London Metropolitan Students’ Union Black History Month
This year we’ve chosen to celebrate the Black History month under theme, ‘Black History: more than just a month’.
A meditation on the politics of history, amnesia, identity and belonging, in and upon the lives of Black people inBritain, and whether this has implications both for understanding and pursuing the Black Lives Matter campaigns.
Paul McGilchrist former lecture at London Metropolitan University sent this letter to the Guardian.
Cecil Rhodes’ Oxford statue daily draws new and irrelevant arguments to its orbit. Chris Patten’s intervention blinds observers with the glare of its misdirection (Nelson Mandela’s “generosity of spirit” towards Rhodes) while attempting a total eclipse of objectors (Patten tells protesters: back free speech or leave Oxford, 14 January). The proposition that Rhodes Must Fall does not demonstrate a failure to participate in an open society or a denial of free speech, just as it has nothing to do with denials of history or the failure to accommodate difficult realities. Removing the statue would not erase historical facts, it merely ceases to celebrate the unpalatable actions of an individual.
This is an issue of iconography, not history. Monuments have no more right to immortality than the individuals they commemorate; to insist that they do is to consider them sacred. Whether Rhodes should continue to cast a shadow over an Oxford college ought not to be decided on the basis of whether his posthumous philanthropy has redemptive power, or the fact that the judgement of a modern “icon” can be co-opted in his support. And there is no contradiction in removing statues while retaining whatever beneficial bequests remain (scholarships, buildings, etc). It is possible to wrest benefits from the wretched actions of the past, while recognising that the author of those actions is not fit for public veneration.