As the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests sparked by the gruesome murder of George Floyd continues in the US and spreads to other parts of the world, I would like to urge that the statues of racists and slave owners or traders be allowed to remain. I say this because I have seen the deliberate attempt, in certain quarters, to destroy or rewrite history. Pulling these statues down is only going to help further that cause, and very soon, the younger generations of Black people will wonder if the racial injustice we march against now ever ‘really’ existed.
Just two years ago, many were shocked when the popular rapper and business mogul, Kanye West, expressed incredulity in the fact that the ancestors of the present day African Americans (including his as well) were enslaved for 400 years. Kanye said it ‘sounds like a choice’ to him. Even as the current protest continues, I have seen some Blacks like Ben Carson deny the presence of systemic racism and some like Candace Owen saying that Floyd was not a Saint and deserves no veneration.
As for Kanye, one wonders what kind of education he was given because even if 400 years sounds incredulous to him, surely he must have heard of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela. Or perhaps, tales of these people and their deeds were mere imaginations too?
I have seen tweets by few Black people who claim that they were born and breed in America and that they have never felt oppressed in all their lives. While this may not be untrue, it still does not rule out the fact that many around them feel this oppression. That they do not see it or pretend not to notice it does not imply that they or someone close to them would not soon be victims of this oppression.
And about Candace Owen, I watched where she tried to debase Floyd by digging into his criminal past and I see why knowing your history is important. I am not surprised because I have also read of African slaves who loved their masters because ‘Massa, him treat me well’. The problem usually comes when the master dies and his not too benevolent son takes over and begins to tell the slaves their place in the household. Cadence’s case is similar to that of this category of slaves.
When a system is deliberately tilted to work against you, you can never be conventional. No one should come here and tell me about how many Africans migrate to the US and become successful because I shall also tell you that Chinese are flying in droves to the same Africa many run from and these Chinese are recording financial success despite the ‘supposed’ poverty in Africa! The migrant knows the country he lives owes him nothing but America (like Britain and France) owes the African American whose ancestors were enslaved for 400 years, whose ancestors’ sweats built the many business empires that still exist till date, whose great grandparents even when given freedom were left without a penny to start life with and were deliberately kept poor and denied access to certain amenities and opportunities in life. Yes, America owes them a debt. While many White children inherit a substantial estate to begin life with from their parents, African Americans; in contrast; get nothing to start life with from their parents and have to build something for themselves from scratch. Any wonder why it a life of crime might seem so alluring for a young fellow hoping to make good in the world?
When you listen to people like Kanye and Cadence talk, you realise that the system has achieved considerable success in erasing or hiding the many records of its unjust acts just as certain elements in the Nigerian government went on to cancel the teaching of history in primary and high schools because of the Civil War. Once did I read of Britain destroying evidence of its colonial atrocities in East Africa, and I wonder if the history of slavery and black struggle is properly taught in American high schools today. If there were, did Cadence and Kanye miss out on those classes?
At this point, it appears documenting the many atrocities against the black race in books is just not enough because the younger generations of Black Africans are not attuned to reading, perhaps we have to return to the old days of oral tradition. We as parents, uncles and aunts owe the younger generation the duty of telling them the history that the White world tries to hide away from their curious eyes. Take them before these statues and tell them what the statues really represent. Let the statues tell the stories of how society venerates oppressors and oppression. Show them the statue of King Leopold II of Belgium who killed about 15 million black people, but who is considered a saint compared to Hitler simply because German Adolf Hitler threatened the Caucasian race. Show them the confederate statues decorating American landscape and tell them the stories of those men and their deeds. Tell them about how your ancestors were loaded in ships, kept in manacles and loaded off to the Americas, tell them of those who were hounded by dogs as they followed a star to escape at night, tell them of the freedom that came only with a war, tell them that their great grandparents could not attend the same schools, sit at the same places, or use the same toilets as a white man. Do not forget to tell them all these.
Bringing these statues down means you want to forget the past and I say this is not the time to forget else you run the risk of having children that would one day tell you that slavery and racial injustice never existed on the American soil.
So, I plead that those statues be left to remain standing for in them do we see tales of societal injustice against a people on the basis of skin pigmentation, in them do we see the several lashes ornamenting the back of an African slave, in them do we remember that though the human race makes pretence at civilization, we still remain the animalistic brutes we have always been. Teach your children that it is good and honourable to forgive, but let them also know that it is shameful and distasteful to forget.
#Black Lives Matter
© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy