Thompson calls for Nelson’s removal, cites inequality

By Kareem Smith, Barbados Today,

Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations Elizabeth Thompson has placed her full support behind the removal of the controversial statue of Lord Nelson from Heroes Square and the participation of Barbadians in global Black Lives Matter movements.

However, from the unique position in which she sits, the New York City-based diplomat has sounded the alarm over racism of a different kind, manifested in the economic inequalities faced by majority black and developing nations who are being “strangled” by players in the developed world.

“There are many manifestations of the need for Black Lives Matter movements and it is not just the physical deaths, but also the economic strangulations. The knee is on the economic lifeblood of black and developing nations and the dialogue must be widened and the narrative has to be informed by the totality of the circumstances of the issue and as ambassador it is of extreme relevance to me and my country,” Thompson told reporters at the Ministry of Education’s headquarters.

“If you consider that a lot of what we are seeing at the economic level is affecting us disproportionately; whether it is being blacklisted during COVID-19 by the EU at a time when you really need money, or whether it is lack of access to correspondent banking facilities, which is choking your economy because you cannot get access to foreign exchange,” the Ambassador said.

In response to criticism of Barbadian solidarity with protests in the United States of America (USA), the Ambassador argued that such movements are important to members of the diaspora who are at risk of falling prey to “modern-day lynchings”.

“The ordinary Barbadian has an aunt, an uncle, a friend and somebody that they know in the United States. But it means even if on holiday, you are in an environment of high-risk as a black person. It is also relevant if our government cannot get access to resources because there are inequitable economic policies at the international level being applied to countries like ours. It is relevant to our existence,” Thompson stressed.

As the debate over the removal of Admiral Nelson’s controversial statue at Heroes’ Square rages on, Thompson concluded that after years of research on the life and legacy of Nelson, the monument is out of place.

“He visited Barbados, wrote about his contempt and spoke about his contempt for Barbados and Barbadians. If we are making the point that at the historical level, in the United States, statues and monuments that glorify racists and people who were part of and supported the slave trade – if we are making the argument that they have to go at the international level, then clearly they would have to go at the local level as well.

Main photo: Barbados’ Ambassador to the United Nations Elizabeth Thompson

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