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What is the intellectual framing of the UK statues debate? Show more Show less

In June 2020 Bristol protestors rioting against the murder of George Floyd tore down a statue of Edward Colston. Having hauled it from its plinth, they eventually abandoned the statue in the city's harbour. Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch, viewing this as a momentous step in the fight against racism. Colston is known as the man who built Bristol. He bequeathed his enormous fortune to the city upon his death. 300 years on, the scale of his legacy is visceral in Bristol's landmarks and architecture, and the names of its schools, concert halls, streets, restaurants, pubs and cathedral. Yet, his fortune was built on slavery, leading many to argue that the statue props up institutional racism in the UK. Since Colston's toppling, activists have circulated lists of hundreds more controversial statues they say must be removed to end racial inequality. Others call this type of campaigning problematic. They view the destruction of monuments as historical whitewashing. For them, this trend is an affront to British history that does not confront the real issues at play. So, who are these groups, what do they think, and why?

"Taking down the statues redresses protracted injustice" Show more Show less

We cannot claim to stand against racial injustice, if we make no attempt to redress it.
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Statues do not offer opportunity for nuanced debate

Statues cannot offer a nuanced examination of the past. They are an artwork intended to venerate. We cannot choose simply to re-imagine which aspects of a person's life these monuments celebrate. Their value in public life also makes this clear - they are decorative. Any exercise in changing their role is therefore futile as long as they remain on our streets, honouring those that built their fortunes on decimating others. It is far easier to remove these figures than expect a politicised shift in the national psyche. One which many groups will never accept. Proponents of this group include Metro journalist Namitha Aravind.
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    This page was last edited on Tuesday, 23 Jun 2020 at 08:29 UTC