The link to the debate and initial readings is here: https://www.battleofideas.org.uk/session/statues-must-fall-erasing-history-or-righting-wrongs/
Here is my 5 minute introduction speech that I made (the focus of which was the UK more than the US, as were my responses during the debate):
One of the most interesting aspects of this issue is how little it is about the statues involved, the past or the current state of race relations in either the US or the UK.
Are wrongs being righted here? What’s done is done and it can’t be undone. You can remove all the statues, street names, symbols, etc and it won’t make a jot of difference to what has actually happened in the past. The dead can neither be punished nor compensated.
What we are witnessing is a casual re-racialisation of society by critical race theorists unable or unwilling to process changes in society which they are removed from in their academic echo chambers and the need of pampered, insecure middle class students who want to recreate the sanitised world they have become accustomed to at school and home in the world at large.
What is striking is the lack of debate not the quality of it.
I tried to find reasons why removing statues would lead to some tangible improvement in either race relations or in society and what I came across was just a script.
The script goes like this:
Racism is rife in our society.
There is a statue from the past linked to slavery/colonialism. This statue is venerated or celebrated/not known about (often both are claimed by the writer about the same statue – particularly in the case of Rhodes in the UK).
A sentence referring to suffering of people during slavery or colonialism.
Repeated assertions (as much to convince themselves as anyone else) that institutional racism and prejudice are real with little or no evidence (what evidence there is, is vague and not clearly related to race)
Statements about how society is also ridden with prejudice regarding gender, disability, LGBTQ, etc.
The statue being removed is essential to ridding society of prejudice and part of the journey to creating a utopian world where everyone is safe and feels included.
The SJW movement is just a set of about 15 statements which they repeat and expect everyone to agree with without question or thought. These are the articles of faith of a secular religion where victimhood is sanctified and whose main goal is to embed a caste system into society based on divisions.
They remind me of the Dothraki in Game of Thrones who make statements about the world, which they follow by a simple “It is known” as they have no reason or explanation for their beliefs:
We live in a white supremacist state – it is known.
Statues cause us harm – it is known.
Power plus prejudice is racism – it is known.
I can understand why they demand safe spaces and refuse debate because a cursory examination of their ideas and beliefs demonstrates a lack of evidence, inability or unwillingness to develop historical perspective and an authoritarian stance which does the very things they claim they oppose – marginalise and silence individuals and groups.
The whole movement is a case study in hypocrisy, replicating so much of what caused the problems they state they wish to change.
The dismissal of universal humanist concepts as racist means that we now have a situation where the model of race proposed by Linnaeus and others is unquestionally accepted by racists and anti-racists alike. The core tenets – racial categories, biological determinism, necessity for separation of the races is agreed upon. Where they disagree is simply how they divvy up human characteristics between the different groups and a minor re-naming of terms – coloured people becoming people of colour.
Both rely on a stunted, sanitised and conflated versions of history, in which slavery and colonisation is the only history that matters. Yet such a focus serves to shore up the idea of white European exceptionalism as much as it does the narrative that history is just non-whites being subjugated by evil white people.
Racism and prejudice exists, just not in the same way and with the same intensity of the past in as many places. It says something when the NUS spent a whole report burying the fact that 93% of BME students had not experienced any racism at university.
The exaggerated claims of harm end up trivialising what happened in the past.
Rather than draw attention to and examine history, all that is happening is a middle class charade where ethnic minorities mine their ancestors suffering to barter with manufactured white guilt, which their middle class white allies are only too happy to provide. All of this allows their activist professors to continue peddling outdated models of postmodernist critical race theory without so much as a challenge to the core ideas or assumptions from their students.
There is always points one wishes they had made
I was asked is there a half-way house or compromise between my view and that of Patrick Vernon in particular. My answer was no on the question of taking statues down because this is not a cost-free option and we do need to ask questions about whether this is the best way to spend money.
Patrick is an OBE and this is because of the work he has done to have black contributions to the UK seen and acknowledged. While I disagree with some initiatives (my objections to Black History Month as it stands can be read here and here), I would rather money was spent on erecting statues (which he mentioned but I can’t find a link to add to here) than removing them because that is about adding to this nation and enhances our historical knowledge and understanding of the past.