GERMANY’S COLONIAL LEGACY CONTINUES TO LIVE ON IN THE STREETS
To date, Germany’s colonial crimes and criminals are honored with street names and monuments. Whether streets, squares or underground stations: many locations are named after colonial criminals. Others are directly related to German colonialism. Even today, the naming of public places in Germany is still regarded as a way of honoring people and paying tribute to historical events.
Our map is a starting point for identifying colonialist remnants in public spaces. With your help, we can complete the picture!
IT IS 2020: COLONIALISM DOES NOT BELONG ON OUR STREETS
The presence of criminals, wars and symbols of the exploitation and violence in public spaces are used to honor crimes against humanity. This is a sign of the pervasive racism and the lack of responsibility taken by Germany for its colonial past. If this colonial history isn’t processed, the racial structures remain.
Colonialism is a part of German history. It needs to be processed, especially its persistence in National Socialism, and the effect it still has today. A deeper critical discussion about colonialism and racism has to become a part of daily life! Especially in public spaces. However, colonial street names place importance on the perspective of the perpetrators and the violence again and again, integrating it into public perception. It is not about making colonial history invisible, but about changing perspective.
Colonial history can no longer be downplayed or romanticized. It has to be told from the perspective of the resistance. Namely, through the names of important anti-colonial thinkers and fighters. To create public spaces where black and people of color are no longer reminded of suffering and violence, but instead feel empowered.
GET RID OF IT NOW: WHAT CAN I DO?
Who is being honored? Criminals for their crimes isn’t an option! Remove the head, take it off its pedestal, cover it with a sign - there are many possibilities. However, only marking it isn’t enough, we are searching for other ways. Many things can be a monument and when in doubt, sinking it in the water is always a good idea.
Through various interventions, history isn’t lost, but told differently. Post-colonial initiatives and groups have been fighting for decades to create a contrasting Culture of Remembrance.
When doing this, it is important to include people from former colonies and those who have experienced racism themselves. It’s not just about shaping public spaces together, but also about who takes part in the decisions.
Streets, counter-monuments, and squares named for resistance fighters and that remind us of empowering political events are all places we like to gather. There we can honor the victims of gruesome colonial crimes and celebrate the resistance against them. Just like in the past, in solidarity with the struggles against racism and exploitation! Public spaces are for everyone. Street names and counter-monuments are just the beginning, we demand a central location for remembrance!
IT’S OFF THE PEDESTAL WHAT NOW?
When the monuments have fallen, memory should not be erased. Germany’s colonial history cannot disappear from the cityscape. On the contrary. The brutality of colonialism needs to be visible, the victims should be remembered, the anti-colonial resistance and the ongoing fight against racism must be honored. Where a monument falls, a memorial should emerge or the pedestal should be a space for artists from the former colonies and the local black community to use and create. Street names cannot just be changed. We need a change of perspective. Instead of paying homage to colonial criminals, tribute must be given to those who fought against colonial tyranny. This way the requirements of an anti-racist society are also anchored in the cityscape!