In the past days and weeks, we’ve witnesses Black Lives Matter protesters removing statues all over the world. A lot of people criticize these acts, saying it’s about erasing and rewriting history, even comparing it with what happens in 1984, by Orwell.
I’m going to ask yourself a simple question: when you see a statue, what do you think? What’s your reaction and thoughts?
Do you think that this statue is there for educational purposes? To remember something bad? No. Absolutely no. A statue is used to commemorate something. Its purpose is to honor and celebrate someone. That’s the goal of a statue.
We build statues when we want to remember someone for their deeds. But of course, times change and so do mentalities and general agreement on what’s good and what’s bad. That’s why in the past statues of slaves’ traders, openly racist leaders or other people who we now consider as bad have been built. And that’s why there was a statue of Edward Colston in the streets of Bristol, England. Because his money from slavery helped build the city and that type of activity wasn’t considered as bad by the majority at the time, so a statue was built for him. A statue that protesters toppled a few days ago.
And that’s where people start to disagree. Some say we should remove all these statues of people who are absolutely disgusting when we think about what they did, while others say it’s dangerous because it would mean erasing history. Well, you’ll have understood it by now, the purpose of this article isn’t to just give the facts about that fight but to support the first idea. Yes, I do believe that these statues must fall.
I don’t think that by doing that, we would erase or rewrite history. It has never been said that we would stop acknowledging our horrible past and present of white and European domination. It’s not the goal. We do want to remember what happened, that’s the whole idea of protesting against racism. If we just remove every piece linked to racism or slavery of our history books, then we consider that it never existed and by doing so, we consider that racism doesn’t exist, which is not really what the Black Lives Matter movement is about…
But the -big- difference is actually there. In my last sentence. I said “history books”. Not “streets”. There’s a very big difference between remembering history in books and the streets. History books and museums (or Wikipedia pages or whatever you use to learn about history) give facts and you know when you read that kind of text or see something in a museum that it has to be put into a context. You know that it’s not because the book explains about slavery that the authors agree with that. It’s just that it existed at some point.
This is not the case with a statue. As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of a statue is to celebrate and honor someone. Not to inform and educate. When you search for something in a book or a museum, your brain is read to contextualize. Not when you just walk in the street and see a statue. We associate it with the idea that this person was great if they deserved a statue. This is where it’s dangerous in itself. And where you understand the idea behind removing these statues.
Then there are two things you can still argue on: the fact that by putting these statues in the streets we see them and think about history and the fact that they are pieces of art. Firstly, no. That’s wrong. When you see a statue, you don’t know it’s there for you to remember the person was a slave trader. The only way it could be done would be by putting huge explanations around, that you could see from far, to explain. I don’t think it’s doable. A single small text at the base of the statue isn’t enough. And for the art, honestly, I don’t care much about art when it celebrates someone who did such bad things.
You see, it won’t rewrite history, because the truth will always be found in books and museums. Just not in the streets. That’s the idea. We definitely need to remember history and our past, but statues are not a good way to do so.
Let’s remove those statues and replace them with ones of people who did actual good things that helped humankind become better.