The Falling Of Statues?
Racism’ and ‘bigotry’ were words that I wasn’t completely unaware of, yet was certainly deprived of gauging their gravity. Even though as a part of our curriculum, I was quite acquainted with the prevalent practices and usage of all kinds of shaming beginning with race, creed, gender, that eventually landed to the body as well. An appropriate and classic anecdote of this would be from the verses of the famous author John Galsworthy’s ‘Loyalties’, where he depicts a picturesque portrait that ensembles this concept quite vividly, where a well established Jew is subjected to sneers, indignation and mockery, just merely due to the fact that he was a Jew.
Then, in one another of our English lessons, there was this indigenous family, possibly in one of the remotest corners where the maid ‘Javni’ used to be the be-all and end-all of domestic matters. She would feed the cows, mop the floors, clean the vessels, prepare lentils and other delicacies, yet was deprived of dining in the same table, and used to have her supper behind the cow shed, amid dung, sans light. What’s astonishing is that she didn’t even have the inkling that as a human she had the right to treat herself with due respect, and also expect the same out of her employer. She would put up a valiant face and cry out meekly that she didn’t need the light, as she knew where the rice, lentil and pickle was kept, so could guess and swallow the same…
Yet, it’s no different in Britain. In an interview with the New Yorker, a young writer mentions about the existence of the archaic slave trade in England. To quote her, “It’s just this slow, agonizing realization as you get older and you read and you learn things. And, you’re like, Oh, shit, O.K.” On reading more, I learnt that Bristol those days was the UK’s largest slaving port. Edward Colston, an English merchant and a politician was the one responsible for holding the English monopoly on slave trading, and during his tenure, The Royal African Company, one that he worked for had transported eighty-four thousand, women and children to North America and Caribbean as slaves. It’s also reported that around 19 thousand expired during the journey.
Quite a long time after his death, Bristol town had erected a statue of Colston, that several historians have said that appeared pensive and wore an expensive-looking frock coat, with a plaque that read “Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of the city.” Matters even emulated and materialised in the forms ceremonial dinners that took place every year on his birthday. Here, what came out as a bolt from the blue is masked protestors, mostly young, even white started throwing eggs at the statue and also removing the protective covering that was placed before the march. They later tied Colston’s wrists and ankles together while the statue came down. This move has been celebrated all across and people expressed their wrath, also stating that a new history was being created.
Was Colston hollow then? A diplomat and a politician that earned so much repute was brought down in a second, and fell off, broke away and vanished out of thin air?
Was he always this helpless and hollow then?
Image courtesy: Denzeen