Deconstructing Racism or destroying cultural heritage?

The unfortunate murder of George Floyd on May 25,2020, triggered a global indignation and pressing claims to reconsider the structural racism and imperialism in public institutions. Around the western world monuments representing imperialist,oppressors,enslavers, colonialists and murders are symbols in schools, highways and streets. The showing-off of these statues is a sign of celebration of these ideas and an adherences to their actions, which makes it difficult to move towards a just society when racism is imbedded in the structures and institutions of a society.

Statues on a Confederate monument were covered in grafitti and then beheaded after a protest in Postsmouth,VA (Kristen Zeis/AP)

Many have opposed the actions of the protestors who brought down some of the statues, and have accused them of vandalism. However, this form of action is not new and societies in the past have rebelled against the celebration of oppressive symbols : the statues of Stalin and Saddam Hussein where a rise from the public against their painful past.

The main concern of the opponents is that this might erase history as Gaines argues “as a historian, I am concerned about the past being erased” (Morris,2020). However, in taking down these monuments that celebrate an imperialist and white supremacist past, history is not being forgotten, rather the truth is made known to the public. Many may mistake these men as being heroic and good since they are being admired and the truth about them is not clear.

Instead of glorifying them as national heroes and symbols of a country, these historical figures should be studied in schools and libraries to remind the general public on how these white-supremacists founded these societies on oppression, murder and rape. This uncomfortable past should not be ignored away with a statue, rather it should be acknowledged and studied. Hence, rather than celebrating these men by showing-off their statues in public places, leaders should move this history to schools and teach about the Atlantic slave trade and how some of these men made a fortune out of trading the lives of black people. It is only through the recognition of this history in its truth that we can hope to change the future. As a member of parliament is Bristol argued “having statues of people who oppressed us is not a good thing.” Removing his statue, she added, was “an opportunity for us as a city to talk about that history.” (Cavert,2020).

Therefore, the relocation of these historical figures from public places to books, public debates and classrooms is the right step forward to deconstruct racism and learn about the mistakes our societies made in the past so as not reproduce them. The recent widespread of the Black Lives Matter movement is an overdue revolt to introduce structural reforms towards a more just future and societies.

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