Friday, June 12, 2020


It is difficult to imagine a more timely statement for the current mood than Basquiat's" defacement" painting, related to the death of Michael Stewart in 1983 who died from injuries incurred while in police custody in New York City.

Western societies are reeling after the images out of America obliged them to review their own anomalous past and current denials. The soft revisiting of the colonial times, the cautious admittance of past "mistakes" are no longer enough. Cotton balls do not mute the screams.

The blatant and the indirect racial slurs and patterns of behavior (so rampant in the bourgeois West) are totally out of place and time. History will have to be adjusted to facts rather than be an auxiliary to a perverse faulty discursive narrative.

Art was able to make clear statements wherein the horror no longer needed subtitles. Goya, Picasso, Warhol, Gerhard Richter don't need translation or commentary. 

The racial malaise today is related to many causes, be it slavery, discrimination or colonialism. It is difficult to come to terms with evils that were part of the "past normal" before they became the "current scandal". The American founding fathers had slaves. Whole societies were built on discrimination by law. Colonial exploitation was seen as a pedigree.

In Europe, the figures of Cecil Rhodes and Leopold II stand out among their many unsavory peers. No colonial story is a happy one. The past must nevertheless be re-examined and reparations should be considered in a multilateral agreed-upon fashion under UN supervision.

In Belgium the statues of Leopold II are becoming the targets of protest. However it is clear that a few vandals are trying to infiltrate protest and hijack the bona fide grief of the many. This cannot be tolerated and should be dealt with accordingly. The sound of broken glass has a very bad historical echo and protesters should stay safe from perverse associations.

What happens with the overabundant statuary of Leopold II is a matter of common sense--weighted by decency and historical accuracy--not by numbers. 

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