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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 venerate evil people

We do not put up statues to denigrate, but to celebrate. As society progresses, our definition of what is morally acceptable changes. Celebrating statues of people associated with evil acts create a narrative unfitting of 21st-century values.

The Argument

Those in favour of controversial statues being removed from public spaces have every right to demand their removal. These statues celebrate some of history's greatest infamies against humanity. Recent pushbacks against displaying statues of perpetrators of evil were brought to light during UK Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020. In Bristol, anti-racism protestors controversially toppled slave trader Edward Colston's statue into the harbour. This opened the conversation on when and where it is appropriate to display statues of people commended for acts of evil. People are asking if it acceptable at all.[1] On the same day, demonstrators united over the crane-lifted removal of slave-owner Robert Milligan's statue outside the Museum of London Docklands. The Museum itself denigrated Milligans' crimes against humanity. They also reiterated society's ongoing systemic problem of whitewashing history, as per its celebration of racist statues.[2] The two examples above highlight significant backlash against the celebration of statues linked to people who commit acts of evil. Anti-racist activists understand that the slave trade can be remembered without glorifying its perpetrators in public spaces.[3] In the 21st century, the acts of evil people should be denigrated, not celebrated. For this reason, these statues should be removed.

Counter arguments

Some people in opposition of removing controversial statues feel it is an attempt at erasing history. Statues can be seen to teach us about the attitudes and standards of the past, which may have been acceptable then, but are by no means acceptable now. They argue it is wrong to judge people from the past by today's standards.[4] While figures like Edward Colston are linked to acts that are undeniably evil by modern standards, history is complex, and no one is inherently or exclusively evil. Colston's philanthropic nature and generous charitable donations greatly benefited his home town of Bristol.[5] This suggests that there is a valid argument for controversial statues to remain.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52965665
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-52977088
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/edward-colston-statue-bristol-slavery-robert-milligan-tower-hamlets-a9555846.html
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52965665
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-42404825
This page was last edited on Saturday, 3 Oct 2020 at 00:59 UTC

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