2020 June 30 – National Geographic: As monuments fall, how does the world reckon with a racist past?

Screenshot National Geographic report debate USA worldwide decolonisation racist past

As monuments fall, how does the world reckon with a racist past?

Heroes of the past are considered dishonourable today. Should these relics be removed or preserved as mementos of history?



“(…) the statue of Arthur Ashe [‘black’ tennis legend, ed.] may soon be the last one standing on Monument Avenue in Virginia’s capital [Richmond, ed.]. In the past month, Confederate monuments adorning the boulevard have either been toppled or are slated for removal. Pushed by a dizzying groundswell of opposition to long standing symbols of the Confederacy and white supremacy, numerous state and local governments, universities, corporations, and entertainers such as the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum, have taken decisive steps to distance their names and brands from iconography of America’s racist past.

Few monuments in the U.S. or around the world seem safe from scrutiny at the moment. Statues of former Presidents George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt have become high-profile targets for attack or removal. (…) British colonial-era politicians Winston Churchill and Cecil Rhodes and even anti-colonial Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi have come into the crosshairs of statue abolitionists around the world.

A major reconsideration of how the history of colonialisation, slavery, and white supremacy is taught and viewed, especially through public art and memorials, is furiously underway. It grew out of social unrest and a tense reexamination of race relations that has raged since video emerged of George Floyd pinned to the ground and dying under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020. Calls for change started long before that awful encounter. Floyd’s blood served as petrol on a smouldering fire.

Now, tough questions are being asked globally. What symbols from our past must be reconsidered or simply discarded? What stories demand a more complete and honest retelling? How should history be taught? (…)”


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