it started with columbus. barcelona, a city within a nation that owes a lot to the exploits of christopher columbus, has an expansive, beautiful monument to that person and I wanted to pose with one of the lions featured. I’ve always loved/intensely feared lions. I dream about them constantly. those dreams turn into nightmares frequently. I low-key believe in reincarnation and I am certain that in one of my past lives I was a male lion.
anyway, I love lions. but I hate european imperialism. and colonialism. and the fact that millions of people across continents are organized around a handful of european languages—spanish and english, mainly.
so, after I took my picture with one of christopher’s lions, I felt really dirty. like, why am I supporting, in my own way, the violence and thievery and misery that this nation, aided by this man, wrought in north and south america?
there’s a lot of those emotions for me, a black american, traveling in europe.
for every beautiful structure, every magnificent statue, there’s a nagging sense that I shouldn’t worship these cultures that have taught the world to worship them. that there’s a very ugly past to every great empire, france and its idealistic revolution included.
in berlin, which is one of the few western european countries to even attempt to deal with its legacy of systemic and state-sanctioned racism in any sort of public and meaningful way, it struck me that the majority of tourists were from places that had been colonized and from cultures that had survived a forceful diaspora.
we, people who could not, in any sort of way, inherit in any meaningful way, the dynastic power embodied by big, classical buildings and important looking white dudes, were snapping away with cameras and posing next to figures of people who, at best, didn’t think we were as human as they.
it’s an issue that I haven’t really resolved for myself because its a big, mushy, complicated issue. for me, at least.
what about you: do you ever feel a way about your involvement in the legacy of imperialists?