The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he is going to “review” the statues in the capital and consider if any should be removed in case they may cause offence to the general public. After the statue of slave trader Edward Colston, who died nearly three centuries ago, was toppled on Sunday by anti-racism protesters in Bristol, yesterday evening there was a protest in Oxford by a group calling for the removal of a statue to Cecil Rhodes and 26 local councillors have called on Oxford University to “decolonise”.
The councillors signed a letter saying the figure at Oriel College was “incompatible” with the city’s “commitment to anti-racism”. Campaigners have said Rhodes represented white supremacy and is steeped in colonialism and racism. So, who is going to be next? Spain has taken a rather similar approach, but for different reasons. The Historical Memory Law principally recognises the victims on both sides of the Spanish Civil War, gives rights to the victims and the descendants of victims of the Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.
And part of the law included the removal of all statues to the former dictator and the changing of all streets and buildings named after him. While the law defends the rights of victims on both sides, what it does not do is change history, instead it has changed the path of the future and opened up a big social debate about Franco and Spain’s modern history.