Back in 2016, Oxford University announced that it would not bow to the demands of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and the statue of Cecil Rhodes would remain, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-35435805.
The Rhodes scholarship enables students to benefit from funds left in the will of the late Cecil Rhodes, irrespective of skin colour. However, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign contend that Rhodes was an “imperialist” and a “racist” and his statue has no place on the campus of Oriel College, Oxford.
I smiled with wry humour when I learned that radical students at Manchester University are objecting to the erection of a statue of Gandhi on the grounds that he described black people as “savages” and “dirty (amongst other offensive terms of abuse), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/17/manchester-council-urged-reject-mahatma-gandhi-statue-racism.
Let me be crystal clear. I did not smile at the offensive words used by Gandhi. Racism is wrong and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner. We all share a common humanity and skin colour does not define the value of a person, as value inheres in us all by virtue of our common humanity. Why then the reason for my wry smile? If Gandi can be attacked, who, then deserves a statue erected in their name? Please, someone show me the individual (living or dead) who is so saintly that they deserve a statue.
Both Rhodes and Gandhi where products of their time as, indeed are we all. In times to come those of us (including myself) who enjoy eating meat may be viewed by posterity as uncivilised, cruel individuals who predated on the inocent animal kingdom. Who, then will erect a statue to one of the meat eaters of today, irrespective of their charitable deeds, literary talent or whatever?
Will the vegetarians of today (or the future) be considered worthy of statues? What about the non meat eater who is a serial adulterer and treats his wives with utter contempt. If he is a great artist will his poor treatment of his wife be overlooked and a statue be erected in his name? Or will the policers of morals jump up and down and say “over my dead body”?
As Hamlet remarks, “treat every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping”. I answer few, if any of us, for we are all imperfect humans, living in a complex and imperfect world. So, no, Rhodes statue should not fall and those agitating for it to do so should find something more useful to do with their time.