All Statues Of Colonisers Must Go!

Words: Danielle Dash

On Sunday 7th June, protestors in Bristol tore down the statue of 1600s slave trader Edward Colston. I started crying. I don’t know if it was the wine or the pure elation at seeing a wrong righted in some way, but I was deeply moved by the destruction of a symbol of colonialist tyranny. Following the second week of Black Lives Matter protests across the globe in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota Police, the toppling of the statue of a man who rose through the ranks to sit on the board of the Royal African Company brought me great joy. And I look forward to the fall of other statues commemorating colonialist monsters—Winston Churchill included.

There is a collective British apathy to the plight of the Black Lives Matter movement because there is a wilfully ignorant belief that Britain is a tolerant society, post-racial and progressive unlike their wicked child, America. The lie that Britain has advanced beyond racism and white supremacy is so deeply embedded in the public consciousness that black activists and influencers are regularly invited onto Newsnight and Question Time to debate racism’s existence in the United Kingdom. The aim is to both gaslight black British people while simultaneously assuaging white British guilt. Racism, however, is still very much alive. Its tentacles stretch back to the shores of West Africa and reach forward today, living on in the statues exalting imperial colonialists like Cecile Rhodes and Horatio Nelson.

Those tentacles of white supremacy are alive in me. My name, Daniellé Abena Scott-Haughton (of which DASH is an acronym), is a reminder of my legacy as the descendent of African slaves stolen from their homeland, forced to work on plantations in Jamaica after surviving the deathly transatlantic journey. I am a black woman whose name is a reminder to all that my family was at one time owned by white people. White supremacy is an incalculable evil, an ever-present stain that we all—regardless of race—must work to snuff out.

Part of dismantling white supremacy must be tearing down monuments to men like Edward Colston. Dr Subhadra Das of University College London explains, “Statues are unambiguously positive statements by society. That is someone who is literally put on a pedestal, so we can look up to them.” Statues are designed to honour their subjects. For Britain to claim that it is a society far removed from its racist past yet boasts shrines of colonial all-stars is laughable at best. In order for this country to commit to anti-racism, a minimum requirement is that black British people do not have to see celebrations of men whose descendants benefited financially up until at least 2015 from the enslavement of black African people, my people.

Anyone weeping for the statue of Colston being ripped from its column and submerged in the Bristol harbour is weeping for white supremacy. Edward Colston was a Member of Parliament who traded in cloth, oil, wine and slaves. The word “slave” is so overused it has become easy for some to choose to forget slaves were people. To wealthy white people like Colston, the blackness of these people meant they were ripe to be exploited. Now, Colston is remembered as a merchant and a philanthropist, but he was a monster so driven by capitalism that his businesses enslaved and “transported” an estimated 84,000 black men, women and children from West Africa to the Caribbean. Nineteen thousand of these black people died at sea and Colston was compensated for every loss of life because they represented a loss of income.

I say tear them all down. There is nothing to be gained from these statues being allowed to remain but the conservation of a violent colonial history that Britain refuses to acknowledge or reconcile. Look, I remember when former Prime Dickhead David Cameron went to Jamaica and told the Caribbean to “move on”, ruling out Britain paying reparations to the descendants of slaves; in that case, we are forced to find reparations in the destruction of icons of the British involvement in slavery. This is only a symbolic step in dismantling white supremacy, but the statues of colonialists being pulled down across Britain will be an evergreen reminder that Black Lives Matter. The lives of enslaved Africans mattered then, and the lives of their descendants matter today.

Posted on June 08, 2020