The role of statues and memorials in recognising all aspects of history – Liberal Article

Statues and memorials are important in recognising all aspects of history – Liberal Article

The death of George Floyd has caused a serious change in attitudes towards statues and memorials around the world. Before I begin this article, it is important to note that I do not condone the actions of the figures depicted in these statues that involved racist behaviour or participation in the slave trade. However, I do hope to open up the debate on their role in society and history.

Statues of important figures are essential in remembering the history of the world, country or place. For example, the Edward Colston statue that was brought down in Bristol, was there to represent the philanthropic work in the city. This included many donations to schools, hospitals and churches in Bristol and London. His charitable work is however stained by his role in the Atlantic slave trading business.

I believe that the statue should not have been brought down but amended. It is important that society recognises all aspects of history and its figures. A possible solution may have been to alter the statue to include information about his role in slave trading, as well as his beneficiary acts. This way, society does not ‘airbrush’ history and block out the bad parts, leaving less ability to learn from past mistakes.

We should not fall into the trap of ignoring the past, hoping that it goes away; because unfortunately, it won’t. We need to learn about all aspects of history. Not just the parts that present people or nations in a good light.

A vital step in doing is so is education. Both in school and at historical sites, people need to be educated about all aspects, letting them form their own opinions on the topic. As long as statues and monuments exist of people or places involved in racial and inhumane acts, without total knowledge, we will not learn. If people want serious change, it has to be done at an earlier stage than tearing them down.

I hope that this article does not come across as narrow-minded and racist. These are not my attitudes or intentions. I believe that the younger generations need to know how humanity has developed over centuries, and how our actions then have formed society now.

Change is crucial, and there is no place for racism in today’s world. However, we cannot wipe out its role in history, however horrifying it was. Racism should not be celebrated. It should be used as a tool to change the perspectives of the future. We should remember all parts of humanity.

Written by Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael

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Point of Information

Tear down all monuments to white supremacy – a Labour response

Let’s not kid ourselves here. Philanthropy does not compensate for the role that slavers such as Edward Colston played in promoting white supremacy. Philanthropy allowed Colston to be remembered as a benefactor, rather than his role in the trading of 84,000 Africans.

This is a bigger ‘airbrushing’ of history that my colleague does not touch upon. The function of statues of figures such as Colston is to retroactively make their lives appear more harmonious. When in reality, the money that was funnelled into Bristol was blood money earned from the uncompensated labour of African peoples. This is a much greater whitewashing of history.

If my colleague is so worried about people forgetting the impact of racism and empire, why hasn’t there been any mention of the role that the British state has done in destroying records of colonialism? During the process of decolonisation, British civil servants and government officials destroyed or hid many records of colonial atrocities.

For example, Britain erected concentration camps in Kenya and the description of what was done to prisoners seems to have been copied straight off a Goya print from his ‘disasters of war’ series. Rather than owning up to crimes that seem to echo the Nazi holocaust, Britain hid the records from survivors. This is a far more serious airbrushing of history than taking down a statue.

My colleague said in his article that “if people want serious change, it has to be done at an earlier stage than tearing them down”. This pretty egregiously ignores the struggle that many residents in Bristol have had for years in trying to take the statue down through legal channels, including putting the more moderate measures in place that my colleagues favour such as updating a plaque.

If the statue was not pulled down by protestors, then it would have remained up as a monument to one of the most despicable acts of cruelty ever inflicted on a group of people. I can’t imagine what this does to the minds of Black residents of Bristol, creating an atmosphere of hostility towards their lives and contributions.

Black British history matters. To justify maintaining monuments of people directly involved in slavery by asking people to “form their own opinions on the topic” is, in my opinion, shameful. How many sides to a debate about the role of Britain in the slave trade is needed?

I also question the assumption made in this article, that having statues maintained of slavers fosters debate. The purpose of erecting the statue of Colston, 174 years after his death, has more to do with promoting the influence of the British Empire than encouraging appraisals about his history. Furthermore, Germany does not need monuments to Hitler still up in full display to remember the crimes of Nazism. So why does Britain need to keep up statues of slavers to remember the Empire?

I hope Mr Colston enjoyed his short swim in the harbour, and I am encouraged about the moves of the council to put him into a museum surrounded by protestors placards. For too long, British people have been too nostalgic and positive about the impact of the British Empire. The removal of the statue by protestors has encouraged a far greater reckoning with our past than 100 statues of slave traders ever could have done. I look forward to Cecil Rhodes in Oxford following our departed Mr Colston.

Written by Labour Writer, Jack Walton

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‘Education, Education, Education’. Time for a revival of Blair’s famous slogan? – a Conservative response

Shock waves were felt across the world with the news of George Floyd’s death. Institutional racism has once risen to the forefront of discussion and rightly so. Racism has no place in our society. A greater education needs to be provided by the world’s governments whether it be at school, companies and institutions. I completely agree with Charlie in terms of amending all historical statues associated with slavery and racism.

Ripping down these statues and artefacts will only bring further unnecessary tension and clashes which can be solved through updating statue plaques. It would be foolish to “throw away” and forget pieces of history. Especially if they can be used to educate people about the mistakes made in the past.

If the people do not want these statues out in the open, why not open a museum for further education. I do not usually quote a Labour figure but on this occasion, but I will do. Tony Blair once said “Education, Education, Education” and that is exactly the way this issue needs to be solved.

On another note, institutions and companies must have greater scrutiny and accountability of its employees. I thoroughly believe that a department or position must be created in each company or institution to scrutinise individuals. Hold them to account and educate them and others about racism. Schools should draft a pastoral timetable to incorporate racism education in “form time” or “registration” as well as other subjects.

Written by Conservative Writer, Max Jablonowski

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Charlie Papamichael
Co-head social media marketing at | Website

I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.

Jack Walton
Labour political writer at | Website

My beliefs in libertarian socialism were adopted gradually. Since a child I was immersed in the language of social justice and liberal politics from my membership of a progressive Jewish youth movement.

Max Jablonowski
Conservative Writer | Website

I am Max Jablonowski, a second year student studying French and Politics at the University of Exeter, and I am about to go on my year abroad to Paris to complete two internships. I was Academic Events Manager of the Politics Society in Exeter and I was privileged enough to organize events such as Question Time, co-host the 2019 General Election Hustings with MWEXE and host the Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, the current Minister of State for Security.

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