EDITOR, The Tribune
At the moment, we are disconnected from those whom we love. We are living with deep uncertainty, a future unknown. As we tepidly peer into that forward way, we are also being forced to look at the past anew. Life is one big contradiction, opposing forces wrestle with each other constantly in a fight for supremacy. As I write this letter, I am, as are you, both living and dying. This duality, this tension is what shapes how we see and approach life.
Currently, in the public consciousness is the issue of Christopher Columbus and the statue that reigns above us from the steps of Government House. History has shown that radical events that upend the very fabric of everyday life tends to heighten the problems that already existed. What will be the purpose of removing Christopher Columbus from the steps of State power? Will it give way to us truly addressing the broader issue of a collective sense of powerlessness that the average citizen feels?
In my opinion, the arguments being advanced to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus miss the central point. Toppling him will not dismantle inequality and the many deep-seated challenges we face in this country.
I am by no means dismissing the power of symbols, they do indeed matter for they give expression to deeper truths.
The truth of Columbus is that his story is central to the story of The Bahamas. We must reframe the language and the symbols we use to tell this story. However, we must not erase him from our collective memory. His encounter, for better and for worse changed the trajectory of the world. The clash of the “old” and “new” was explosive. Mr Christopher Columbus brought with him the tangible and the invisible. He brought with him both “progress” and pestilence. The European imports of guns and horses helped to radically shape the world in which we now live. That “progress” came with a price and as we know, resulted in the total eradication of the original inhabitants of The Bahamas, the Lucayans. Columbus came with a mandate to dominate and to exploit the bounty of the “new world” for the enrichment of his benefactors. The imposition of the other is still felt by many in this society today.
We need not celebrate him. We need to look at what he did and what occurred as a result and weigh it.
This conversation we are now having is a fantastic opportunity for us to allow our artists to tell OUR story and not have it told through the eyes of another. Yes, I agree that we must take Christopher Columbus off of his pedestal. He is not a paragon of virtue, for along the way he lost his moral compass. Allow him to remain on the steps of Government House and complete the story. Have him to confront his deeds. Have a majestic rendition of a noble Lucayan family look him in his eyes. Let this be his legacy.
University of The Bahamas,
June 15, 2020.