Graca Machel, the widow of the late Nelson Mandela, has discouraged anti-racism protestors around the world from pulling down statues of historical figures. Her words carry special weight because of the symbolic role Mandela played in the fight against racism.
Machel, who is a renowned activist herself, reasoned that leaving the statues of even the terrible figures will leave an even more powerful message for the future generations. She asserted that the statues can serve as daily reminders of what should not be done.
She is on of the few public figures who have discouraged the pulling down of statues. French President Emmanuel Macron was one of the few global leaders who argued against the method of protest.
Machel’s words come not long after the Archbishop of Canterbury who announced he will lead the efforts in evaluating who is commemorated in the great cathedral of his. He said that he and others will decide whether there are any inappropriate statues that should be removed.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop, said that the Western believers can start by reimagining Jesus Christ as a white male. The historically appropriate depiction will be him as a Middle Eastern figure, while different regions have reimagined him as Black or even Chinese.
The clashing opinions of equally respected figures in their own ways perfectly represents the heated and controversial debate over whether the statues of certain historical figures have any standing in today’s society, which has grown hypersensitive to the issue of race.
Machel told the BBC in an interview that the way forward lies not in destroying the past, but looking into it with a new set of perspective and understanding the faults of the past. Acknowledging that what she says is controversial, Machel nevertheless said statues validate history.
Anti-racism protestors who have poured out into the streets after the death of George Floyd have utilized the pulling down of statues as one of the most visible and widely talked method to voice their opposition towards the past.
From Confederate generals in the US to Winston Churchill statues in the United Kingdom, historical figures of varying legacies and character have all been targeted for their actions and slave ownership.
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