Removing Racism: The Colston Statue
Print Music Editor, Bridie Adams, assesses whether it was right to remove the controversial Colston Statue in Bristol
Edward Colston was a slave trader. This is a well-known historical fact. So why, in 2020, centuries after the slave trade was abolished, was there still a statue of him in Bristol? Why was there a need for exploitation to be held up in statue form, as if to be celebrated?
The statue should have been removed by the authorities years ago. It shouldn’t have come to what it did; there shouldn’t have been any need for it to be removed during a protest, but as Black Lives Matter demonstrators tore down the statue, disposing of it in the harbour, little was done to stop them. Avon and Somerset police decided not to intervene, saying that they would likely have faced violence from the protestors.
The removal of the statue has had widespread impacts. Schools and other organisations that have ‘Colston’ in their name are considering changing their names after the protest in Bristol. Calls are being made to remove other statues with similarly racist connotations around the UK.
It’s a crucial part of dismantling white privilege to know the history of prejudice that black people still face
Some are arguing that by removing Colston’s statue, a historical image has removed that shouldn’t be forgotten, and should instead be confronted and analysed. Of course, it’s important to learn about slavery. It’s important to know what went wrong and how. It’s a crucial part of dismantling white privilege to know the history of the prejudice that black people still face. History can’t, and shouldn’t, be erased – there are countless sources to learn about slavery and slave traders without the need for statues and places named after them to be reminded. There are ways of learning this history that don’t involve a statue of a slave trader still standing, immortalized almost as a hero. The history of the statue is of course significant, but its removal is equally so. This is an extremely historical event in itself.