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 downShow moreShow 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.
Regarding statues in the UK, individuals have every right to take the statues down as these statues hide deep injustice and racism. This argument rests on the assumption that by allowing statues to continue existing in the public eye, they are seen as art and their controversial pasts are then overlooked. As such, they are very offensive to members of the groups that were oppressed/exploited by the people that the statues depict.
The statues and monuments currently in debate in the United Kingdom range from those of outright racists and slavers such as Edward Colston, to those still relatively revered in the public eye such as Winston Churchill. Either way, their racist histories make any further celebration of their figures unnecessary and therefore permit their removal. Their existence is a personal attack on those who have been negatively affected by the depicted individuals, both in history and the modern day.
To re-contextualize statues is not contributing enough. For example, public acts in Britsol surrounding the Edward Colston statue reflect this. Previously, private citizens had left human figures representing slaves transported by Colston, and the city had added a corrective plaque. Yet only when the statue was tossed into the River Avon was the visual blight of a racist past removed.
While the statues may or may not hide deep injustice, immediately turning to a public right to tear down statues is not the answer. It is better to proceed with caution relating to this issue. Only following time, voting, and careful re-evaluation should statues be theoretically removed. As such, there is no right of protestors to tear down statues as they see fit.