As debate continues about a controversial statue's place on the Texas A&M campus, senior quarterback Kellen Mond has taken on a role as an outspoken critic of the monument and those who wish to keep it, saying the statue represents someone who "killed and disenfranchised blacks."
Last Wednesday, the statue of Lawrence "Sul" Ross, a former Confederate general, Texas governor and A&M president, was vandalized, spray-painted with "Racist" and the acronyms BLM and ACAB, and a clown wig was placed atop the statue's head. This weekend, there were protests for and against its removal in front of the statue in the center of campus.
Critics of the statue say it should be moved based on Ross' past as a Confederate general and historic claims of suppression of indigenous and black citizens in Texas. Supporters claim the statue represents his role in saving the university and honors him in that context, and that any claims of white supremacy are untrue, citing his fight to protect funding for Prairie View A&M, a historically black university, in addition to other services for black Texans he created as governor.
On Saturday, A&M professor Michael Alvard, an assistant in the school's department of anthropology who is a supporter of the statue's removal, was arrested by Texas A&M police after crossing police tape into an "exclusionary zone" between the protesters while trying to speak.
Mond tweeted, "Michael Alvard was arrested at the Sully Statue protest for trying to speak to both sides of the protest. Yes, one side is counter protesting racism."
In response to a tweet saying that wasn't the case, Mond replied: "If one side is protesting racism, the other side is counter protesting racism. Prairie View A&M was created to obtain federal funds from the second Morrill Act (1890). Instead of integrating the TAMU campus, PVAMU was created. He killed and disenfranchised blacks."
If one side is protesting racism, the other side is counter protesting racism.— K M o n d (@TheKellenMond) June 15, 2020
Prairie View A&M was created to obtain federal funds from the second Morrill Act (1890). Instead of integrating the TAMU campus, PVAMU was created.
He killed and disenfranchised blacks. https://t.co/G6vwB3sH5E
Ross served as president of Texas A&M from 1891 to 1898, and his statue was dedicated in 1919. Aggies have a long-standing tradition of placing a penny on its base as a way of honoring "Sully," who would reportedly help students with their homework, only requesting "a penny for your thoughts" in return.
This weekend, protesters for keeping the statue held signs that read "Aggie traditions matter" in response to the "Black Lives Matter" signs and sang the "Aggie War Hymn," the school's fight song, to counter BLM protesters.
Happening now on the Texas A&M campus. 2:52 pm pic.twitter.com/1gkd4hgkMR— Rusty Surette (@KBTXRusty) June 13, 2020
Texas A&M president Michael Young defended the Ross statue's place on campus in 2017 as the national debate raged after protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and several monuments were removed at the University of Texas in Austin. "Without Sul Ross, neither Texas A&M University nor Prairie View A&M University would likely exist today," Young said in a statement in 2017. "He saved our school and Prairie View through his consistent advocacy in the face of those who persistently wanted to close us down."
Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp wrote a letter to the editor of The Battalion, the school newspaper, in 2018 disputing any claims that Ross was a white supremacist and saying that Prairie View's first president had once said that Ross was "perhaps the best friend black Texans ever had" because of his advocacy for the institution.
"We are all entitled to our opinion, but we are not entitled to our own wrongheaded facts," Sharp added. "Lawrence Sullivan Ross will have his statue at Texas A&M forever, not because of obstinance, but because he deserves the honor with a lifetime of service to ALL TEXANS and ALL AGGIES."
Critics of Ross point to his days as a storied "Indian fighter" in the early Texas frontier. In the Civil War, he was accused by Union generals of killing black soldiers who were captured in battle in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and threatening to use "no quarter" against commanders who fought alongside black soldiers against him.
This weekend, the Texas A&M history department released a statement to university administrators disputing his goodwill toward black citizens as governor.
"Anti-Black laws, poll taxes and voter intimidation, and violent attacks against people of color were the primary way that white southerners consolidated their power in the post-Reconstruction era," the statement said. "It is unequivocally true that Ross agreed with, supported, and defended these policies until his death, even as he carried out what might be considered isolated acts of charity towards some communities of color."
Mond, who is from San Antonio, again replied to a since-deleted tweet that said people were spreading false information about Ross.
"You can't make up a FACT," Mond said. "It's a FACT for a reason. The information is out there, but some people don't want to research because it could change the way they perceive someone / something. IGNORANCE keeps people from UNITY & CHANGE."