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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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The controversial UK statues destroy the intellectual health of the public

The statues perpetuate popular ignorance in the false narratives they represent.

The Argument

What underpins this argument is the belief that the public has not been adequately educated on the intricacies of the acts that the depicted historical figures had carried out. There is a lack of awareness of and transparency concerning British history. Many of the men who are glorified through statues and monuments, such as Cecil Rhodes and Edward Colston, were fundamental in facilitating and profiting from slavery. Olusoga believes that statues revere the depicted individuals, which in turn legitimizes and attaches an element of greatness to their actions. The statues themselves are representative of how the figures positively contributed to British society and its prosperity. Yet, they also symbolize Britain’s colonial past which entailed countless human rights violations, fueled by discrimination and violence, to which the depicted figures contributed. That said, the monuments represent a complex history of which many members of the general public are unaware. We must encourage an honest account of British history which should go beyond romanticizing and glorifying it. We can do this by adequately educating ourselves and others on what the U.K. was built on and how this foundation contributed to its success. [1] How this education manifests is a matter still up for debate. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggests that we look into reforming the national curriculum. [2]

Counter arguments

The statues have an educational value. The mere presence of the statues and their place of erection can teach us about past attitudes and events, concerning topics such as race relations and economics, irrespective of whether they may be an unconventional source of knowledge. [3] For this reason, the removal of the statues would be contributing to our ignorance rather than combating it. That said, the statues do not destroy the intellectual health of the public but, for those willing to look deeper, contribute to it.



Rejecting the premises




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 09:17 UTC

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