Students Want Plaque & Statue of Cecil Rhodes Removed From Oriel College
The calls to have the statue removed has been met with controversy
An Oxford college which plans to remove a plaque dedicated to British imperialist Cecil Rhodes was last night warned that it was trying to ‘destroy history’.
Rhodes, who is largely responsible for the creation of Rhodesia; modern day Zimbabwe and apartheid, has been honoured by the University since 1906, for leaving a vast sum of money to the University in 1902.
As such, student campaigners consider the symbol Racist, and as an 'act of violence' against Oriel Colleges' ethnic minority students.
The calls follow similar protests in South Africa recently, where a statue of Rhodes was removed at the University of Cape Town after it was attacked, since it has been viewed as a symbol of oppression.
Last week Oriel agreed to take down the plaque, saying it ‘does not share Cecil Rhodes’s values or condone his racist views and actions’.
But Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who studied history at Oxford, said other historical figures would also fall short if judged by today’s standards. ‘George Washington kept slaves and Elizabeth I had Catholics tortured. Rhodes was a man of his time. This does not justify past behaviour – but it does contextualise.’ This message was also supported by other conservative MEP's.
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’.
Tory MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, a former deputy Commons speaker, said that although Rhodes held views not compatible with modern standards, it was wrong to destroy symbols of the past.
‘We are not proud of absolutely everything that happened in our past, but we cannot erase it all,’ he said.
Sir Alan, who read law at Oriel between 1956 and 1959, added: ‘I don’t think you can destroy history. Apologising for the past is one thing, but destroying symbols of the past is quite another.’
He wrote: ‘In every age, some people like to posture by comparing their ethical standards favourably to that of a past generation.
‘Thomas Jefferson may have written the most sublime constitution on Earth, but he owned slaves. Winston Churchill may have saved Europe from Nazism, but he had unenlightened views about India.
‘Cecil Rhodes is commemorated by Oriel because he left money to the college. Accepting that money in 1902, and honouring the benefactor, doesn’t mean endorsing his opinions today.
‘If you’re really too dim to understand this, maybe you shouldn’t be at university.’
However, many have been quick to highlight the impact of a Rhodesian ideology, with the recent tragedies in Charleston to which 9 Black Church goers were killed by Dylann Roof, a White supremacist and Rhodesia supporter. Others have reflected the opinions of Germany too, who have removed all traces of Hitlers Nazi regime for the same reasons reflected by the Oxford activists.