When desecrating objects of historical importance, a haphazard approach reflects badly on those supposedly calling for social change.
It’s easy to antagonize well-documented figures, such as Winston Churchill, whose values may not entirely align with our own.
But Churchill's statue is a mismatched target of Black Lives Matter protesters when considering his political relevance. Defacing his memorial is not engaging in a meaningful conversation- but vandalism, spurred by an unnuanced and deliberately incomplete view of history. The effect has done little to reflect BLM’s intent and doesn’t ‘redistribute power.’ Instead, it has alienated non-supporters further while inviting unsavory opinions about the movement.
Even the initial toppling of Bristol’s Edward Colston statue- a far more unanimous gesture that received limited local backlash even from the council- will fail to spark social upheaval in the long run.
The problem here wasn’t the intent- it was an eruption following decades of protests by Bristolians to remove the figure's legacy from public view- but its method.
The city centre was flooded with unruly protesters at a time when COVID-19 restrictions were essential for public safety, ripped the statue from its plinth and dumped it into the harbour. Future visitors will see the damaged statue in a glass case, rather than polluting the city’s maritime landscape, after the council inevitably fished it out for historical preservation.
The legacy of Colston cannot be removed, only solidified by such impulsive fits.
Protesters have failed to achieve an essential element of revolution- coherency of vision. If they are to take down statues as a symbol of resistance, then they must know why they are doing it. They must discriminate between figures with controversial views and those who represent oppression. They must organize and distance themselves from senseless vandalism. Altogether, they must have a purpose. History won’t see them favourably otherwise.