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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 the statues down is an 'iconoclasm of the Woke!'" Show more Show less

We should not celebrate the destruction of our history. Taking this approach is reductive. Blaming statues for perceived "injustice" is unproductive.
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The fight against injustice should focus on changing the present

Focusing on redressing these past issues is ineffective. The danger posed by this current movement is in its short-sightedness. People should focus on the grave social injustices that exist today.

The Argument

Fighting against injustice by attempting to change history is ineffective and distracts from the real issues at hand. Taking down statues in an illegal manner will not help combat racial and social injustices. The realities that non-white communities face are not the result of these monuments. It is almost offensive to focus a battle for equality on this "issue" rather than seek change through policy, political representations, and other channels that exist for this purpose. The law must be upheld so that we do not fall into chaos and anarchy.[1] Instead of focusing on inanimate statues, we should fight against injustice through democratic channels. Vote, petition, and call on your MPs to get the change you desire. Vandalizing statues and property stains the movement for justice and takes away from its power.[2] The fight against injustice should focus on policy that can go into effect now and positively change the present.

Counter arguments

Taking down monuments and statues of racist figures does change the present. We can fight for justice through democratic means and by redressing protracted injustices simultaneously. This fight is not binary, and taking down controversial public items helps show people the truths about their history. For example, the removal of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol exposed much of his past that people tried to sweep under the rug. At the same time, momentum for addressing these historical injustices increased across the world.



Rejecting the premises




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 15 Sep 2020 at 00:39 UTC

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