assume they are mad at me because they are racist," he continued.
He mentioned civil rights icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Marcus Garvey whose conviction he believes Trump should overturn.
He also pointed out that America has come a such a long way from its dark past, even electing President Barack Obama, a black man with a black family, to lead the nation for two terms.
"Whether you agree with his politics or not, he was very much black. His wife was very much black, their children very much black. Yet for two terms, eight years, he was the most powerful man in the world and still has great influence even today around the world," he said.
"So instead of destroying statues, let's start erecting new statues. Let's start raising up statues and let's place them right beside some of the confederate soldiers and beside some of the confederate generals," he added.