Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
23 views
23 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
42 views
42 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
43 views
43 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
73 views
73 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018
281 Views
1 Comments

Cecil Rhodes: Erase history or contextualise it?

Last week Oriel College at the University of Oxford released a statement asserting that the statue of politician, colonialist and benefactor Cecil Rhodes will remain on the building’s high street frontage. The decision has come after what the College has termed “careful consideration”, whereby opinions from “students and academics, alumni, heritage bodies, national student polls and a further petition” were attentively reviewed.

The decision to allow the statue to remain standing speaks to confirm the college will not concede to the crimes of colonisation, and that money plays a trump card. As one student put it, “You can’t have democracy without your opinionated benefactors after all.”

The calls for the removal of the statue were spearheaded by the group #RhodesMustFall, who were in part inspired by the success last year of their South African counterparts, who secured the removal of their Rhodes statue, and thus brought a necessary dialogue to the forefront.

Naturally, many articles have termed those who called for the removal of the statue at Oxford “outspoken”. Here is where much of the admonishment is felt; it is not even the argument itself that is so reprehensible – it is that students have spoken out where they ought not.

Students of colour have spoken out where they ought not. They have criticised what they ought not. Only privileged, white academics and aesthetes may comment on what is, and what is not suitable to have professed from the front of a school in 2015.

Oriel College, in late December, ensured the students and public that a 6-month grace period would be held, where people’s voices would be adequately and equally heard. This period was cut short after just over a month, showing who can speak to whom about what is indeed limited.

Those who are offended by and opposed to the statue are often dismissed as somewhat over-emotional, worked up: “It’s just a statue” is something I have heard and read several times. Other than the problematic entitlement of telling someone that their response is invalid because it does not resemble one’s own, this argument does not actually make sense.

If those who believe the statue should remain really felt that it was “just” a statue, and not a leering symbol, then there would be hardly as much reprehension to the removal of it. People are clearly aware that it is a symbol – whereas to many POC and minority groups it is a symbol of violence, hatred and inequality, to others (namely white, namely privileged) it is a symbol of British prosperity, power and, apparently, benevolence.

Let us not pretend that this is a conversation about semantics, though – the statue is clearly a symbol, and every response to said symbol is valid.

Others have claimed that it is unfair to hold someone who lived 100 years ago up to our “modern” standards. This idea seems to suggest that the “standards” we have in place today are completely arbitrary. The only particular thing about them is that they are “modern”. They aren’t anything to do with super basic human decency and compassion, built on complex understandings like “don’t enslave another racial group”, or “don’t profit off resources of those you oppress”.

The other argument banded about is that removing the statue of Rhodes will perform some sort of historical erasure. This is a ludicrous argument for many reasons, but two in particular seem more obvious. Firstly, just as a statue itself does not constitute history, the removal of it does not constitute its erasure.

I don’t need to remind you of the famous villains from the past that we remember without need of a statue. Secondly, it could be argued that the statue does itself perform something of a historical erasure. By portraying Cecil Rhodes as a philanthropic benefactor (which his humble, hat-in-hand figure watching over each entering student invariably does), his identity as a man who believed “the more of the world [whites] inhabit the better it is for the human race” and who spearheaded the disenfranchisement of black South-Africans (among many other atrocities) is somewhat erased.

Further, it erases the pain suffered by black South-Africans, as well as POC from other lands viciously colonized by the British, and those who, in England today, experience the racism imperialism left in its wake. The scars of Colonisation are still visible; this statue’s presence, among other things, proves it. And it is only those still benefiting from such severe exploitation that are calling for such things to be left in the past.

Yes, Oriel College have claimed they will ‘contextualise it’, that they will ‘draw attention to this history’. Which history is this? Oxford is constructing a history where the voices of POC do not matter as much as those donating money to the University. A history that does not recognise the privilege to be able to separate a man from his identity as a criminal because he set up a scholarship fund.

The figure of Cecil Rhodes is not colonialism itself; but it is a symbolic portrayal of one who believed vehemently in the supremacy of whites. Its remaining perpetuates an attitude toward POC, and otherness in general, that is very real indeed.

This decision is not just disappointing; it’s racist. #RhodesMustFall campaigners at Oxford and elsewhere have assured the world that “this is not over”, that they “will be redoubling [their] efforts”. The RMF campaign is a dynamic and impressive one. They are committed to not just the removal of a statue – of a symbol – but to a coherent reworking of a structure that has become all too comfortable.

Just days after the decision was made public, RMF released a list of 7 “non-negotiable” demands. These included a commitment to the decolonisation of the curriculum as well as proper representation of people of colour at every level of the university. We must all continue to support movements like this one.

 

Mimi Diamond


 

The campaign to remove the Cecil Rhodes statue from Oriel College is yet another example of the growing trend in student authoritarianism masquerading as social justice. Between banning magazines and blocking speakers whose views are in violations of “safe space” policies, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign makes itself a cosy home.

Those arguing for the removal of the statue will provide you with plenty of information on just how odious an individual Rhodes was. So it is in the interest of not boring you that I will not go into too much detail regarding his character, however it is important for the concession to be made.

Rhodes was a racist and a violent imperialist whose activities, if witnessed today, would deserve him a swift visit to the International Criminal Court – but this is not what is up for debate. Rather, what matters is whether or not the correct response to such a fact is to remove the statue altogether.

One of the foremost arguments provided by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign is that the removal of his statue provides a symbolic step in addressing issues of racism at Oxford University, and as an act of reconciliation in light of Britain’s colonial history. Let us consider the implications of this claim.

