Mob rule? Bun Dem!
Chant: “What we want?”
Crowd response: “Justice!”
Chant : “When we want it?”
Crowd response: “Now!”
That in a nutshell sums up the attitude of millions of people all around the world to the brutal murder of the umpteenth victim of racist murder, Bro. George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, on African Liberation Day (May 25) 2020. Bro. George was no Martin Luther King, no Malcolm X, no John or Robert Kennedy, but his murder has provoked a response that not even those assassinations were able to do. It is an indication of the sign of the times in which we are living.
In addition to the well-publicised global protests and demonstrations, staged daily in hundreds of American cities and the futile attempts by those in power to suppress them, spontaneous resistance and progressive demands are being made by, not just black people, but people of all races, including repentant white people, all under the banner of “Black Lives Matter”, a slogan which the establishment media have tried desperately to denigrate over the last few years.
In the matter of a short three weeks, the repercussions of the brutal murder of George Floyd has not only eclipsed much that the civil rights and anti-racist movements have been trying to accomplish, but has stolen the global headlines from even the deadly coronavirus pandemic. No mean achievement, this has been.
As a consequence, the racists, their apologists, and those of us too scared to confront racist oppression have been placed on the defensive. In spite of the current occupant of the White House, the apex of White Power, it is Black Power which has come up trumps. Since slavery black people have been taught to bow down to racist images, to virtually worship at the altars of the slave owners and oppressors.
In our cities, black and white, large and small, in our main squares and churches, the statues to which we pay reverence, are fundamentally those who have foisted this unjust system on us. They have insisted on the unreserved acceptance of those who have not only cost us such misery, but who have skewed up the world’s understanding of such basic concepts of hero, democracy and human rights.
The George Floyd straw literally broke not just the camel’s back, but potentially that of its rider as well. All over the world, starting in the citadels of slavery and capitalism, the symbols of racist oppression and centuries of inhumanity, are being either torn down or under threat of being toppled.
In the “mighty” USA, (George Floyd’s young daughter challenged us all with the question, “since when America has been great?”), the symbols and statues of the slave-owning confederacy in the “Deep South” are coming down or being torn down one by one. That includes some of Columbus, the lodestar of western colonisation.
In Britain, on whose empire the sun supposedly never set, statues of its biggest slave traders, who caused such misery and human suffering from Africa to the Caribbean and North America, such as Edward Colston and Robert Milligan (please check out their record) have been torn down and, in the case of Colston, dumped in the sea as were the corpses of many of his “African cargo” in times of slavery.
The great calypso bard, Black Stalin, had, more than three decades ago, predicted such demise in his classic, “BUN DEM”. His prophecy is coming true, for in addition to Colston and Milligan, his warning about “Cecil Rhodes at the gate”, is proving correct, for in the British University town of Oxford, the elite of the intellectual class, the demand is for the statue of the ideological author of Ian Smith’s racist Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe, to join those of Colston and Milligan. Even Winston Churchill, promoted as the virtual “saviour of the world”, is now fighting to keep his image from ignominy.
Our own calypso icon, the late Professor, sang about “The Iron Man come down”. When will we have our turn and put up paramount Chief Chatoyer as our proud symbol?
Crowning this “dethroning” of the villains of history must be the removal of the statue of Belgium’s King Leopold II, one of the biggest murderers in the history of mankind, whose legacy in the Congo in Africa survives till today, a man who ordered the amputation of African limbs if those unfortunate workers did not meet their assigned quota of rubber collection daily.
Yes, we are in a different climate entirely, COVID-19 or no COVID-19. But let us not for a moment think that the war has been won. Decisive shifts have happened in human history before but were not able to be maintained for one reason or another. The racists, oppressors, colonisers and capitalist “great Whites” will fight back and we must be prepared.
Already, sections of their media have branded the removal of these offensive symbols of racist oppression as “Mob Rule”. Do you get it? Mob Rule is when we take down the symbols of centuries of degradation, oppression and racist murder, according to them.
But to this day, their praises are lavished on East Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall, the tearing down of statues of the likes of Causescu in Romania, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Gaddafi in Libya. Significantly, unlike the East German leaders, white of course, the others met ignominious deaths, celebrated in the West. Was this democracy or mob rule?
And what about the notorious white lynching mobs, the Klu Klux in the USA but similar institutions and groupings all through slavery and colonialism? Who have constituted the mobs?
We shall continue next week, but in the meantime, let’s keep the momentum going.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.