EDITOR, The Tribune
It is no coincidence that the debate surrounding the statue of Christopher Columbus has resurfaced in recent weeks. At a time when protests over racism in the United States and around the world are in full bloom, it is only logical that we are again talking about Columbus. The two issues are inextricably linked. The protests that started with the death of George Floyd have in some parts of the United States led to renewed calls for the removal of confederate and Columbus monuments. And rightly so. Knowing what we know about the true legacy of Columbus, why do we continue to hold him in such high honour?
Some have questioned the importance of this discussion when there are so many seemingly more pressing issues facing us. For me, the answer to that question is this: it is important because it affects how we see ourselves. It is the difference between us continuing to be a loyal vassal, continuing to pay homage to European dominance on the one hand and recognising and embracing our own value as a people on the other. The statue of Columbus on the steps of Government House looms large as a symbol of European imperialism. Certainly, his “discovery” of the “New World” marked the advent of the great age of Atlantic exploration and trade. But it also marked the violent end of the indigenous population in the region and the eventual slave trade and colonisation by the Europeans.
The calls for the removal of the statue of Columbus do not signal a denial of history. The historical impact of Columbus is as undeniable as the impact of Adolf Hitler on the history of Europe. We recognise it, but why celebrate it? Yes, history has brought us to where we are today. Let us not forget history, but let us put it in its place. Columbus’s place is in the history books and museums. This will forever allow us to remember how we came to where we are, but it is time that we move beyond our allegiance to European colonisers and slave masters. The removal of this symbol of colonialism would for us represent a rejection of the neocolonialism that still grips us today. Such action would be much more than symbolic. It might actually begin to change our mindset and empower us to finally recognise our self-worth.
June 15, 2020