Removing Confederate statues is not the beginning of a conversation about racism, but rather a tool to attract the attention of the whole world, especially those who are unaware of daily human rights violations or have not heard the difficult conversations that activists of this race have been and are still narrating.
Written by: Tamara Malof
The killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020 pushed the Black and African American communities to remind the world of the injustice and persecution that they experience in their daily lives. They are sending the message that the police neither protect nor save them, but rather threaten their lives. Since then, the words “I can’t breathe” have become a rallying cry, or chant, in the subsequent protests across the United States of America and across the world. Protestors are working to attract the attention of officials, screaming and demanding justice for what happened to Floyd and thousands of others like him. The murder of Floyd was not the first in 2020, for it was preceded by the murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American Emergency medical technician (EMT), who was shot by the Louisville Metro Police on March 13, 2020, in her apartment. In addition to Taylor was Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old African American, who was shot and killed by Atlanta police. They all lost their lives because they have black skin.
The commemoration of June 19th 1865, also known as Juneteeth, when the Union soldiers announced that the enslaved were now free, came 3 weeks after George Floyd’s death. The protests strongly grew on its anniversary for liberation and hope for freedom. This year, protesters demanded the removal of Confederate statues, monuments and memorials in public places across all of the states of America. In some states – like Richmond, Virginia, Jacksonville, Florida and Indianapolis, Indiana – they moved quickly to remove these statues, while other states immediately enacted laws to protect them, prompting protesters to take matters into their own hands. On the other hand, many opposed the removal of these statues, for fear of erasing history. Although the owners were confederates, racists and slave owners, the existence of these statues is an example for history not to repeat itself. In my opinion, this was another excuse and argument to shift the focus from the main topic, the important issues that cause the demonstrations, namely: the fight against white supremacy and racial violence against Black and African Americans, as these statues are a reminder of the systemic injustice that continues to this day. The state usually puts statues of people whom society sees and believes to be a role model. Until this day, such people maintain the idea that these figures are still role models, although it appears that these statues were made and developed to support the ideas of white fanatics. Civil rights historians and groups say these statues were put in place to emphasize the superiority of whites over blacks during the nineteenth century. Recent protests in the United States have sparked a wave of protests around the world calling for the removal of statues of controversial historical figures, such as the statue of King Leopold II in Belgium, who killed millions of Congolese people, as well as the statue of the 17th-century slave trader, Edward Colston, in Bristol.
Removing these statues is not the beginning of a conversation about racism, but rather a tool to attract the attention of the whole world, especially those who are unaware of daily human rights violations or have not heard the difficult conversations that activists of this race have been and are still narrating. More people learned about the reality of slavery in the three days since the Edward Colston statue was cast into a harbour than they have learned in the past 150 years. In my opinion, the Black Lives Matter movement will not be effective unless these initiatives are met with an institutional will, which works to make decisions based on a sustainable structural and behavioral shift towards freedom and equality for Black and African Americans in the American society and around the world. Along with the protestors’ demand to remove Confederate statues, they adopted a list of other demands, such as freezing and reducing financial support for the police, under the slogan “defund the police,” and acknowledging police brutality, in which black lives are devalued and humiliated. In addition, they demanded immediate, radical and sustainable solutions for the prosperity of their communities.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.