Removing statues and symbols from our colonial past is one of the needed paths to reconciliation, truth, and justice for the victims of slavery and their descendants. In this article, I will endeavour to establish a moral, ethical and theological case for the removal of any statutes and symbols from the public square that represent a celebration of subjugation, invasion and Crimes against Humanity. I wish to publicly thank Professors Sir Hilary Beckles (PhD), Verene Shepherd (PhD) and Cornel West (PhD) and all those who fight or fought in the public square against slavery, racism and whiteness.
Here is a question I credited social media for: “If someone kidnapped your child and sold him or her, where will you want us to put the statue of that person?” Because in “The psychology and politics of public displays,” the author argued that “Symbols, and public displays, in particular, can have enormous significance because ideas represented by public displays are presumptively valid. That is if the government maintains a monument to something or someone, the memorial in question must stand for an idea that deserves recognition, a concept that at some level is acceptable or even righteous” (David Niose (2017), PsychologyToday.com).
Thus from a theological perspective, removing these statues from the public square is a symbol of repentance. Their presence symbolises our acceptance of them as ‘good’ and ‘righteous.’ Scriptures are clear that we should not call ‘evil’ ‘good’ and ‘good’ ‘evil’ (Isaiah 5:20). Further, because of what these symbols represent in the public square, they are contrary to visual instructions that God gave to God’s faith community of old to remind our children-instructions that are still relevant today (Deuteronomy 6:8-9).
The importance of visual instruction by God is a powerful reminder of the impact that public symbols play in our lives. Thus God’s people erected public symbols to remember God’s goodness (Genesis 28:18-21, Joshua 4:19). And when this was the contrary, God commanded them to be removed (Judges 6:23).
Lastly, the Apostle Paul said, “…brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, honourable, just, commendable, and is worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). The fact that these statues represent the opposite of these moral and ethical virtues is sufficient theological rationales for their removal.
Still, the moral, ethical question remains: “If someone kidnapped your child and sold him or her, where will you want us to put the statue of that person?”
Rev Vonnie James, Grenada Baptist Association