The world witnessed the cruel killing of 46-year-old African American, George Perry Floyd Jr. by Minnesota state police officer, Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, USA. After the video of the crime scene went viral on media platforms, the people of America went into weeks of massive protests and riots, across the United States of America.
In solidarity, other countries (Australia, Belgium, United Kingdom etc ) with people of African descent joined the march with famous quote Black lives Matter among other liberation phrases.
George was killed after he was arrested for attempting to spend a counterfeit $20 note. During his arrest, Derek Chauvin, white-American police knelt on his neck and back for eight minutes and 46 seconds leading to his death.
It is largely believed that the death of George was triggered by racism and the ideology of white supremacy in the American police force.
Going by history, most black people in western countries can trace their origin back to the days of trans -Atlantic slavery, which took place majorly between the 16th to 19th centuries.
People and governments with the belief that the centuries-long, slave, and master relationship between western societies and Africa is largely to blame for the racism and brutality, experienced by black people in white-dominated countries, have taken a huge step to dishonor celebrated slave masters started by destroying their monuments tums and statues in public spaces.
Below are statues of iconic slave masters in different countries that benefited from the trans-Atlantic trade.
Edward Colston in Bristol, England.
Last Sunday, a group of protesters uprooted an 18-foot tall statue of a 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston down from its pedestal in Bristol, England.
After successfully bringing down the statue, the protester recreated the scene of Derek Chauvin on George Floyd’s neck with the momentum, while others danced atop the felled sculpture. The group eventually threw the artifact into Bristol Harbor.
Colston was a British national who made his riches as a major stakeholder in the slave trade, during his regime as the deputy governor of the Royal African Company. It is believed that he influenced the abduction of 84,500 African men, women, and even children.
Even worse was that almost 20,000 of these enslaved individuals died on the excruciating voyage across the Atlantic ocean. Colston later joined South Seas Company, where he oversaw the enslavement and transportation of over 15,000 people.
Numerous institutions in Bristol are named after the slave trader master, one of the most popular is the Colston Hall concert venue, which was built in 1867.
Bristol Music Trust, which operates the venue, announced in 2017 that it would change the hall’s name. With the influence of the George Floyd death and the black lives matter demonstration, the administration has disclosed that the hall’s name will be changed by fall 2020.
King Leopold II of Belgium
The 150-year-old statue of King Leopold II of Belgium was removed from a public square in Antwerp last Tuesday, after massive pressure from anti-racist protesters in Belgium.
The people of the European country believe the statue is not fit for public honor due to King Leopold’s cruel decades of leadership in Congo Free State in the 19th century. This accounted for the death of 10–15 million Africans.
During Leopold’s proprietorship of the territory, which is now known as the Republic of Congo, he exploited rubber, minerals, and ivory under severe human abuse and slavery using his special military forces called Force Publique.
Historians say the punishment for rubber shortages on the field was followed by the cutting of limbs or death.
Prior to the removal of his statue in Belgium, the Independent State of the Congo already ejected his statue twice. It was first removed after the Congolese independence in 1960 from the capital Kinshasa.
By 2005, the Leopold II statue was mounted again due to a preposition by Congolese culture minister Christophe Muzungu that Leopold was part of the country’s history. However, just after a few hours of installation, the six-meter (20 ft) statue, which was installed near Kinshasa’s central station was officially removed.
Evidently, the relics of slavery on both African and western soil is taking a new leap as people are becoming more conscious of who deserves public honor and prestige.
Perhaps the ongoing trend of taking down monuments might motivate various international communities, and even cultural centers around the world, to consider a thorough investigation into the life and times of personalities before idolizing them in public spaces.