06 July 2020
Letter to the Editor
Bobbies Off the Beat
from Lynda Goetz
I have read the letter from Natasha Broke in which she criticises my article “Bobbies on the beat” and other articles which appeared in Shaw Sheet and would like to make one or two comments to put the record straight.
First, as to the behaviour of the police, it is not correct to imply that I was looking ‘across the pond with any degree of smug self-satisfaction’. Rather I was emphasising the very different histories of the US and the UK and the way our police forces are organised; ‘defunding’ the police force being one of the original main demands of BLM in the US – before they got onto demanding the dismantling of ‘imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures that disproportionately harm black people in Britain and around the world’*
Second, in Bristol the demonstrators may well have been ‘educated’. This did not stop them from carrying out an act of mob sabotage. Whether or not the statue should have been put in a museum or had a plaque added to it, does not excuse a group of university-educated vandals, who think that their opinions are the only ones which count, from taking matters into their own hands. Nor really does it excuse the police from standing by and watching them do it, even if they do sympathise. That is not their role.
Finally, there is nothing patronising in stating, quite accurately, that the statues of Colston and Rhodes were erected to honour them as philanthropists. In both cases the information about the complexity of their lives is available for anyone to find, although there is a valid argument for putting a synopsis with the statue. Whether or not our current multicultural society likes or approves of the country’s history does not give those who disapprove the right to destroy the buildings, artefacts or symbols which were created by that history. As my article made clear, these actions were not akin to the toppling of statues at the time of overthrowing a tyranny. Even Nelson Mandela found ‘common cause’ with Cecil John Rhodes,**as the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson pointed out. We can make our future; we have to live with our past (as well as learn from it). Even if there were a valid argument for dumping a historic artefact in the harbour, it is one which should be made through the appropriate channels before carrying out the action, if sanctioned; as long as those who should be listening don’t ‘no platform’ those making the argument, they can get a hearing, even if that takes time and persistence and whether or not the outcome is as they wish.
Understanding history and the impact of our ancestors’ actions is vitally important; attempting to institute change by a combination of violence, vandalism and virtue signalling is not only unacceptable, but actually denies a voice to all those who are open to change, but not overnight and not at the expense of freedom of speech, open debate and the chance to put forward their own views in a reasoned and rational manner
**Speech to Rhodes Trust July 2003