Who’s Edward Colston and why was his statue pulled down?
MONDAY June 8th 2020
By now you probably would have heard that during the BLM protests in Bristol, the Statue of Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown in the river. But why?
Well, firstly let’s get out of the way why some right wing people are upset. When Edward Colston died, he gave all his wealth to the city of Bristol and was responsible for it thriving. Great, thanks for telling us. In addition, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is in his feels because he believes we should petition to get a statue brought down, and follow the democratic process. I suppose Boris never broke the rules. Oh and he also called the actions “subverted thuggery” – nice coded racist language there BJ.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, here are the real receipts.
Edward Colston was the Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company, a company who had monopoly in the Slave Trade. It’s estimated that Colston was responsible for the enslavement of at least 84,000 African Men, Women and Children. The majority of his wealth came from his involvement in this.
When protestors took down the statue, it was not an act of vandalism. It was an act of liberation and defiance against a historic system that has ignored a whole section of our society again and again and again. To walk past a statue every day that symbolises the pain and torture of an entire generation, is something British Black people should not have to. And should never have to deal with. And, just an FYI the statue was actually erected after slavery was abolished.
However, this is just the start, there is a string of problematic statues throughout Britain that should be removed. Cecil Rhodes, known as the architect of apartheid in South Africa, has a statue on campus of Oxford University. There’s also Robert Clive’s statue in Shrewsbury. Clive was a military official who made his fortune through seizing control of a vast part of India and surrounding parts of Asia. Then there’s the statue of John Mitchel in Northern Ireland. Mitchel championed the slave trade in America. Finally, Nelson’s Column. Admiral Horatio Nelson has been revered for years. But, what do they leave out of the history books? Well, unsurprisingly our dear Nelson was one of the men who campaigned hard for slavery not to end, he was vehemently in favour of it – and undoubtedly profited from it as well.
Historian David Olusoga, said it best when he was interviewed on the BBC, this week.
“Statues aren’t the mechanism by which we understand history. We learn history through museums, through books, through television programmes. Statues are about adoration, about saying that this man was a great man and he did great things. That is not true; he was a slave trader and a murderer.”
So what do we do now? We don’t stop drawing attention to these glorifications of a past that is unspoken of. A past that has profited on the oppressed. A past that sees victory in stealing other’s lives. A past that projects a holier-than-thou ethos to the world. We must change this narrative. We must teach young people the truth and we must not stop.