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How do we think about taking down controversial statues in the UK?

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?

"How dare they tear down our statues!"

This group sees the anti-statue activists as lawless mob. Proponents include the EDL, All Lives Matter activists, and the alt-right press.

These people are erasing our history

The statues are important pieces of our national history. Taking them down erases it. Explore

The violent mob are race traitors

These forms of vigilante justice serve nothing or no one. White people joining in the protests are a disgrace to the our communities and culture. Explore

We have been forced to accept multiculturalism against our will

Britain is a white country. Multiculturalism has been given centre place in the national agenda against our will. Explore

We must defend British culture

British culture is at stake. Tearing down statues is a violent attack on our values. Explore

All lives matter

Black lives do not have a greater value. Taking down statues is a racist attack on the UK's white communities. Explore

The police are working in the interests of the enemy

The role of the police is to protect British people and British interests. Their failure to protect our statues during this time suggests otherwise. Explore

Non-whites should go back to where they came from

If non-whites do not like British culture and have come here to take down our history, they should go back to their countries of origin. Explore

This is an attack on the white working class

The white working class, who are already disadvantaged in the UK, are being undermined yet again. Explore

The statues are an attack on the UK's white majority

Britain is a white country. This debate is about race, and an attempt to subordinate British people. Explore

"We have every right to take the statues down!"

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.

The statues sustain structural oppression

Celebrating racist figures perpetuates systemic oppression. Explore

The statues celebrate evil acts

Statues - by virtue of memorialising perpetrators of evil - celebrate their deeds. Explore

The statues venerate evil people

We do not put up statues to denigrate, but to celebrate. Statues of evil people therefore celebrate evil people. Explore

The statues oppress ethnic minorities

This debate is largely around figures who have historically subjugated ethnic minorities. They are therefore a form of soft power that oppresses these groups in society. Explore

The statues represent history inaccurately

Statues misrepresent the past, and are dangerous because of this. Explore

Having the statues in a museum sanctifies evil

Keeping statues in museums will not alleviate the problem. They need to be removed for good. Explore

The statues legitimise racism

The statues offer vehicle through which racists can legitimise their views. Explore

The statues destroy the intellectual health of the public

The statues perpetuate popular ignorance in the false narratives they represent. Explore

Statues hide deep injustice

The statues detract from the controversial historical moments they represent. They permit people to look past the injustices they link to, and focus on the statues as art. Explore

Our democratic channels have failed us

Formal channels of protest have failed. Tearing down statues is forcing those in power to listen to the needs of those at the bottom. Explore

This is the revolutionary resistance we have been waiting for

The revolution has been a long time coming. Let's redistribute power from the elite. Explore

"We should approach the statues issue with caution"

This group believes that there are other ways to look at this debate. They are neither in favour of tearing them all down, or defending them till the death. They see the issue as symptomatic of wider concerns the we should address. Proponents include free speech activists, left wing historians such as David Olusoga and the moderate press.

We should focus on the present, not the past

The issues we are discussing here are current. That is where our attentions should be focused. Explore

The statues are a distraction from the real issue at hand

Putting emphasis on statues in a debate about UK race relations detracts from the problem. Explore

This is an opportunity to think about how we look at history

We rarely reflect on the role of history: how we understand it, and how that understanding shapes the present. This debate is an opportunity to do precisely that. Explore

This issue is about the decline of the West

This battle is about the decline of Western authority. Explore

Our approach to storytelling our statues is flawed

The statues are not the issue. It is in the way we memorialise the figures they represent. Explore

Statues have an educational purpose

Statues enrich our understanding of history and the people who shaped it. We should not lose sight of that. Explore

We should find ways to give more context to these statues

We should hesitate before taking drastic action, and see this debate as an opportunity to enrich - not destroy - our understanding of the past. Explore
This page was last edited on Wednesday, 24 Jun 2020 at 15:06 UTC