Should we now bring down statues which are linked to racism?

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The symbolism of oppression has become a major narrative in the unfolding story of the Black Lives Matter campaign – and the debates around it.

Statues in particular, but also place names, have come under scrutiny following the felling of the monument to slaver Edward Colston in Bristol.

There have been calls to remove others, including in Glasgow, and there is an ongoing row over a statue of Scouts founder Baden-Powell because of his homophobia and support for fascism.

It goes the other way as well. A statue of Jamaican poet, playwright and actor Alfred Fagon has been doused with a bleach-like substance, also in Bristol. 

And it’s not a new phenomena – almost forgotten is the hammer attack last year on the Karl Marx memorial in Highgate Cemetery.

But it’s the issue of our many memorials to people – many now sunk in obscurity – who were glorified in our colonial and imperial past that have become a major talking point.

Does their presence on our city centres and elsewhere celebrate a barbaric history and stand as an insult down the generations – or are they historical artefacts, to be learnt from?

This is why we are asking: should we now bring down statues which are linked to racism?

Vote here and join in the debate by leaving a comment below.

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12th June 2020 by Graham Martin 12 Comments

Should we now bring down statues which are linked to racism?

Poll results (total votes: 192)

Should we now bring down statues which are linked to racism?

12th June 2020 by Wing

Leave statues up, it's history, good or bad, it's there for us to learn from.

15th June 2020 by Ursula

It is never a good idea to try to wipe away history, just because we don't like it or what it represents, look at the lesson/s it teaches, expand the story if need be, the good and the bad, it happened, not everything in life is equally represented to all, use your intelligence as a human being to read learn and live without constant need for validation we are all discriminated against at some point in life, the hardest lessons make us who we are, individuals with ideals and possibilities all formulated from our own history.

15th June 2020 by Geoff

I agree that we must learn from history. I would take down statues and place them into museums with accurate narrative that educates us and explains their place in the past but does not celebrate their achievements or condone their beliefs in a public place.

16th June 2020 by Lok Yue

And of course, pubs named 'Black Boy'. Except the source of that name was Charles II, described as a 'black man' on his wanted poster. In 17th c. language, black often meant simply black hair, dark eyes etc and held no racial connotation whatever. The pub name 'Black Boy' is nothing but a reference to the King on the run. And my point? There is a tendency to jump too quickly to conclusions, even by those with good intentions

16th June 2020 by John Cunningham

The statues are part of our history which, like it or loathe it, we need to know and understand. We should not propagate ignorance by removing them, or by changing street names. What we do need is for the provision of information boards, and other sources, which present a balanced and accurate description of the relevant history in each case, both good and bad. For example Winston Churchill's history is not all good news, whilst his leadership as PM during WW2 is widely recognised as exceptionally good. What people need to know about the person concerned is a truthful and balanced description of their lives, including their relevant successes and otherwise. It must also be understood that what may have been generally regarded as good and acceptable at their time in history might not be so regarded by later generations who see the same issues in a very different light. Historic truth simply cannot be changed to match current opinion and standards. The current population do need to have been educated so as to understand how standards and views change over time and the reasoning why those changes have occurred. Such changes have always occurred over periods of time and each generation must be informed to understand how and why they have occurred. In some cases the current view may be perverse, or simply wrong, and may also need to be changed based on a reasonable knowledge and understanding. That is the key which is necessary to achieve and maintain social justice. Polling down and destroying statues and failing to understand the relevant history will simply make matters worse and achieve nothing positive by creating unbalanced knowledge and ignorance.

17th June 2020 by Janet Mundy

Each town/city should open it up to local consultation. For Edinburgh, I personally like the proposal to add plaques explaining the subject's position in history. Some of the subjects under attack, like Churchill and Gladstone, have a very complex history, which could be explained. I probably wouldn't be alive without Churchill, but I also recognise that he had a much more dubious record during and after World War 1.

30th June 2020 by Bradley

I do wonder, do any of us really learn that much from statues and go and look at plaques describing why they are there? If the answer is no, why would keeping the statues up help anyone learn about what has taken place?I think there are better fights to be having for race equality, and that statues are a lower priority that won't really help much no matter what we do, but I also think everyone learns about Hitler and various other people who were troublesome in history without the aid of statues and plaques. We need to reform the education of our own country and acknowledge how Britain profited from a lot of suffering we inflicted.

1st July 2020 by Michaela French

It's important the statues are left to show future generations the disgusting racism which has festered in our society to ensure we can eradicate racism in all its forms. If we use the statues in a sense of 'look what happened in the past' perspective. I, for one, would like the world to know and learn from its past mistakes.

13th July 2020 by Alison Kennedy

The past is our history and heritage and we cannot just erase it. Our predecessors held different values to those held today, and we must respect their opinions. We can however learn from these opinions to change the future. Instead of vandalising or removing statues, they, with improved descriptions, can be used to remind us why we need to change.

23rd July 2020 by Joe

Every statue removed will re-write history - and once you've completed that we won't remember and the people who died wrongly without justice in those times will also be forgotten. A better idea is to juxtapose with new statues. Add to the story do not rip out pages from it.

28th July 2020 by Anna

I think there should be more balanced information on the statues about both sides rather then removing statues. History is not black and white.

30th July 2020 by Paul

The should be repurposed as community development tools (that may involve removal in some cases) so people can engage with racism and its history to inform present day anti racist activities.