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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?

"We should re-imagine what these statues stand for!" Show more Show less

There are more productive ways to treat our statues, which neither venerate evil, nor promote a vigilante culture.
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Vandalism is art

The obvious solution that stops history from being wiped out, yet highlights the wrongdoing of controversial figures, is turning them into pieces of art. That is, the vandalism itself should be seen as a piece of performative history, in which the heroes of the past face the morality of the present.
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    This page was last edited on Wednesday, 24 Jun 2020 at 10:51 UTC