Should We Celebrate Columbus Day Essay

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 12:49:24 AM

Should We Celebrate Columbus Day Essay

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Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Columbus Day - 80Twelve

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I place great value on those who fought for equality and inclusion and against bigotry and privilege. But their value to me need not be set in stone and raised on a pedestal. My sense of self-worth is not contingent on seeing those who represent my viewpoints, history and moral compass forced on the broader public. F or me the issue starts with the very purpose of a statue. They are among the most fundamentally conservative — with a small c — expressions of public art possible. They are erected with eternity in mind — a fixed point on the landscape. Never to be moved, removed, adapted or engaged with beyond popular reverence.

Whatever values they represent are the preserve of the establishment. To put up a statue you must own the land on which it stands and have the authority and means to do so. As such they represent the value system of the establishment at any given time that is then projected into the forever. That is unsustainable. It is also arrogant. Societies evolve; norms change; attitudes progress. Take the mining magnate, imperialist and unabashed white supremacist Cecil Rhodes. He donated significant amounts of money with the express desire that he be remembered for 4, years.

The trouble is that his intention was that he would be remembered fondly. So in both South Africa and Britain we have been saddled with these monuments to Rhodes. The trouble is that they are not his only legacy. The systems of racial subjugation in southern Africa, of which he was a principal architect, are still with us. The income and wealth disparities in that part of the world did not come about by bad luck or hard work.

They were created by design. We must adopt a system of despotism, such as works in India, in our relations with the barbarism of South Africa. A similar story can be told in the southern states of the US. Clearly these statues — of Confederate soldiers in the South, or of Rhodes in South Africa and Oxford — do not represent a consensus now. If they did, they would not be challenged as they are. Nor is anyone seeking historical closure via the removal of a statue. The questions that some of these monuments raise — of racial inequality, white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism and slavery — are still very much with us.

There is a reason why these particular statues, and not, say, that of Robert Raikes, who founded Sunday schools, which stands in Victoria Embankment Gardens in London, were targeted during the Black Lives Matter protests. But these statues never represented a consensus, even when they were erected. Take the statues of Confederate figures in Richmond, Virginia that were the focus of protests last summer. The substantial African American population of the city would hardly have been pleased to see them up there.

And nor were many whites, either. Calls for the removal of statues have also raised the charge that longstanding works of public art are at the mercy of political whim. But our research showed these statues were not removed as a fad or in a feverish moment of insubordination. People had been calling for them to be removed for half a century. And the issue was never confined to the statue itself. It was always about what the statue represented: the prevailing and persistent issues that remained, and the legacy of whatever the statue was erected to symbolise.

O ne of the greatest distractions when it comes to removing statues is the argument that to remove a statue is to erase history; that to change something about a statue is to tamper with history. This is such arrant nonsense it is difficult to know where to begin, so I guess it would make sense to begin at the beginning. Statues are not history; they represent historical figures.

Statues are symbols of reverence; they are not symbols of history. They elevate an individual from a historical moment and celebrate them. Nobody thinks that when Iraqis removed statues of Saddam Hussein from around the country they wanted him to be forgotten. Quite the opposite. They wanted him, and his crimes, to be remembered. Indeed, if the people removing a statue are trying to erase history, then they are very bad at it. For if the erection of a statue is a fact of history, then removing it is no less so.

It can also do far more to raise awareness of history. More people know about Colston and what he did as a result of his statue being taken down than ever did as a result of it being put up. Indeed, the very people campaigning to take down the symbols of colonialism and slavery are the same ones who want more to be taught about colonialism and slavery in schools.

But to claim that statues represent history does not merely misrepresent the role of statues, it misunderstands history and their place in it. The American civil war ended in The South lost. Much of its economy and infrastructure were laid to waste. Almost one in six white Southern men aged 13 to 43 died; even more were wounded; more again were captured. Southerners had to forget the reality of the civil war before they could celebrate it. They did not want to remember the civil war as an episode that brought devastation and humiliation.

Very few statues went up in the decades immediately after the war. According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, almost monuments to the Confederate cause went up between and More than half were built within one seven-year period , between and The timing was no coincidence. It was long enough since the horrors of the civil war that it could be misremembered as a noble defence of racialised regional culture rather than just slavery. We understand that you expect our writers and editors to do the job no matter how difficult they are.

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