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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 the statues down is an 'iconoclasm of the Woke!'" Show more Show less

We should not celebrate the destruction of our history. Taking this approach is reductive. Blaming statues for perceived "injustice" is unproductive.
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Toppling statues represents a juvenile understanding of history

While we might not agree with the decisions of our forebears, we cannot escape that we have been produced by them. These violent attacks come from an angry minority who wrongly see their individual opinions as representative of wider society. This obscures the more important issue at hand. That is an understanding of history. Of course, our interpretation of events and individuals changes over time. And maintaining our monuments sustains the conversation between past and present. That is as critical for progress as any other facet of public life. The current zeitgeist for destruction is therefore myopic and immature. What is needed now is not a social revolution, but a greater understanding of how we now want to see our past, and how that will inform our future. Proponents include author James Heartfield.
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    This page was last edited on Monday, 22 Jun 2020 at 16:23 UTC