June 13, 2020 | By Hopeton O’Connor Dennie |
There are reports of statues which have been toppled from their bases internationally. As a black person, my mission in life has been to fight racism. Poems and newspaper articles have been penned by me in opposition to anti-black racism. We can understand the feelings of outrage. Let us opt for the moral high ground. “When they go low we go high”. Michelle Obama. Remove symbols of racism as much as is practicable.
Racism Is Indecent
We have long opined that “Racism is an affront to decency”. Hitler exterminated an estimated 6 million Jews. What did the Jews do to the Germans and in particular Hitler to deserve all that?. Hitler did not work alone. Yes, he was in a position to give orders. To give order is one thing, but subordinates did carry out those orders.
PM Justin Trudeau of Canada has repeatedly condemned systemic racism and has acknowledged that it exists also in Canada … even in law enforcement. Recent use of excessive force and unfortunate incidents in the RCMP, their national police force, is under close scrutiny.. Many in their leadership are in denial.
The three police officers who stood by and did nothing as Derek Chauvin, who video captured kneeling on the neck of a protesting, suffering and dying George Floyd pleading for his life for 8 minutes & 46 seconds were complicit. They did not protest at what Chauvin was doing. They were as guilty as he is. He suffocated, as oxygen was cut off to his brain. Chauvin and his 3 confederates have since been dismissed and then were arrested and criminally charged for manslaughter etc… all 4 have now been charged. Bail has been set at between one million plus dollars. Chauvin has already made a virtual court appearance. The three stood by like the German collaborators who exterminated the Jews. They are equally guilty … having also been complicit. Was this racism?
In United Kingdom
Edward Colston statue in Bristol, UK, a slave trader, had a statue erected in his honour. For them he was their hero. Colston’s statue has been toppled and tossed into the nearby river. We may not all agree, but to understand why this and other statures were erected, one has to appreciate that the economy then was dependent on cheap slave labour. Slaves provided this necessary input. That is the hard cold fact. Like Hitler and Chauvin slavery had its collaborators.
The modern day overseas employment programme aka seasonal farm work programmes, for example … with reports of below standard working conditions may very well be similar to many aspects of forced labour in the time of slavery. Enough said. These seasonal farm hands live in below standard conditions which could help to spread the COVID virus.
Community Spread of COVID-19
With all hear the talk about reopening the economy. The PM Andrew Holness and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the decision was purely ‘economic’. President Omar Robinson of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) also said: “It is not COVID that will kill the hotel workers, but starvation instead”. In a nutshell, whether we like it or not, it is the economic consideration in the final analysis that is driving the decision to reopen. That is what drove slavery also. This could lead to a new wave of community spread of the C19 virus. We hope not.
Slavery Is Inhumane
Slavery was an abomination and also an inhumane way to treat any human being. It should be noted that many races have been enslaved. With all the inhumane things about slavery, like branding humans as if cattle. Also for example: The throwing of live slaves overboard to reduce consumption of water. If that was not bad enough … Some traders had the audacity to have filed for insurance claims for lost slave cargo. Shameful indeed!
We have to be realistic and just step back and think objectively. Slavery and racism are shameful and as stated above “Racism is an affront to decency”. We cannot be unmindful of the economic realities.
Thomas Thistlewood (1721 -1786) was brutal and known to sexually have assaulted his female slaves … he was a rapist. He was an overseer, then a plantation owner. His statue is believed to be in the Anglican Church in Sav-la-mar, Jamaica W.I. We cannot confirm this as a fact.
Professor Verene Shepherd says “it is about History Education. Apart from the naming of monuments , it is also the naming of streets and places, like Great Houses”. Asserts Shepherd, a noted historian who host “Talking History” on radio in Jamaica W I.
Lady Musgrave Road is said to have been built by Lady Musgrave to avoid riding past Stibel Devon House. “I have not found any evidence that Lady Musgrave built this road because she hated passing Devon House built by a black man.” Declared Professor Verene Shepherd. Let us be careful we do not distort the facts as we get caught up with emotional considerations, as important as that may be. We support the idea that Black Lives Matter (BLM). We should step back and engage in clear thinking, before we act rashly.
Brook Brenton’s song tells it well:
Oh Lord Why Lord
“Why the Colour of my Skin is a sin Oh Lord why Lord”
Problem and hatred …
O Lord why Lord …
I dedicate this song in memory of George Floyd.
Let us learn well, the lessons history has taught us. Should we dare to rewrite history? The Jury is out. This is my perspective. The verdict as usual is yours?
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is Senior National & International Correspondent for Vision Newspaper