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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 should approach the statues issue with caution Show more Show less

This group believes that there are other ways to look at this debate. They are neither in favour of tearing them all down, or defending them till the death. They see the issue as symptomatic of wider concerns the we should address. Proponents include free speech activists, left wing historians such as David Olusoga and the moderate press.
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The UK controversial statues debate is an opportunity to think about how we look at history

We rarely reflect on the role of history: how we understand it, and how that understanding shapes the present. This debate is an opportunity to do precisely that.

The Argument

The light on the controversial statues that many have removed, or want to be removed, actually opens the opportunity for us really think about how we look at history. The people depicted by said statues have unarguably been complacent in some horrible activities.[1] However we can not change the past, nor can we hide from it.[2] All that we can do is learn from it, and think about how to learn from it and view it. Even if the statues are removed, it would be far from enough. That would just be hiding history, it’s important to figure out how dishonoring a person from history, would serve the present, or how it might demand equality.[3] Also, if statues are removed, what about the positive deads that person did to receive the recognition in the first place?[4] Or do we view the deeds in a different light, from the difference in historical and social perspective?[5] This issue is much more than deciding whether or not to remove statues, or it could be.

Counter arguments

We should not use statues as a middle ground to think or talk about history, as the entire basis of their creation is subjective and one-sided. Statues are meant for admiration and commemoration,[6] history is learned through education, books, museums, not through statues or monuments.[7]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/expertcomment/black-lives-matter-toppling-statues-and-anti-racism-joining-the-dots/
  2. https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/news/2020/jul/revealing-our-past-council-looks-to-reveal-district-s-hidden-history
  3. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/derecognising-past-honours/
  4. https://history.research.southwales.ac.uk/news/why-statues-matter-black-lives/
  5. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53305729
  6. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-statues-removed-down-colston-rhodes-baden-powell-racism-a9560736.html
  7. https://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2020/06/the-urge-to-destroy-is-also-a-creative-urge/

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 09:16 UTC

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