We at The FIG Tree fully support the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the brutal killing of George Floyd. We do however, completely disassociate ourselves from any violence taking place during these crucial protests. Violence cannot be justified and runs counter to the cause, as such violence is unfair.
We understand the frustration and anger that led to the destruction of the Colston statue in Bristol. We empathise with those whose ancestors may have suffered as a consequence of Colston’s actions having to see the man glorified as “one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city“? We are saddened that the democratic appeals to ‘amend’ the wording on a plaque were ignored. When peaceful protests are ignored, they inevitably and perhaps understandably lead to violence; politicians should take note.
At The FIG Tree we have always encouraged learning from the past in order to move forward. A message depicted by the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol ‘Sankofa’. Statues are of importance in reminding us of our history; whether it be good or bad. We believe that rather than ‘erasing’ history, the Black Lives Movement is making history however, and the removal of statues is another part of that process. History is often distorted, and attempts have even been made to erase it. This is particularly true with regard to the British Empire, colonialism and slavery.
In our workshops we don’t wish to make our students feel guilty, ashamed or even apologetic about our past. We do, however, want them to acknowledge that past and most importantly its legacy. Slave traders justified their brutal deeds by dehumanising Africans; referring to them as ‘Black Cattle’. This contributed to the racism that survives today. We don’t want our students to condemn or hate the slave traders but understand that their actions were not only legal but broadly acceptable at the time. Perhaps in the future people will look back at our actions, which although legal and acceptable today may be viewed very differently tomorrow?
At The FIG Tree we believe that all lives are equal and matter. We continue to reflect on all we do and the way we present our ideas in response to the many varieties of inequality and unfairness that exist in our world. It is currently clear however, that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement seeks to eradicate an absolutely unacceptable structural inequality that remains embedded in our society despite years of legislation and dialogue. As such the Black Lives Matter movement has our full support for any peaceful action taken.
What we are seeing today is a cultural revolution that is sweeping across the globe. If this should lead to a world free of racism or at least where racism is no longer the norm nor acceptable in society then the removal of statues may well be a price worth paying. Black Lives Matter.
Bruce Crowther & Graham Hulme, FIG Tree Directors
25th June 2020