Monday, 8 June 2020

Edward Colston Toppled

As a former student of the University of Bristol, I am delighted that the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in that city was torn down and dumped in the harbour in the recent Black Lives Matters demonstration there. ‘Criminal damage’ the Tory politicians are predictably calling such direct action.  No, far from it:  the criminal damage was having the wretched thing up in the first place, thereby honouring a man who made untold profits out of untold human misery – a racist heritage of brutality and oppression which continues into our own times.

As a current student of William Morris, I recall the tearing down of the Vendôme Column on 16 May 1871 by the Paris Commune and the clearing of Nelson’s Column from Trafalgar Square in News from Nowhere.  These were great gestures of collective liberation, real and fictional, which set an admirable context for Colston’s demise today.  The other traces of the slave trader’s disgusting presence in my old university city – the names of streets and schools which commemorate him – now need to be cleared away too; and then – in a project rather nearer to Morris’s own heart – since it concerns his beloved Oxford University - we need to get shot of that statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes which currently graces (or rather disgraces) the front of Oriel College.

1 comment:

Tony Pinkney said...

The local press in Oxford is already asking the right questions!