Can I be her when I grow up? » « Lawless police Yay, Belgium! King Leopold II meets an appropriate fate. Splashed with red paint and burned. He never looked better. I doubt that George Floyd ever imagined that he would be involved in changing the world. Share this:PrintEmailShare on TumblrTweet Can I be her when I grow up? » « Lawless police
Eh, probably he’d rather not.
This is excellent news. The Financial Times had an interesting opinion piece yesterday talking about what statues mean and when we should take them down. I broadly agreed with it but was struck by this section,
It’s the first slippery slope I’ve come across where I have no problem sliding to the bottom as fast as possible. So what if we end up tearing down half the statues in Britain? If they’re all, as I suspect, of rich white guys who made their fortunes exploiting people then why are we still honouring them? What’s wrong with reassessing who we put on a literal pedestal? And if we end up taking half of them down that frees up a huge amount of space to honour people who made a positive difference to people’s lives.
I was thinking about these actions of erasing past assholes from our landscapes and realized a very important one to put on our list. I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, named for…you can guess…Andrew Jackson. What a swine. Killer of vast numbers of native Americans, disposing them of their homes to expand slavery. Huge supporter of slavery (he was an owner of course). He supported the filibustering of Texas. The Texian civil war…the Battle of the Alamo, etc…happened during his presidency.
According to WikiPedia there are at least 22 cities and towns named “Jackson” per se. Then there are all the variants like Jacksonville. Sure, some might not be named for him, but many are in the South especially but other parts of the country. Plus all the other things named for him like counties, streets, schools, parks, etc. God knows how many places and memorials are named for that bigot and killer.
So, when the US starts erasing that guys name from our landscape, then we’re getting some place.
JSYK…Jacksonville was originally called “Cow Ford”. Kind of picturesque don’t you think.
He’s one of the lesser known villains of history. Have there ever been statues of him in Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville)?
Indeed. It’s very troubling that he has been lost to history. The scale of his crimes are on the Hitler/Stalin/Mao level.
Part of the reason for the ignorance, I believe, is that he killed lots of Africans – invisible victims.
Another reason, I would say, is that he’s one of the clearest examples of atrocities in the name of capitalism (or something like it)-his crimes were the result of forcing the people of the Congo to give him rubber to sell. The mutilations and deaths were caused in pursuit of commerce.
That capitalism/commerce has its modern answer to the crimes of totalitarianism and communism is an inconvenient truth for the “End of History” types.
I hope there’s a difference between destroying monuments to these monsters and “lost to history.” We certainly don’t want to lose Leopold to history, any more than Andrew Jackson, Hitler, Stalin, or any of the other people who exploited, enslaved, and murdered people for personal profit or even because of over the centuries. That seems like a history education problem, but of course, know one is interested in history except to get through required courses in school. Removing the memorials and monuments does serve to reduce the “hero worship” aspect of our collective memory of these peoples.
Gregory Greenwood says
At this juncture I think there is a considerable argument for all governments of good conscience (if such a beast truly exists in the world) to take a long, hard look at all the statues and memorials in their territory, identify the ones that are affiliated with slavery, racism, oppression of any kind, war crimes and/or any form of abuse of human rights, and then have all the statues that have such associations removed and replaced with statues and memorials to people who actually contributed positively to the benefit of all human kind.
Once removed, I don’t think those statues should be destroyed. Instead, they should be moved to a dedicated museum, free to the public, that chronicles the true context and place of those individuals in history, with no whitewashing or attempts to elide the truth of the horrors they perpetrated or enabled. If they did good works too, by all means mention them (there is no need to edit history, though I suspect a great many of those ‘good works’ would transpire to have been funded by their crimes against ethnic minority and other marginalised persons, rather tainting any claims of altruistic credentials), but be sure that their abuses are never brushed under the carpet, no matter whose nose is put out of joint by historical accuracy.
As for those statues, like that of King Leopold II and Edward Colston, that have already been torn down and now bear the marks of the anger of the people, don’t restore them. Display them as they are, and include – as part of the historical context surrounding the statue – the reason why it was torn down and defaced and the significance of those acts in the current protests.
Let these statues stand as memorials to something more than the power and wealth of slavers, butchers and socially high ranking psychopaths.
Oops…”or even because of ideological reasons…”
George Floyd probably never anticipated that his murder by police would be the spark that lit the prairie fire. However, a few days ago, Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna was asked about her father. She’s quoted as saying simply, “Daddy changed the world.” What a legacy this poor Black man has left his daughter! Assuming we all survive the climate catastrophe, I hope that 100 years from now Trump, Barr, et al will be vague historical figures. Floyd, on the other hand–at least I hope so–will be different. Our struggle is a struggle of memory against forgetting.
robro @6, the people who want the statues down are probably the last people who want the deeds and memory of the people they represent to be ‘lost to history’. As David Olusoga, and many others, have said, statues aren’t about history, they’re about adoration. People, even in Bristol (myself included), have learned more about Colston in the last few days than the rest of our lifetimes. I’ve walked passed the statue countless times, hardly given him a thought. We manage to remember Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, even though there’s no statues of them still standing. If anything, the statues make the remembering harder because we have to fight the idea that they can’t be bad people because otherwise why would there be a statue to them?
@sarah00 : There’s a whole park (Grūtas Park) in Lithuania of Soviet statues that is very much not pro-Soviet, but makes good use of the ample bits of giant statues that were left lying around after the end of the USSR.
In my city there is a genuine Soviet statue of Lenin in a tiny park in a weird part of the city. The statue regularly has its hands painted red, but is also dressed up for various holidays and celebrations. The reason that is funny/meaningful is because people know who Lenin was and what he did and his place in history, which is why covering a statue of him in rainbow flags for Pride has layers of meaning.
But it takes a lot of work to make a statue, particularly a heroic-style statue, an object of ire, derision, and education. If people feel the need for statues, how about statues to people who’ve done objective good? How about a statue to Dr John Snow? Or Ada Lovelace? Or, if it’s got to be war-themed, how about the Land Army?
In Shrewsbury ,there is a statue of Clive Of India ,people have started a petition to have it removed .
Also in Shrewsbury there is a statue of Lord Hill ,but he stands on the top of the tallest Doric column in the world ,so anyone wanting to topple him should have a head for heights .
sarah00 @ #10 — Let’s hope so, although there is a risk that people forget. A mere 75 years after the defeat of fascism in Europe people, especially Americans, parade with Nazi Party flags and guns. Americans are particularly adept at taking the history that suits them and forgetting the rest a la the South immortalizing the Civil War.
Given the history, the statue should have had its hands cut off.
I read that happened to a statue dedicated to glorifying Belgium’s actions in the Congo.
I never fail to be sickened when seeing what people will do in the name of profit.
Alex the Pretty Good says
Unfortunately, it was just one of them, in a smaller city and apparently (according to the article) already scheduled for removal in a few years.
In the meantime, the big one in Brussels, next to the royal palace, is still standing, regardless of how often it gets dunked in red paint. Maybe once I can go back to the office in a few months I will no longer have to look at it. Hope springs eternal :)
But at least the University of Leuven has seen the sign of the times an decided to remove a bust of Leopold II that was present in the main university library .
I was just thinking earlier today that I’m sad that George Floyd will never know the transformations his suffering wrought.
Like Mohammed Bouazizi, they were the sparks that lit the tinder of rage, and neither would have any idea of what happened in the wake. Neither could have known.