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How do we think about taking down controversial statues in the UK? Show more Show less
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In June 2020 protestors circulated a hit list of controversial UK statues to be taken down. These included Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Robert Baden-Powell. Campaigners say these statues must be ripped down because they contribute to racialised systemic violence. In turn, this trickles down into every facet of public life and subordinates ethnic minorities. On the other side, groups made up of mostly far right activists say this is deeply offensive. They see this lobby as a violent mob that have been undeservedly handed a mandate to whitewash UK history. So, who are these groups, what do they think, and why?

We have every right to take the statues down Show more Show less

This group believes that tearing down statues is an important method at redressing systemic racial inequality. Proponents include Black Lives Matter, and left wing, British commentators such as Namitha Aravind.
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Having controversial statues in a museum sanctifies evil

Keeping statues in museums will not alleviate the problem. They need to be removed for good.
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The Argument

The removal of controversial statues has sparked much debate concerning whether the monuments should remain in public areas, be confined to certain types of public spaces or be completely removed. If these statues are to be erected, but not in public squares, then the question of in which location we display them remains. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer states that the statue of Edward Colston, that was unlawfully removed by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, should have been placed in a museum to begin with.[1] Museums are educational institutions that aim to preserve culture. So, the exhibition of statues would be one way in which the public could educate themselves on British history without it being the case that the controversial monuments are in blatant view or destroyed. What underpins this argument is the belief that the preservation of the statues, by displaying them in museums, approves and legitimises the evil acts carried out by the depicted figures. The statues are a way of glorifying the figures regardless of the specific public spaces in which they may be displayed. [2]

Counter arguments

While displaying these statues in museums can be interpreted as an act of glorying the actions carried out by the depicted figures, their display is also a way in which we can learn about their actions. Museums are educational establishments that can present factual information about the figures concerning their role in history so that visitors can learn about and debate their entire legacy.[3] That said, having the controversial statues in museums rather legitimises the understanding of evil than evil itself.

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/uk/keir-starmer-edward-colston-statue-bristol-labour/
  2. https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/22/statues-historical-figures-must-come-12885575/
  3. https://metro.co.uk/2020/06/22/statues-historical-figures-must-come-12885575/

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 09:18 UTC

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