Tuesday, 29 December, 2015

Historic England says Cecil Rhodes statue is part of our national culture

Even Robert Mugabe left Cecil Rhodes alone Oxford college considers removing Rhodes statue
Elliot Roberts | 27 December, 2015, 06:49

Abbott said the university could damage its standing if it removed the statue. Historian RW Johnson also likened removing such antiquities to the destructive actions of Islamic State.

Daniel Hannan, an Oriel graduate who said he would cancel his monthly direct debit to the college if it continued to act in such a "cowardly way".

Student campaigners claim the memorials are racist because the 19th century politician was a colonialist - and that making ethnic minority students walk past them is a form of "violence". The college announced it is seeking local authorities' approval to remove the plaque, explaining that "this plaque was erected in 1906 by a private individual".

'The stories of human suffering and triumph that are embodied in historic places should be understood as an essential aspect of our national culture.

If consent for removal is granted, the Rhodes plaque from King Edward Street will be taken down and stored as a historical artefact.

Rhodes was an Oxford student during the 1870s and returned to South Africa after finishing his studies where he became premier of the then-Cape Colony after founding the De Beers diamond empire.

But it cautioned: "We find little sense in the immediate removal of the plaque of Rhodes while the fate of the colonialist's statue remains uncertain, and apparently subject to further drawn out bureaucratic processes". "Our job is to be as objective as possible, even in the face of strong feelings and public sentiment one way or the other".

Abbot, who himself was a Rhodes Scholar, told the Independent newspaper Thursday that he opposes the attempt to remove a statue honoring Rhodes. Students of Oriel should be clear-eyed about Rhodes' faults and failings but proud of his achievements. "We can lament that he failed to oppose unjust features of his society while still celebrating the genius that led to the creation of the Rhodes scholarships", Mr Abbott wrote.

Mr Abbott said Oxford and its students should "should prefer improving today's orthodoxies to imposing them on our forebears".

"It's a pity that Rhodes was, in many respects, a man of his times".

Fellow former Rhodes Scholar Mr Johnson added that removing statues "we don't agree with" would be "rather like what IS is doing" by destroying ancient sites in Syria.

Rhodes was a famous imperialist and Rhodesia - now Zambia and Zimbabwe - was named after him.

The argument in Oxford is part of an worldwide pattern of students challenging university symbols and accusing them of promoting a racist legacy.