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.
Individuals have every right to remove historical statues as said statues represent history inaccurately and ineffectively. Statues and other commemorative forms representing individuals are often created in honoring, supporting, or reflecting a legacy. However, if this representation does not include a comprehensive look and understanding of that individual, it is misrepresented. Statues are fundamentally public, and so by not conveying the full story the public is being misinformed. Therefore, the public is within their right to remove misinformation from the public sphere.
For example, in the case of the now infamous statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, his full history was not successfully conveyed by his statue. Colston undoubtedly brought great wealth and renown to Bristol through his work as a merchant, philanthropist, and Member of Parliament. These contributions to society appear to have merited his celebration in the city. However, by not detailing his extensive involvement in the Atlantic slave trade and active support for black human suffering, the statue becomes involved in misinformation. The city of Bristol attempted to remedy this with additional plaques, but one cannot rebuild public memory and awareness, prompting the need for its removal.
To remove the statues entirely also represents history inaccurately. By removing celebratory statues and markers, and pretending they were never erected in the first place, protestors are attempting to rewrite rather than reroute historical narrative. Such action can become dangerous in the future, as the possibility to remove anything displeasing in history may result in vast historical inaccuracies.