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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 statues oppress UK ethnic minorities

This debate is largely around figures who have historically subjugated ethnic minorities. They are therefore a form of soft power that oppresses these groups in society.
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The Argument

Public art, such as public statues, are a way of conveying the values of a society within which it is exhibited. [1] During the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in June 2020, statues globally were defaced or removed. In the UK, Edward Colston’s statue was toppled into the Bristol Harbour, and the statue of Winston Churchill was defaced. Later petitions to remove the caricature atop the Greenman’s Pub sign in Derbyshire were also signed. Demands were made to have statues placed in museums to understand history, rather than to glorify the acts of the individual. [2] Statues of Edward Colston and Winston Churchill are placed up as signs of British Exceptionalism. The demand for, and the removal of the statues during the BLM protests is no coincidence. These figures have built their standing upon the oppression of large ethnic minority populations, which often is not well explained in history books. If statues are a way of expressing societal values, and the figures are those who have built their empires by oppressing minorities, the values that the statues represent, rationalise, and normalise institutional oppression. It is evident from the insistence from anti-racist groups of the removal of such statues, that there is a feeling that the statues oppress ethnic minorities. [3]

Counter arguments

Statues are a way of reminding people of their history. Values are transformational. Historically society was racist, sexist, and homophobic. What statues do is educate us on society’s transition through time, and the values of it during that time. By removing the statues, we are not settling the issues of the oppression of ethnic minorities, we are seeking to eradicate traces of history which are flawed and unpleasant to come to terms with, including those when the oppression was facilitated. We are eradicating an educational part of history rather than aiming to be better informed about it. [4] The statues were placed to venerate an individual in history who achieved an aim that society at the time considered to be good. Demonising historical figures such as Cecil Rhodes to justify their removal does not assist in eradicating the oppression which ethnic minorities face in contemporary society. The statues should not be removed. They should remain as an educational emblem to remind people that we still have a way to go to eradicate the oppression of minorities. [5]



Rejecting the premises




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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 09:19 UTC

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