Toppling racist statues-Cultural debate is reopened

 Thanks George Floyd

Nations, when they start to be nations for a few centuries ago, agreed always upon symbols, flags, statues, parks, forests…to be their symbols, their heroes/heroines, and in a word their proudness. Even though they were empires before, as the British, Danish or French, very few dare to question the meaning of those symbols, especially the statues that were raised in different corners of their empires, and later nations. Post George eight minutes forty-six seconds a wave of demonstrations walk the streets of hundreds of cities around the world, reminding us of the movement that flourished in what is known as the Arab spring in all the Arab world. Although the main slogan, rightfully, was Black Lives Matter, young people from all races, religions, and nationalities walked together marching the streets, culminated in the slogan: “topple the racists,” toppling of statues that represent the era of the slave trade in the past four centuries. Africans shipped to America, through many European companies- mainly British. The list of those named by protestors is too long. Recently, Nancy Pelosi decided to move the statues of 13 of them from the congress halls. Already demonstrators drove few statues to the water of the harbor in Bristol city: such as Edward Colston. The man who compared Palestinians with dogs Winston Churchill’s statue was sprayed with graffiti as racist.: “He asked rhetorically before the Peel Commission “Why is there injustice done if people come in and make a livelihood for more and make the desert into palm groves and orange groves?”, believing in the myth of making the desert green!!:  “I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger, though he may have lain there for a very long time I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race or at any rate a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place. I do not admit it. I do not think the Red Indians had any right to say, ‘American continent belongs to us and we are not going to have any of these European settlers coming in here’. They had not the right, nor had they the power”. He continued summarising his views before the Peel Commission bluntly: “It is a question of which civilization you prefer.” At one point he explicitly told his Secretary of State for IndiaLeo Amery that he “hated Indians” and considered them “a beastly people with a beastly religion”!!!

Among others, as well, is Christopher Columbus’ statue, whom we were credited with discovering “the new world”, the Americas, in the 15th century…as if the Americas did not exist before, and did not have inhabitants. The same lie arrived in Palestine a century ago, to discover the promised land and make the desert green, as if Palestine was empty of its people and awaiting the new colonizers to enrich it! In 1897 a Rabai delegate reported to the rabbis of Vienna on the prospects for a Jewish state in Palestine:  “the bride is beautifulbut she is married to another man“. Native Americans protested many times the honoring of this discoverer who stood as a symbol of the genocide of their ancestors, where millions, an estimate of 20 million, were killed as a result of this “discovery”, but their shouts ended up in total silence, ignoring even to respond to their petitions. King Leopold 11 (1865-1909), under whose absolute rule of Congo- now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an estimated 10-15 million Africans died. Hands of men, women, and children were amputated when they did not come at the precise time or did not deliver the amount of rubber assigned to them. “Exterminate all the brutes” was the slogan of Kurtz in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.  As usual, experts who are always from the colonizing power, question marked the numbers,  saying that there wasn’t enough evidence.

Had there been no camera to register the 8:46 seconds of the killing of George Floyd, the experts and prosecutors of the police will come with the same excuse: no evidence, no documentation…and in many cases accusing the victim of violence and resisting the arrest by force. In the same week of George’s killing, a Palestinian with special needs was shot dead by four bullets in Jerusalem, while he was on his way to his school. Without the detailed report of an Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in Haaretz newspaper, and the interviews he did with Iyad’s carer, with the parents, and with the people who knew the 32 years old Iyad Hallaq. There was no camera in place, as with other hundreds of similar cases. After 72 years, the denial politic is still mainstream, although an abundance of material is in place

Europeans, and especially those who were colonial powers, including Denmark where I live, must face its past with braveness and recognize their dark past. This is a daring step that clears the educational curriculum and the heavy consciousness of the crimes committed and build a new generation’s identity that is not biased. Identity concept is a moving phenomenon, that always gets richer when it is more open towards the past. Without a critical approach to our past, neither our present nor our future will be bright as we think. Many thanks to George’s memory, which leads to questioning the past of hundreds of racist figures worldwide, who were wrongly glorified and praised as symbols of nationality. “Culture & Imperialism” 1993,   of Edward Said would help little bit those who want to put this phenomenon of cultural struggle, including nowadays toppling statues as I think, in its historical-cultural context. The main pivotal question is who wrote history, and who can judge the credibility of its discourse other than the people themselves from all races, religions, ethnicities and nationalities- versus the elite who mostly falsify the narrative to comfort those in power. Those marginalized and oppressed people- mainly blacks, women, colonized- do have the right to be heard and to put their narrative in real human history.