Like all revolutionary moments, toppling the Colston statue caused waves of divisive opinions. Some congratulatory, some condemning, but everyone is talking about it. And those ceaseless conversations are the hum of social change. People reacting and countering each other, challenging racist beliefs, having in-depth discussions: this is how we learn, how we grow and how we get better as society. People who didn't know anything about Edward Colston prior to the protests are now discovering the oppression he enforced and understanding why slave traders must not be celebrated.
And yet, the conservative underbelly of Bristol still moans, ‘How will people learn about the history of Bristol without their precious Edward Colston statue?’ My question to those who are claiming the statue was of educational value is this:
How does a statue educate? What does a bronze figure teach?
The plinth beneath the Edward Colston statue simply read, ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city.’ How impartial! The statue contained no facts about the exploitative manner in which Colston made his fortune; it did not even allude to the fact he was a slave trader. So, what exactly were we to learn from it? Anyone keen to discover the history of Bristol will find more than enough fascinating insights within our excellent museums; so I fail to see how the loss of the statue can be seen as a loss of information.
Indeed, what the wrongly-outraged, statue mourners cannot seem to grasp is that no-one is erasing Edward Colston's name from the history books. We will always remember him – but we will never celebrate him. Because, let's be fair, that's what a statue is: a monument of reverence. You look up at any metallic human sculpture and assume the person depicted must have done something incredibly noble to warrant being commemorated in such a way. A statue implies the person was heroic; it condones their behaviours. In that regard, Edward Colston was never worthy of being memorialised. I am so grateful to the protesters who decided enough is enough and tore down this vile tribute that condoned racism.