If this is a valid basis for the removal of a statue, as the campaigners uphold it to be, then I recommend that they next stop by the statue of Lord Curzon, former Viceroy of India, which can be found in ST. James’, London. Curzon was not only the administrator of British Colonial rule in India for six years, but also ordered the invasion of Tibet in 1903, leading to the deaths of thousands of Tibetans.

Not to mention the statues of John Lawrence, another Viceroy of India whose statue you can find in Waterloo Place, and Jan Smuts, former Prime Minister of the South African Union and famous supporter of racial segregation, whose statue can be found in Parliament Square. If the grounds for removing Cecil Rhodes was to express our dedication to repenting for our racist and colonial history, surely it follows that the existence of these statues are equal violations?

Of course, why stop at our gruesome history of racism and colonialism? Visit Trinity College at Cambridge University and you will find a statue of Henry VIII. Surely, by the same logic, the existence of a statue of this gluttonous creep is an insult to feminists and women in the knowledge that he murdered two of his wives?

Except the existence of Henry VIII’s statue at Cambridge is not a symbol of the oppression of women, nor a commendation of his beheading Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard – and no sensible interpreter would conclude it as such. Just as it is not an endorsement of John Milton’s and Aristotle’s sexism, or of John Stewart Mill’s racists remarks, or of Julius Caesar’s genocidal conquest of what we now call France. All of which have statues that can be found in London. The same applies for Cecil Rhodes.

It is always important to bear in mind the wider implications of a campaign such as Rhodes Must Fall, and the principles that are being endorsed at their core. In this case it is that historical emblems should be removed on the basis that the actions of the individuals they represent do not pass by modern standards. The extension of such a principle leads to what can only be described as a form of cultural cleansing. The opposition of which is therefore not only right, but also important.

So what should we do? Enter David Olusoga, whose article on this matter called for what he calls “contextualisation”. Rather than removing Rhodes, Olusoga calls for a plaque to be made at Oriel that explains what Cecil Rhodes did: both the good and the bad.

The individuals these statues represent, whether good or bad, each played a role in shaping Britain today. We should be advocates of understanding them, not erasing them, and, when necessary, branding them as the criminals that they are. As Olusoga wrote himself, “I’m after more history, not less, and not just for Rhodes”.

Rory Lightfoot

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam
Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
23 views
23 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
42 views
42 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
43 views
43 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
73 views
73 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018

One Comment

  1. Should we remove all the statues of historical figures who have performed acts or were involved in events that we now see as wrong or immoral? Removing the statue is removing history as the statue has a history. I’m not a support of British Imperialism but I doubt there would be a statue of anyone left. You say that every opinion to the statue is valid, yet you dismiss people who don’t wish to see the statue removed as white privileged people and suggest their opinion is less valid that the students who support the RhodesMustFall campaign. Interesting, in Zimbabwe, the mayor of the town where Rhodes is buried has said he won’t have his remains removed as it would be destroying history and that is what ISIS do. Furthermore, even Robert Mugabe has said the remains must remain where they are.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
23 views
Arts
23 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018

Starting university comes with both exciting but potentially daunting changes, with both moving away from home and studying at degree level posing to be two new challenges.…

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist
Film & Theatre
36 views
Film & Theatre
36 views

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist

Anonymous - September 18, 2018

One key film in the development of anyone who grew up in the early 2000s was The Incredibles (2004). It’s comedy, vibrancy, and general sense of fun…

France in Fine Fettle
Sports
42 views
Sports
42 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Prior to the start of the quadrennial tournament this summer, football fans across the world grew sceptical over Russia’s credentials and ability to host the most prestigious…

Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
43 views
Arts
43 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Boredom is impossible when you throw yourself into everything this weird and wonderful city has to offer. The specific and unique cultural wonders of Brighton are indeed…

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
73 views
Arts
73 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018

During this year’s Pride Festival, Brighton had the honour of welcoming international pop star and voice of the early 2000s, Britney Spears, to the main stage. Undoubtedly,…

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
1136 views1
Campus News
1136 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Students’ Union Apologises for ‘Sexist’ Beermats
News
7 views
News
7 views

Students’ Union Apologises for ‘Sexist’ Beermats

Jessica Hubbard - September 20, 2018

The University of Sussex Students' Union (USSU) has apologised after 'sexist' beermats were found in 'Dig in' Boxes in Freshers' Welcome Bags. The beermats were provided by…

Sussex Lecturer Accused of Making Transphobic Comments Ahead of Brighton Trans Pride 2018
News
75 views1
News
75 views1

Sussex Lecturer Accused of Making Transphobic Comments Ahead of Brighton Trans Pride 2018

Jessica Hubbard - September 15, 2018

Kathleen Stock, a philosophy Lecturer at Sussex, was accused of making transphobic comments in July 2018. This followed various interviews and blog posts by Stock. Stock told…

Welcome 2018 Freshers!
Campus News
79 views
Campus News
79 views

Welcome 2018 Freshers!

Billie-Jean Johnson - September 15, 2018

Ah, Freshers. You’ve no idea the amazing year you have ahead of you! As you read this now, you’ve probably met your flatmates and maybe even met…

A conversation with Kathleen Stock on Transgender Identity
Opinion
72 views
Opinion
72 views

A conversation with Kathleen Stock on Transgender Identity

Jessica Hubbard - September 15, 2018

Kathleen Stock, a philosophy lecturer at Sussex University, met with controversy after criticising the government’s reform of the Gender Recognition Act (2004). The amendment would ‘de-medicalise’ the…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
393 views
Arts
393 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
394 views
Arts
394 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
372 views
Arts
372 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
431 views
Arts
431 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
449 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
390 views
Arts
390 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
364 views
Arts
364 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
553 views
Campus News
553 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
313 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
917 views
Arts
917 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
375 views
Arts
375 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…