To remove or not to remove, that is the question. Recently, there has been a public outcry to remove the statue of King Christian IX from Emancipation Garden. At the risk of being denigrated, I am asking that the statue not be removed and offer a perspective for public consideration.
There is no doubt that the recent killing of George Floyd has ignited a political awareness among black people with the support of some white people, not just in America but around the world. The response to the killing on one hand has been both positive and thoughtful, such as the peaceful protests and the call for legislation that hold the police accountable for wanton abuse of their power. On the other hand, there have been reactions that have been thoughtless and impulsive as done by individuals with questionable motives such as looting and burning stores that serve the black communities in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
Still, there are actions that are politically strategic and must (or should) be weighed for future repercussions — good or bad. We are witnessing a great and just political phenomenon with the ban and removal of Confederate flags from institutions like state capitols, and the tearing down of statues of Confederate generals and slave owners on the mainland and in England.
Overall, most, if not all of the strategic awareness is being spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, whose mission is truly noble. Understandably, their cause is just when you consider their mission to bring justice and an end to rampant police brutality and racial infamy on black people.
Even though we have not experienced the scourge of police brutality and the institutional, systemic and vile racism to the degree on the mainland, the Virgin Islands has contributed dutifully to the BLM movement. That is not to say we should not support this movement and their cause. We should. However, the rallying public outcry in the V.I. to remove the statue from Emancipation Garden concerns me.
Can we honestly equate King Christian to generals such as Robert Edward Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who were traitors to our almost 90-year-old country? They were traitors committed to destroying the United States if they could not maintain slavery and the oppression of African people. In all fairness, can we prove King Christian to be as heinous as those confederates? Did he not exonerate those three great female leaders — Queen Mary, Queen Agnes and Queen Mathilda? I strongly urge, embrace the strategic over the reactionary. Consider what resonates from that old adage, “Follow fashion choke monkey dog.” In this instance, the proverb cautions that to do something because others are doing it, can bring more harm to the follower. We must pause and consider potential consequences.
In its own form of an apology, perhaps, Denmark recently raised a monument there — paying tribute to the St. Croix Fire Burn of 1878 in the person of its leader, Queen Mary. What if the outcry here succeeds and in retaliation, Danes who feel she was a traitor and troublemaker to the kingdom, decide to tear down or remove her statue and place it in a remote section of some museum there? I would feel terrible to say the least. Further, if the outcry to remove the statue succeeds, does it alter discussions on reparations? What message are we sending with this outcry?
Incidentally, isn’t it rather curious that the Friends of Denmark has not weighed in on the removal of the statue?
Here is an alternative we might consider: Instead of removing the king’s statue, we get behind a drive, movement, etc., to erect a statue — a grand and stately monument of John Moses “General Buddhoe” Gottlieb, placed directly in front of King Christian’s — just 4 to 6 inches taller. There is ample room for it. I hereby commit the first $300 to such an undertaking. The symbolism would be great: The emancipator in the Emancipation garden. This way we honor a Virgin Islander for something worthy and of great significance to our history. Allow our political awakenings to also be about building and bringing forth what is often hidden. I welcome the opportunity to discuss and further process this issue.
— Glenn “Kwabena” Davis lives on St. Thomas.