As the world continues to confront the history and legacy of systemic racism, Britain focuses on the role that historical monuments play in celebrating those who helped shape such a wretched system.
Fuelled in part by Black Lives Matter’s weekend demonstrations in Bristol – resulting in the long-overdue bath offered to a widely-hated statue of slave trader Edward Colston – Sadiq Khan has authorised a review of London’s statues, with the goal of removing those that celebrate problematic figures.
Promising to challenge “what legacies are being honoured,” the study would examine monuments, road names, building titles and plaques and consider their links to slavery and colonialism. The review, called The Commission on Diversity in the public realm, will provide contributions from the art world’s historians, community leaders and figures. According to the Evening Standard., Two of London’s deputy mayors – deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility, and community engagement Debbie Weekes-Bernard and deputy mayor for culture and creative industries Justine Simons will co-chair the board.
As Khan stated, “It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored”.
The Mayor did not say which statues he would like to see come down, but particular ire has long been focused on a statue of slave trader Robert Milligan in West India Quay, and one of Robert Clive – who committed heinous acts of violence across Asia as a representative of the East India Company – who stands in Whitehall. It has long been overdue to take decisive action on monuments celebrating a legacy of violence , racism and oppression, so hopefully we will soon see some suitable figures on those pedestals.
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