Monday 8 June 2020

Statues and slavery.

After a 40 year non-violent campaign mostly led by the black community to have Colston's statue moved to a museum, a campaign that got absolutely nowhere, frustration and anger and a global anti-racist mood finally brought about the statue's downfall. It didn't have to be this way. If those with the power to do so had simply listened sensitively to a hurting community and just moved the statue in the first place, this would not now be on our news feeds. 
For those who don't know, Edward Colston was a Tory businessman and 'philanthropist' from the late 17th and early 18th Century who made his money shipping almost 100,000 men women and children from their homes into slavery and into an early and brutish death on the plantations of the British colonies. 
During his time in control of the company, at least 19,000 Black people were dumped into the sea if they got sick or died on the journey from Africa to the plantations. That is why the statue got symbolically dumped into the harbour. 
The layout of a slave ship in the pictures below should be a help to those who are struggling to work out how they feel about all that has taken place. As should the picture of a slave, a person, being tossed into the ocean to drown.
The debate about whether the removal of a statue is a violent act or not is dwarfed by the sheer evil and violence of slavery.
I'm no fan of the failure of social distancing that a minority of the Black Lives Matter protests have shown - but I would say that most protesters in most cities have stuck to the rules and worn masks and kept their distance. But none of the complaints about protesting during a pandemic is a justification for allowing statues of mass murderers to simply be an acceptable part of our landscape, no matter how 'philanthropic' the people they represent may appear. As has often been said, a statue of Jimmy Saville would have soon been torn down in Leeds despite all his 'Jim'll fix it' philanthropy. People should not have to see their abusers glorified.
As in all abuse, the effects of that violation are still to be felt long after the event. Not just in the modern repercussions of racism in heath issues, housing policy, education and employment, but in the actual memory of slavery and the idea that one group of people are inferior to another. For those who are interested, it was only in 2015 that we finally finished paying the debt borrowed by the UK state to pay off the slave owners after the abolition of slavery act in 1833. It was the biggest payment in our history, more than the bankers bailout in 2008. It was 40% of our entire GDP. Not a penny went to slaves who still had to work as interns for free for a further 5 years.
I hope the statue is a replaced by something that stands for hope and kindness, or at the very least, remembers the horrors of all those dumped mercilessly in the sea whilst making huge profits for our elites.

No comments:

Post a Comment