“White is with the Cecil Rhodes statue

“White lives matter! “You
will not replace us!” and “We will be back!” These chants were shouted by hundreds
of white nationalists and white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville over
the city’s decision to dethrone the statue of Confederate General, Robert. E. Lee.
This protest caused huge uproar across the globe, and those involved with the
protest were denounced on Twitter, by anti-racist groups and by countless well-known
figures including Hilary Clinton and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. There were also
calls for those involved in the protest to be kicked out of universities and
sacked from their jobs. Although some protestors used racist language and
slurs, others who in no way support the words and actions of these white supremacist
and nationalists would also argue that the statues and monuments created to
celebrate or commemorate past events should stay and not be removed.

 

These confederate statues
do not depict faultless or saint-like characters, rather they stand as a
reminder of our turbulent past and the struggles many people had to overcome to
get to where we are today. The monuments of Confederate generals and leaders should
stay up as part of our built environment and as a means of educating society
about the wrongs and rights of history. An example of this is with the Cecil
Rhodes statue in Oxford, earlier this year there were calls for this statue to
be removed because of Rhodes large involvement in the Slave trade, after much
deliberation the college decided to keep up the statue due to an ‘overwhelming’ support for
keeping it. The college soon after released a statement saying, “Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has
decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek
to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,”

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If these monuments were
to be dismantled on account of their flaws, their achievements would also be
wiped away with them as would evidence of their existence and consequently no
one would remember their place in history nor learn from their mistakes. Having
the monuments in places such as public parks or streets would be better as it
would mean that people would see them every day and hopefully this would
provoke them to engage in discussions and consider whom these statues
represent.

 

We simply cannot judge these figures by the standards of our
time because it’s almost impossible to find individuals who match up to them
completely. In the past people thought and acted differently: Who are we to say
that our ways are irreprehensible, perhaps future generations will look back on
the 21st century and object to our ways and perceive them to be
indecent.

In addition, these
monuments were erected largely to commemorate those who were considered great
figures at the time. They
were not initially destined to educate future generations about the evils of
slavery or oppression but that does not mean that we can’t take them as such
today, educating society about the wrongs and rights of history is a great deal
more beneficial than not teaching people at all.

Where would we draw the
line, not everyone is a Saint and by removing these controversial, ‘evil
monuments’ we may as well tear down every other statue of leaders. There are
many notable figures such as Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma
Gandhi who all accomplished many great achievements throughout their lives
however these men also had serious flaws. Churchill held extremely racist views
towards minority groups including native Americans. In 1937 while speaking in
the House of Commons he said “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of
gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes”.
Gandhi held horrifying sexist
views towards women as well as campaigning
against homosexuality and Mandela supported violence to achieve
political goals.

It is evident that these
men didn’t live totally unblemished lives, but does that mean that their
memorials should be removed, and their legacies are forgotten?

 

Similarly, many streets in
Glasgow like Buchanan street, Virginia street, and Tobago street, are all named
after Tobacco Lords who made their fortunes on the backs of slavery would we
need to change the name of those streets.

 

Moreover, who would
ultimately decide which monuments were to be taken down, if this
choice were to be made by members of the public or those in government there would
be significant problems with either as differing opinions from continual
surveys and polls would be hugely impractical equally, if our elected
representatives were to decide then surely the removal of monuments would
become some sort of political propaganda game.
The more fitting solution is
to allow these figures to stand as a reminder to us, to strive for a better
society.

 

Another significant factor is the financial implications of
removing these controversial figures. It is estimated to cost $600,000 for the
removal of the Confederate monument of Robert E Lee in Dallas and there are
estimated to be 718 confederate monuments and statues dotted about in the USA. The
removal of all these statues could potentially cost four hundred million
dollars, this an immense amount of money which could potentially build 16 brand
new fully equipped high schools in the USA. The financial consequence is too
great to justify the removal of these statues and these funds are better
utilised elsewhere.

In
conclusion, the removal of these statues could potentially silence History both
the good and bad. Instead, we should engage in open discussions about whom these
controversial figures represent in order that members of the public may form
their own conclusion in presence of all the facts.

As English novelist
George Orwell said in his book 1984, “Every
record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has
been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date
has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by
minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which
the Party is always right.”