Odd piece in the NYT.
Critics may ask of what use it is to dismantle symbols of colonialism on campuses if removing them won’t usher in transformed and more inclusive educational spaces?
But they miss the point. The core issue is a prevalent feeling, and experience, of exclusion among many black students in universities across the country, even where they are a numerical majority.
These (mostly white) critics fail to grasp the aesthetic and moral assault on one’s entire being that occurs when a black person walks across a campus covered with statues and monuments that celebrate colonial conquerors as heroes. It is disingenuous to pretend these statues originally existed, or could be re-imagined anew, as monuments that poke fun at the evil characters who looted the region while trampling on the fundamental rights of indigenous people. Rhodes bequeathed land and money to both universities, and erecting statues and naming things in his honor were expressions of gratitude. Why else include an inscription that reads, “To the spirit and life work of Cecil John Rhodes who loved and served South Africa”?
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It is dishonest to deny the inherently celebratory nature of the Rhodes statue, and historical statues in general. While removing one won’t change institutional cultures overnight — or transform the demographics of staff — it would be an important symbolic start.
I gather that Eusebius McKaiser is from one of the various Bantu groupings. You know, that colonising group that didn’t move as far as Cape Town until well after the white colonisation (the standard Bantu farming package didn’t make it over the Fish River). But no one really seems to think about these distinctions these days, do they?