From Confederate monuments in the United States to statues of British slave traders, memorials erected in honor of historical figures have become a focus of protests around the world. The death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck on May 25, has sparked a reexamination of rigid injustices and inequalities over the centuries underpinning many countries’ histories that often were exalted in stone or bronze.
The rapidly unfolding movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the US has extended to statues of slave traders, imperialists, conquerors and explorers around the world, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium’s King Leopold II.
Scholars are divided over whether the campaign amounts to erasing history or updating it.
Photo: Reuters 照片：路透
Authorities in London and many other UK cities have announced plans to review all statues, street names and other monuments to see whether they reflect modern values and the country’s current diversity. This is sure to lead to fiery debate.
New Zealand’s fourth-largest city removed a bronze statue of the British naval officer Capt. John Hamilton, the city’s namesake, on June 12, a day after a Maori tribe asked for the statue be taken down and one Maori elder threatened to tear it down himself. The city of Hamilton said it was clear the statue of the man accused of killing indigenous Maori people in the 1860s would be vandalized. The city has no plans to change its name.
Across Belgium, statues of Leopold II have been defaced in half a dozen cities because of the king’s brutal rule over the Congo, where more than a century ago he forced multitudes into slavery to extract rubber, ivory and other resources for his own profit. Experts say he left as many as 10 million dead.
Photo: AP 照片：美聯社
“The Germans would not get it into their head to erect statues of Hitler and cheer them,” said Mireille-Tsheusi Robert, an activist in Congo who wants Leopold statues removed from Belgian cities. “For us, Leopold has committed a genocide.”
In the US, the death of Floyd has led to an all-out effort to remove symbols of the Confederacy and slavery.
On the night of June 10, protesters pulled down a century-old statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy.
Photo: AP 照片：美聯社
In Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it is time to remove statues of Confederate figures from the US Capitol and take their names off military bases such as Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood.
Supporters of Confederate monuments have argued that they are important reminders of history; opponents contend they glorify those who went to war against the US to preserve slavery.
The Davis monument and many others across the south were erected decades after the Civil War during the Jim Crow era, when states imposed tough new segregation laws, and during the Lost Cause movement, in which historians and others sought to recast the south’s rebellion as a noble undertaking, fought to defend not slavery but states’ rights.
Photo: Reuters 照片：路透
Photo: AP 照片：美聯社
FOLLOW UP 讀後練習
1. Name several countries that are involved in this wave of reassessing their historical figures and the injustices and inequalities such figures represent.
2. Why do some people honor slave traders, imperialists, conquerors and explorers as heroes, while others condemn them as killers?
3. Look up a brief history of the American Civil War (1861-1865) and use it to explain racial tensions in the US today.
4. In many countries, statues, road names and other monuments are named after certain historical figures. Provide some examples from your country. Is there a case for removing statues or renaming roads?
(Lin Lee-kai, Taipei Times)
1. statue n.
2. slave trader phr.
(fan4 nu2 zhe3)
3. historical figure phr.
(li4 shi3 ren2 wu4)
4. diversity n.
(duo1 yang4 xing4)
5. brutal rule over phr.
(dui4…de5 can2 ku4 tong3 zhi4)
6. symbol n.
7. glorify v.
(mei3 hua4; zan4 mei3)
8. segregation n.
(zhong3 zu2 ge2 li2)
Pets are an inseparable part of people’s lives in the modern world. About 65 percent of US households have at least one pet. On a psychological level, pet companionship can bring better psychological wellbeing; on a biological level, our furry friends can boost human immunity. According to a report in Psychology Today, a review carried out by researchers from the UK’s University of Manchester found that the companionship of pets can result in better psychological wellbeing for people with mental health conditions. The diabetes research center of the University of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital analyzed data from over 3 million people,
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Literary circles have been celebrating the legacy of late writer Eileen Chang, who would have turned 100 on Wednesday next week. Born in Shanghai, the legendary writer shot to fame in her 20s, and continued to write after moving to Hong Kong, and then the US, in the 1950s. Chang is one of the greatest female Chinese writers, and her classic works include Love in a Fallen City, The Golden Cangue, and The Red Rose and the White Rose. Many of her novels, such as Lust, Caution, were adapted into films and TV drama series. Based on Chang’s novel Aloeswood Incense