Frequently Heard Claim: “The Nelson Statue should stay, we can’t change history!”
A section of “Becoming Anti-Racist in Barbados: Q&A”, a resource list for ALL white or ‘pass-fuh-white’ Bajans, and other white people living in Barbados.
“The Nelson Statue should stay, we can’t get rid of everything associated with slavery or we’d have no history left!”
Discussions surrounding the desire to remove the Statue of Nelson from its position of honor in Broad Street are not new, and have been ongoing for several decades. Despite what is often lamented, it has nothing to do with erasing or attempting to rewrite history, as that is both impossible and certainly not the point.
This statue was erected during the time of Slavery by the White elite in power to celebrate Nelson’s role in keeping Barbados a ‘safe British Colony’. The veracity of this narrative has been called into question by historians and has been determined to be a myth. Furthermore, not only did Nelson profit from the enslavement of people, he actively opposed abolitionists and used his significant position of influence to vigorously defend slavery.
In fact the influence of figures like Nelson and his similarly minded peers are credited with helping to ensure that the early abolition campaigns of the 1780s and 1790s ended in failure.
As Barbadians we can be aware of aspects of our shared history without choosing to glorify them. This is an opportunity to reflect on which historical figures we want to literally put up on a pedestal and actively celebrate. It is also an opportunity for White Bajans to self-reflect and examine how our whiteness can cause us to have a reflexive defensive position about a statue of a person we don’t actually care that much about, and value our historical nostalgia more than the actual historical suffering of Black Barbadians.
Many proposals, such as putting the statue in a museum with context, dropping him in the sea to build some reefs (he was a naval man, after all!), or simply getting rid of them are being discussed. If you are someone who is “white passing” in Barbados, you have received benefits of racism, and would be better to first listen and amplify the opinions of Black people, instead of inserting your own opinion for this matter. This applies to most anti-racism work.
Sign the petition for removal of the statue here.
To go beyond Barbados, the great grandson of Thomas Jefferson wants his statues removed. In this op-ed for Newsweek he shares:
“Imagine what it would feel like if the person you loved most was killed or raped. Then, someone thought it would be a great idea to erect a huge statue in your neighborhood to honor them — no, not your loved one, but the monster who hurt them beyond repair. I’m sorry to be so graphic and blunt, but that is how many people feel each time they pass a public square or park with a statue of their ancestors’ slave master, a murderer, or a white supremacist.”
Read more of the op-ed here.
Frequently Heard Claims
- “Racism is more of an American issue…”
- “I’m white and I’m not wealthy, I don’t have white privilege…”
- “Slavery happened years ago, why can’t people get over it?”
- “I have Black family and friends etc. I’m not racist…”
- “As a ‘white minority’ I’ve experienced more racism than Black people…”
- “I don’t see colour… Why don’t we just spread positivity?”
- “It’s not about race, it’s about class issue etc.”
- “Indentured servants were slaves too!”
- “Black workers are lazy.”
- “My Black friends & family agree with me on this…”
- “Every race segregate and hire their relatives and friends, not just White people”
- “There are many Black people who have done very well for themselves”
- “All Lives Matter”
- “The Nelson Statue should stay, we can’t change history!”
- “ Having conversations about race in Barbados is divisive and will only stir up hatred and violence…”
- “I don’t like the tones of these conversations when they become angry and extreme!”