“Follow Pattern” by Dr Victor H. Eastmond, GCM (Different Stance on Nelson Statue)
I would like to join the debate pertaining to Admiral Nelson’s statue located in Bridgetown, Barbados. I am aware that this debate followed the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations with which I fully empathize but today, it has mushroomed into other areas such as toppling/removal of statues and racial equity.
I would like to only focus on the current debate of Nelson’s statue that was constructed by funds raised by a previous generation. At that time, the statue had nothing to do with his love (or lack of love) for Barbados nor that he followed directives as a naval officer to transported slaves across the Atlantic.
What is also amazing is that generation achieved their goal before the British who later erected a similar statue in Trafalgar Square, London. Other items have surfaced as he did not live nor own slaves in Barbados and was married to a Caribbean woman from Nevis. Our statue was erected because at that time, Nelson was believed to be their savior from French colonialization. What I find interesting is the shifting of the debate into a black and white issue when originally, it was on the removal of Nelson’s statue from Hero’s Square (previously called Trafalgar Square). The topic has induced rhetoric with opposing historical data for verification by both sides of the divide.
Sometimes in politics, it is necessary to produce a distraction, especially when it is emotional, to achieve an ulterior motive. Is our country heading for a divide and rule situation with emotive and disparaging comments coming from both sides in the hope that he who shouts loudest (in the fashion of a bully) will win the debate? I have no idea if there is an ulterior motive but am aware that there are more pressing matters from which we are being distracted including COVID19; murders; drugs; gun-running etc. that are higher on our country’s agenda and are disruptive to our economy.
There is no one alive today who can take sides on an issue that occurred such a long time ago. A case in point comes from recorded fallacies in the USA that stated blacks were inferior. I recommend persons should first listen to our local historians, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Mr. Trevor Marshall, who both stated Nelson was not a Barbadian Hero (emphasis on HERO) and consequently should not be in National Heroes Square (emphasis on National). He should be moved. Only heroes named by our parliament should be recognised.
It is therefore my opinion that Barbadians should find a solution in keeping with the statue’s history being recognised by persons of a previous era for reasons that will continue in 2020, to provoke assumptions within our country’s development. I will state the obvious. Tourism remains our main industry and the statue erected in Bridgetown in 1813 is a part of that. Because he married a Caribbean lady from Nevis, a museum now exists there. We are still left with a lot of questions that I would like answered. Are we not able to be rational in formulating a solution? Why has the debate risen to such a level that some persons want the statue thrown into the sea? Is it because the tone of the rhetoric sentiments has inflamed some persons? Is this because some of us just want to follow pattern and hopefully end up on the winning side? Please remember that too far East is West.
Because our Caribbean islands are now inhabited by different ethnic groups, my suggestion would be that instead of creating a racial divide, we should be integrating, learn to respect each other’s views and refrain from using degrading personal comments. Our constitution dictates such a practice and to quote Errol Barrow, “they are some white people that I will not invite to my home and they are also some black people that I will not invite to my home”. We all have personal preferences and they must be understood and respected. The Caribbean is now a microcosm of the world with its multi-ethnicity. It is no longer just made up of one ethnic group.
To live separately will create disunity as has been demonstrated elsewhere due to religion and/or race. Let us stick to the fact that we cannot be defined by the colour of our skin. Barbados will be stronger if we accept and use this focus of unity by Indians, Chinese, Negroes, Caucasians and mixed races to better ourselves and our country. The debate needs to be aired in a disciplined and acceptable manner.
I would now like to provide a bit more history but of Nelson Mandela, a former South African President when he asked some members of his security attachment to accompany him into the city. This story will also remind us of President Obama, another black president, who also went into areas in the USA unannounced. Mandela walked into one of the downtown restaurants and after taking their seats, ordered the food. The waiter brought their requests. Mandela then noticed someone sitting alone in front of his table, waiting for his order to arrive.
He told one of the soldiers: “Go and ask that man to please join us with his food and eat with us.” The soldier went and asked the man who brought his food and sat at Mandela’s side. While partaking of the meal, it was noticed that the guest’s hands were constantly trembling. The man left when he had finished, and the soldier said, “that man is apparently quite ill, his hands trembled as he ate!”
“No, not at all,” said MANDELA, “That man was a GUARD of the PRISON where I was jailed. Often, after the torture to which I was subjected, I used to scream and ask for a little water. That same man used to come every time and urinate on my head. It is my opinion that today, he was scared and trembling, expecting me to reciprocate in the same way, either by torturing or imprisoning him as I am now the President. But that is not my character nor part of my Ethics. The mentality of retaliation destroys States while the mentality of tolerance, builds Nationhood. The weak can never Forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the STRONG”
In conclusion, I need to make another quote by Carl Sagan who stated, “You have to know your past to understand your present”. Although I believe the debate on Lord Nelson’s statue will continue to create a divide because it is stoked by a rhetoric of hate by persons who feel their opinion is the correct one. Such disparaging and divisive rhetoric is also frightening persons from making an educated contribution. Most persons with whom I have spoken realise the history appears flawed and s/he do not want to be categorized into euro or afro centric groups.
They want to be a contributing Bajan regardless of their race. Such insular divisiveness has already threatened to destroy our cricket. Lots of comments espoused by both sides of the divide will continue because of the enormous uncertainty within the data found. Let us learn from Mandela’s words and let us realise that we must coexist with love for our fellow man. Let us learn from our past and be strong.
It has been suggested that the statue be placed in the museum but I would prefer it be placed in Queens Park which should be renamed “Freedom Park“, have Barbados become a Republic and use the park to educate our school children, nationals and tourists of our past events. It can also become a great source of income if marketed properly with tourists walking from the cruise terminal with a tour guide to learn of Barbados’ political history inclusive of our sugar cane; rum industry; slave trade; crop-over; cultural events along with displays of interest for which our forefathers were responsible.
All Barbadians must learn about slavery of the Africans and the red legs whose descendants continue to play an integral part in our ongoing country’s development and I am happy that academics are now digitally displaying the ills that demonstrate how bad the blacks were treated. I recognise Minister John King for his statements within our constitution for free speech, a trait of the strong. Please stay strong everyone and do not follow pattern.