A racist term appearing on a public memorial to a local motorcyclist has been covered up after scores of islanders voiced their disapproval at the N-word being on prominent public display.
The offensive slur appeared on a granite bench at the top of Bouley Bay hill in tribute to Denis Morin, who passed away in 2003.
Mr Morin was a member of the Bouley Bay-based Motorcycle and Light Car Club, where he was referred to by the N-word as a nickname, reportedly because he was often covered in oil.
Since the bench was placed there by the club with the permission of the former Trinity Constable, several islanders have raised concerns about the use of the term over the years, but the offending plaque has never been removed or amended.
Pictured: The granite bench memorial is based at the top of Bouley Bay hill.
However, a surviving member of the club agreed to cover it up on Saturday evening in the wake of reignited calls for its removal.
These largely stemmed from an Instagram post by local wellbeing specialist Jade Ecobichon-Gray, who has been using the platform to share her experiences as a mixed race woman and educate others about the more subtle and insidious forms racism can take.
Aiming to show why the global Black Lives Matter movement is relevant to Jersey, she recalled how her original call for the plaque’s removal in 2015 was not acted upon.
Having made enquiries about the plaque at the time, Trinity Constable Philip Le Sueur, concluded: “Although today it would perhaps not be considered politically correct, in the circumstances I don’t propose to take any further action.”
Pictured: Jade Ecobichon-Gray, who posted about her previous calls to remove the plaque on Instagram.
Reflecting on the episode, Ms Ecobichon-Gray wrote on Instagram: “This is one of so many examples that black and mixed race people here in Jersey deal with on a daily basis.
“This is where the dehumanisation of black people begins. When people feel comfortable using a term that is inextricably linked to the violence and brutality inflicted on black people throughout history, being included as a fond nickname. Let that sink in for a moment. Are you comfortable?”
The post was shared widely on social media, with numerous islanders following up with letters and emails condemning the use of the N-word on the plaque.
Express contacted Constable Le Sueur last week to ask if he would reconsider his prior decision.
He replied stating that the bench was not on Parish-administered land, but that he would nonetheless contact Mr Morin’s family to see what could be done about the nickname featured on the plaque, which he described as “by modern standards clearly inappropriate”.
On Sunday, he confirmed that, following discussions, the slur had since been “obliterated” by a surviving member of the motorcycle club.
Pictured: Trinity Constable Philip Le Sueur.
“…They have agreed that, whilst it may have been of its time and in recognition of a good friend (who was apparently always covered in oil, hence the nickname), they appreciate that it in today’s society it is inappropriate and understand how it may cause offence to some,” the Trinity Constable said.
“Hopefully this is a satisfactory outcome for all concerned and an end to the matter.”
For Ms Ecobichon-Gray, the best outcome would be the plaque’s removal and replacement.
In a column published in Express today, she explained that the saga has left her with some “uncomfortable but necessary questions”.
“If 1,000 people in a park were disgusted to hear that this word is being aimed at people in our community, why has the plaque not been removed entirely? Why did it take a chorus of mainly white voices joining me to legitimise that it matters? Part of the answer can be found in the fact that in 2020 black people must still assemble en masse to hold up signs which implore other people to acknowledge that their lives matter.”
Charles Alluto, CEO of the National Trust, which looks after many prominent local beauty spots, said islanders should be conscious and considerate of the kind of messages they put on display in the public realm.
“…The purpose of any memorial bench is as a resting spot for the public to use, and so I think there is an onus and a responsibility on those putting them in place to ensure that they are not offensive in any way, whilst still acknowledging the personalities whom they are seeking to remember,” he commented.
Pictured: The N-word has been covered, but Ms Ecobichon-Gray feels it would be better to remove the plaque altogether.
The Bouley Bay memorial isn’t the only public display to have attracted criticism this week as the local Black Lives Matter movement intensifies.
Growing numbers of islanders are questioning the appropriateness of the statue of royalist and Vice-Admiral Sir George de Carteret in St. Peter.
Erected in 2014, the £50,000 sculpture aimed to commemorate the 350th birthday of New Jersey.
The state was given its name by Sir George, who was gifted land as thanks for sheltering King Charles II during the English Civil War.
But the accompanying plaque fails to mention the St. Peter-born navy privateer supporting and profiting from the trade of slaves.
Former St. Helier Deputy Jennifer Bridge wrote on Twitter: “I would rather the statue did not exist but as it does, I would like to see an interpretation board next to the George de Carteret statue acknowledging his role in slave ownership.”
Following Saturday’s protest, a board was taped over the existing plaque, reading: “Black Lives Matter. George DC traded African people.”
Looks like someone sorted our your interpretation board. pic.twitter.com/BhxvKC2DPG— Ollie Taylor (@mailolstar) June 6, 2020
Debate has also been reignited over the naming of Trenton Square in the area of the International Finance Centre buildings.
It was named as such to draw parallels between Jersey and New Jersey, whose capital is Trenton.
However, Trenton draws its name from William Trent, who both traded and owned slaves.
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