£100 million, the price to pay to influence an Oxford college to keep up a statue of Rhodes…
Opposition to RMF has been boringly predictable, the self-styled resistance stomp their feet and shout about the injustice of taking down such a historically important statue. After alumni threatened to remove donations of up to £100 million, Oriel have shown that money talks and the statue will stand. Seriously, who does that? How is a bloody statue so important to someone that they would remove financial support from the university?
Is a statue of Cecil Rhodes really so historically important? The first thing I think of when I think of Cecil Rhodes is the blood diamond trade, and I’m not sure if I’m missing something vital, but isn’t that a rather unpleasant association? Wasn’t Rhodes the poster-boy for white colonialism? Surely, in a university where we want to make everyone feel welcomed, having a statue of a man, who likely had some effect on the parents or grandparents of some prospective applicants, and the legacy of whom even today continues to negatively impact upon some countries, is not a good idea. Summed up by Rosanna, second-year archaeology and anthropology student, “for goodness sake, it’s not that important, just take the statue down, morality aside, just take it down!”
“How is a bloody statue so important to someone that they would remove financial support from the university?”
Having a statue of Cecil Rhodes up sends a message to BME students that Oxford relishes in the days when Britain ruled the world. It displays a lack of care or sensitivity to the experiences of an individual or their family, and succeeds in creating an alienating environment that insidiously implies the superiority of white British people. Oxford University proudly states on its website that 140 countries are represented at Oxford, and only 65 percent of undergraduate applicants came from the UK last year. For this level of inclusiveness to continue growing, our surroundings must also grow with the times and become more welcoming.
Not to play the Hitler card, but I am about to play the Hitler card. If there was a statue of Hitler up in Oxford, would people be opposed to taking it down on the basis that it might remove history? No, people would say “of course take it down, we don’t want to glorify such a terrible man.” The same goes for Rhodes. Taking Rhodes down would not be destroying an important part of history, it would be refusing to honour a man who enslaved thousands, and the presence of whom made a large proportion of students uncomfortable.
A statue of Cecil Rhodes, now it is allowed to stand, will only serve to perpetuate the idea that the British Empire is still great: a dangerous myth, that will delude some and alienate others.