The legacy of Germany’s colonial empire has long been ignored by the government and public at large. But amid the global anti-racist movement, a reckoning is due over how to handle leftover colonial symbols.
A statue of the English merchant and slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and pushed into the river in his hometown of Bristol; a statue of Christopher Columbus in Boston was beheaded. Authorities in Belgium’s port city of Antwerp removed a statue of former King Leopold II, clearly fearing that it, too, might be torn down. After all, Leopold was notorious for the unbelievable cruelty perpetrated in his own “private colony.”
Across the world, symbols of colonialism and racism are being questioned and, in many cases, torn down. This after decades, even centuries, where these pointers to a terrible past had often been glorified even as many historians and activists called for a rethink of colonial legacies. But now, following a white police officer’s killing of black American civilian George Floyd, the times have clearly changed. Many people who long ignored the brutal history of colonialism and its racist legacy have now become interested in the past.