In 2016, hundreds of Oxford students campaigned to remove from the college wall a resemblance to the controversial 19th-century figure – who supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa. The campaign also called for the university curriculum to be changed to reflect the diversity of thinking beyond the Western canon.
The university then declared that the statue would remain, with modifications that “draw attention to this story. [and] do justice to the complexity of the debate ”. He had been warned that he could lose around £ 100 million in gifts if the statue was taken down, but insisted that financial implications were not the main reason for his decision.
In a statement released Tuesday, Oriel College said it “abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms” and that it “would continue to debate and discuss the issues raised by the presence on our site of examples of disputed heritage concerning Cecil Rhodes ”.
The campaign to remove the statue was supported this week by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran and the head of the local council.
Femi Nylander, organizer of Rhodes Must Fall, praised the support of the council, Moran and the thousands of people who signed the petition to remove the statue from Rhodes.
He said, “It is good to see that public awareness is changing. We are witnessing a paradigm shift. You can see it everywhere. He added that he hoped the protest would resuscitate the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford.
A doctoral student, Ndjodi Ndeunyema, 30, said: “We reject this story that Cecil Rhodes is a complicated character. No, he’s a genocidaire, he’s someone who planned an assault [on] Africa and it is not worthy of exaltation, it does not deserve to be in a high street which looks at us. This story will never be erased, it is a lived reality for people in Southern Africa, but it must be contextualized, it must be represented with precision and not be glorified as it is today. ”
He said the protest went further than calling for the statue to be removed, it was also about significant equality “for the black community, given the time we are in, but also people of color and people on the social and economic margins of any society. “. He called for justice for the Windrush generation, describing the scandal as a “substantial political manifestation of anti-darkness.”
There was a large police presence before the demonstration, with police vans and officers on horseback.
A doctoral student who did not want to be named said, “We are here today as students, community members and community organizations who believe in democracies, who believe in valuing all lives equally and who believe in the removal of the colonial iconographies that we must all inhabit.
“We are here to say to the University of Oxford, Oriel College and other Oxford colleges that continue to demonstrate in support of the values with which we disagree, that it is time to take a stand. If you are truly racial anti-racist and supportive of inclusion of black students and ethnic minorities, then today is the day to put your money where you are. ”
Kate Whitington, junior president of the common room at Oriel College, said: “Oriel College must not be blind to its legacy of colonialism and racism in association with Cecil Rhodes. Despite claims that a clear historical context on the statue of Cecil Rhodes would be provided in order to recognize and educate our students about the imperialist past, the subject remains taboo and Oriel’s continued silence equals complicity in perpetuation white privilege and supremacy.