To say that my Arctic Circle Expedition/Residency was a life-changing experience feels like an understatement. As my fellow artists and ...
American philosopher, Cornel West, has said, “you can’t really move forward until you look back.” He’s right, especially in the context of discussing the systematic and oppressive racism faced by people of colour for centuries. The crimes of the past have led to the crimes of the present. As nice as it is to see a larger mass of people and institutions adapt a stance of support for the elimination of racism, the fact that it’s only happening now is a tell-tale sign of how bad it has been for so long.
In order to bring our world into a state of true racial harmony and equality, much more education and discussion is going to be needed by everyone. I love history and I like to think of myself as quite knowledgeable. But I acknowledge that as a straight white man, I was born into a world that automatically gives me an advantage and privilege. This is wrong. Even though I like to think of myself as a progressive, I also acknowledge that I still have a lot of work to do personally to better understand the plight of people of colour. Once I have achieved this, only then can I be part of a solution.
I have been very inspired by the many protests taking place these past few weeks. It’s acts like this that is creating a movement to push our society forward. Even though there are many politicians and institutions presently in place that will thwart this movement, I feel optimistic that little by little these impediments will be cast aside to allow the positive wave to move forward. (Remember this, dear friends, when going to your ballot box!)
I have also been in complete agreement with the many recent dramatic acts of tearing down monuments in public places that glorify historical figures and symbols that were linked to a racist past. I’ll be blunt, I consider it a racist view to defend any such remaining monuments. Our world needs to be fully open to the plight of those who have been kept down for so long and this is one way to step forward towards helping achieve this. If history has objectively shown that a statue depicting an old white man sitting on a horse in a park represented racist views and oppression in his lifetime, it has to be removed. That person’s action in their lifetime laid the foundation to where we are today. As a white person, you should not just feel this way out of respect to your black friends but also because of the fact that you just find it unacceptable that you live in a community that would celebrate someone who espoused any inequality. It’s a question of morality and justice.
I know that even “great” people had flaws. But there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed when assessing a person’s character and contribution to a society. History has taught me that there are MANY wonderful historical figures that did so much in their lives to make the world a better place and therefore could and should be glorified in public places. Why is it so difficult to remove the divisive figures that promoted hate and inequality and replace them with ones that espoused compassion and true justice through their actions and words?
Removing a statue is not the same as removing them from history. Quite the opposite, I think that such actions allow us to be even more aware of our history and therefore we learn more from it. Actions can be more powerful than words. But actions can also make us more aware of the words. And if we are genuine in our sentiment to correct the wrongs of the past and present, we have no choice but to act.