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What is the intellectual framing of the UK statues debate? Show more Show less
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In June 2020 Bristol protestors rioting against the murder of George Floyd tore down a statue of Edward Colston. Having hauled it from its plinth, they eventually abandoned the statue in the city's harbour. Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch, viewing this as a momentous step in the fight against racism. Colston is known as the man who built Bristol. He bequeathed his enormous fortune to the city upon his death. 300 years on, the scale of his legacy is visceral in Bristol's landmarks and architecture, and the names of its schools, concert halls, streets, restaurants, pubs and cathedral. Yet, his fortune was built on slavery, leading many to argue that the statue props up institutional racism in the UK. Since Colston's toppling, activists have circulated lists of hundreds more controversial statues they say must be removed to end racial inequality. Others call this type of campaigning problematic. They view the destruction of monuments as historical whitewashing. For them, this trend is an affront to British history that does not confront the real issues at play. So, who are these groups, what do they think, and why?

"Taking down the statues redresses protracted injustice" Show more Show less

We cannot claim to stand against racial injustice, if we make no attempt to redress it.
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The crisis forces us to confront the scourge of racism

These statues send a clear message to people about their relative importance. They uphold institutional racism. Their impact on race relations is felt in the lived experience of our minority communities and seen in their lopsided poverty, police profiling, imprisonment, and abuse.


The rise in civil unrest after police in the United States killed George Floyd led to worldwide protests against racial injustice.

The Argument

Removing statues of controversial or even racist figures rectifies historical injustices. Statues are symbols that people celebrate.[1] Specific controversial figures – like Edward Colston, a slave trader from Bristol – should not be publicly venerated.[2] Instead, people in favor of this argument believe that these statues should be taken down to remedy historical mistakes.[3]

Counter arguments

Many UK residents were appalled by the removal and vandalism of statues, including one of Winston Churchill in London. They argue that the removal of statues should be voted on democratically. Others believe that it is unfair to judge past figures by today’s morals and standards. One Churchill supporter offered the opinion that winning World War II deserves a statue regardless of the former Prime Minister’s personal beliefs. [1]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Friday, 11 Sep 2020 at 17:21 UTC

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