Throughout history, we’ve seen slaves of every race and color. Whether you look into the civilizations of Italy, America, Africa, or India – the trading and ownership of slaves have always been highly prevalent. The truth of the matter is that economies and societies have been largely dependent on the institution of slavery. However, it must be noted that slavery has taken different forms over the year and constitute numerous reasoning.
In the last couple of months, the discussion around slavery has taken a consequential tone. Although the literal act of slavery isn’t existent anymore, many would argue that the meaning has transformed and that it’s only invisible to the ones who’ve turned a blind eye. The truth is that slavery hasn’t ended, it has been modernized. The post-colonial mindset is still dictated by discrimination and hierarchy.
The brutal murder of George Floyd changed us. His death became a symbol of uproar and protest. It shattered the ignorant bubble that we’ve all lived comfortably in. The Black Community has been through a lot. Even today, they continue to be victims of police brutality and targets of the general racist bigotries. The Black Lives Matter movement existed even before the death of George Floyd but after his murder, this movement has acquired a new meaning, a new motive. It has turned fear into outrage and fury.
It has compelled us to understand the history and how we’re all at fault. Our ancestors have contributed immensely to this inhumane treatment of the Black Community. The leaders and heroes, we’ve all worshipped, have come out as antagonists.
This realization dawned on us a little too late. We’ve been praising and idolizing these people for centuries and decades. Some of us were even aware of their wrongdoings and participation in heinous crimes – but we continued to neglect that aspect of their personality, and for that, we’re to be blamed.
For example, if you study the root of slavery in ancient India, you’ll observe that it was mainly tied with debt, war booty, and ransom. If you continue your research, you’d find out many Buddhist writings that have actually laid down principles regarding the dos and don’ts of slavery.
Before the rise of Islam, the Arab world was leading the slavery business. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the Arabs were actually pioneers when it came to trading slaves with Europe and Africa. The local population as well as the major Muslim Empires in British India kept Turkic slaves. When you shift geographically, you’ll find slavery very much evident in Africa as well. The reason included the need for plantation labor, war, and debt. The locals would sell people to the Arabs as well as the European traders.
Moving forward, when you study the geniuses born in the philosophical world, you’d find out that Aristotle and Plato were owners of slaves. In fact, Aristotle has tried to defend and promote slavery in many of his writings and his justification was later used by the West. The names that supported racism and slavery will shock you; Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Charles Linn, etc.
Source: Daily Mail
Yes, Winston Churchill is remembered as the great Prime Minister of Britain, but is it fair to ignore his racist identity? Today Gandhi is a symbol of peace and kindness, but do you know that he was not only a pedophile but also a big supporter of racism? The legacy of Columbus is murky and stained as he was a significant part of the “new world”. How does it feel to know that the founder of the great United States was an ignorant white supremacist? These are just a few, top of the ladder, names that contributed majorly to the disgusting act of enslavement.
Of course, the death of George Floyd evoked strong feelings of hatred and disappointment in people. Worshipping these heroes of the past no longer resonates with them as the bad always outweighs their positive influence. Everything is black or white when it comes to slavery and the long bloody history of the black community.
This murder has fueled the anger that was burning inside us for centuries. Hence, during the riots (read: peaceful protests), a number of monuments and memorials were destroyed and vandalized. Some of these were removed with legal support while others were destroyed and butchered despite the official support.
Initially, the activists targeted the monuments of the confederates of America but as the scope of the protest widened, the targets broadened too. For example, statues of Christopher Columbus were removed from all over the United States as he is famous for taking an active part in the abuses against Native Americans. Some even claim that it was his entrance in the United States that began the crime of genocide of Native Americans.
But do you think that the removal of these statues will have any significant impact on the current political and social climate? Is it a statement? Definitely, a strong one! However, does it contribute, productively? That’s questionable. Most of these memorials and statues are commemorated as a memory of a historic event.
Leopold Von Ranke – founder of the modern history, once said that “history is about what actually happened and not what we wished had happened.” This statement is actually pretty apt considering that the removal and butchering of these monuments and statues mean nothing. It doesn’t change history.
Considering these facts, do you still believe that the removal of these statues is effective? Instead, the focus should be directed towards the policies and the legislation. The force should be coerced on the governments and the lawmakers. Strict consequences should be mandated against systemic racism, modern formats of racism should be abolished, racist individuals should be named and shamed, and the consequences should remain tactile and tangible.
"My response to racism is anger. I have lived with that anger, ignoring it, feeding upon it, learning to use it before it laid my visions to waste, for most of my life. Once I did it in silence, afraid of the weight. My fear of anger taught me nothing. Your fear of that anger will teach you nothing, also." – Audre Lorde, The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism.
The movement has become stronger in the recent past, and it's essential that we don't lose perspective. We must continue to engage in these debates and confront racism head-on. The fight has only just begun!