With the brutal killing of George Floyd, we saw a lot of Black Lives Matter protests happening recently. We as ASEED support these protests, and believe racist behaviour by police officers in specific, and systemic racism in general is not only something happening in the US, but is a daily practice in many contexts, such as the Dutch, as well. As we often have seen in the BLM protests, we believe that white silence is violence, and therefore it is very important to stand in solidarity with these protests.
In these BLM protests we have seen colonial statues taken down, and we think these are very important actions. Often it is argued, that by taking down statues we erase history. We believe the history is not erased by taking down these statues: people can always find it online or in books. It is of course important that we will always remember what these people have done. Seeing these statues as neutral history instead of a glorification of colonialism shows us that we are clearly not yet reflecting on our colonial past. These statues are often representing and honoring key figures in colonial projects and were mass murderers and slaveholders. Nevertheless these very people are being honoured by getting their own street names or statues. We believe that these people are not to be seen as example figures and therefore do not deserve an honouring spotlight in public spaces. Many people have to see statues which glorify slaveholders/ mass murderers of their own ancestors and it is disgusting to realise that these statues have been placed in the first place, but also are allowed, and even defended. This clearly shows how deeply a culture of white supremacy is alive: that people who are mass murderers of BIPOC are seen as heroes.
A very good example in our Dutch context is the statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. This person was a key figure in the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and killed around 15.000 of the original inhabitants of the Banda-Islands. Nevertheless this person has a very big statue in the city of Hoorn. The fact that people like Thierry Baudet talk about him as ‘our heroes’ of ‘our country’ and lay flowers near their statues shows once again how statues like these are honoured.
We want to thank Dekolonisatie Netwerk Voormalig Nederlands-Indië, We Promise and Building de Baileo for organising a demonstration against this statue. Even though it was empowering to be together with so many different people at this protest and to hear inspiring people giving powerful speeches, the disgusting statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen is still standing in Hoorn.
Along with this statue, many other statues, street names and other symbols glorifying the colonial era are still present in the public place. This is something which needs to change immediately. We believe these statues are not just innocent representations of people in the past, but are enforcing an ideology of white supremacy. Therefore, we believe that making sure that these glorifying symbols are disappearing from the public space is one important step in decolonial activism. Even though the problems around racism and colonialism are much bigger than statues, we believe getting rid of these statues is a step in the direction of decolonizing our public areas and could make space for statues that represent people who were in the resistance against colonialism for example.