Statues with links to slavery and oppression will be recommended for removal.
As the world continues to grapple with the history and legacy of systemic racism, the UK is considering the role that statues and monuments play in honouring those who helped shape such a wretched system. Fuelled in part by Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol over the weekend – which culminated in a widely-hated statue of slave trader Edward Colston being given a long-overdue bath – Sadiq Khan has authorised a review of London’s statues, with the goal of removing those that celebrate problematic figures.
Today we’ve unveiled a new commission to review and improve the diversity of London’s public landmarks.
We must commemorate the achievements and diversity of all in our city – and that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated. https://t.co/L1KTJqybGY
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 9, 2020
Promising to question “which legacies are being celebrated”, the review will examine statues, street names, building names, and plaques and consider their links to the slave trade and colonialism. The review, named The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, will include input from historians, community leaders, and figures from the art world. 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 commission, according to the Evening Standard.
As Khan noted, “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 didn’t 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 – which stands in Whitehall. Decisive action on monuments which celebrate a legacy of violence, racism, and oppression has been long overdue, so hopefully we’ll be seeing some appropriate figures up on those pedestals before long.
Also published on Medium.