Friday 19 June 2020

'History will judge those who emerged from lockdown to fight the ghost of Cecil Rhodes'

Marie Daouda is a stipendiary lecturer in French at Oriel College, Oxford, and wrote a wonderful article for the Daily Telegraph, entitled 'History will judge those who emerged from lockdown to fight the ghost of Cecil Rhodes'. I quote from it.

I come from a country with no statues.

It is not that Morocco never had statues. Not that long ago it had statues of French officials – of which only one remains, hidden in a consulate garden. It had, a bit earlier, statues of Christian saints and Roman dignitaries, of which there is no trace. Before that, it must have had statues of Phoenician deities. All have been destroyed, and with them visible proof of the complex history of North Africa.

...I will not say that as an African I am oppressed by Oriel’s statue of Rhodes and by the buildings Oxford owes to imperial largesse, nor that I feel incomplete, as a Catholic, by the absence of statues in some of the other niches. I do not wish to change a single stone of Oxford, because I love it. I love it as much, and maybe more, than I love any city I have lived in before.

There is no shame in loving the country you belong to. We immigrants love it, too. It is possible to criticise a country and the people who built it, while still loving it. Without a French presence in Morocco, I doubt I would have had any chance to enjoy an international academic career, let alone as a woman. My mother insisted that I should be educated in the French system; my grandmother’s pride was that I ended up teaching French to French teenagers.

Could I decolonise myself? No; nor do I wish to. I am proud of what the complicated past of colonialism made me. I feel no guilt about it, and the last thing I need now is the apologies of a French person feeling sorry for me.White guilt is unhelpful and condescending. Whenever someone tries to deploy it, I tell them that my ancestors were involved in the slave trade, too.
He wanted his scholarships to create amity between the English speaking peoples and I assumed he did so because Anglo-Saxons and Germans are Teutons, but Dr. Daouda quotes from his will: 

“no student shall be qualified or disqualified for election to a Scholarship on account of his race or religious opinions.”

1 comment:

  1. Dennis Chilvers comments: The article begins that she, 'comes from a country with no statues' and then goes onto mention that there are only or were only statues placed by colonisers such as the French and Phoenicians. In part this is due to the reason that in Islam the human form is not supposed to be reproduced, which is why mosques are covered with intricate patterns of nature rather than representations of the human form.