I spent two days in Liverpool, England last week. While I was there two of my friends and I did The Liverpool Slavery History Trail. As I expected, the tour was interesting and I learned a lot of new things. Towards the end of the trail, the guide took us to the front of a bank where the artwork in the attached picture is displayed. It’s a white man with his hands down on the head of two slave children. If you look closely you’ll see shackles on their hands and feet. Their hair being different says that they come from two different parts of Africa. Also, their backs turned to each other means they can’t talk to each other because they don’t speak the same language.
This is supposed to be a representation of what the city was built on – slavery. It was installed in 1927, long after slave trading had been abolished in England. We had a debate about whether or not it should be kept up or taken down. My two friends and the tour guide thought it should be left up because it’s a reminder if what happened to black people. They said British children don’t learn about slavery or any black and African history in school so this sort of public representation is needed. The tour guide said I’m one of only three people in his decades of doing the tour that thinks it should be taken down, the other two being children.
I’m not one of those people who blames the white man and slavery for every problem in black communities around the world today, but I am of the belief that slavery is the root of many of the psychological and emotional issues in that community. Because of this, I think slavery should be talked about and the world should never be allowed to forget the damaged it caused an entire race. However, this isn’t what this art does. In my opinion it’s a covert way of saying, “This is where you stand in our society. We’re still holding you down”. I wouldn’t want this on a wall in my city.
I thought about this over and over since I saw it, which is why I’m up at 5 am GMT writing about it. Experiences like this make me appreciate my home country so much more. The United States isn’t perfect. I feel that the nasty stain of slavery is often ignored and racism is definitely alive and well there. I’m of Jamaican descent so I know slavery is somewhere in my family’s histroy. I’m too young to have gotten a first-hand or even second-hand account of slavery from my ancestors, but at least I learned about it in school. At least there’s a monument to Harriet Tubman in Massachusetts and one to Frederick Douglass in Maryland, people who represent liberation from slavery.
I’ve heard blacks in America talk about how terrible America is for black people. It’s not just America. Sadly, injustice and inequality in many forms is the plight of black people or otherwise darker skinned people across the globe, from the aboriginals in Australia to the Jarawa tribe of India. I actually think that blacks in America are generally better off than in most nations, we just don’t appreciate it.