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Most of the time I hardly notice statues. They have become a taken-for-granted part of a city scape. Sometimes in foreign cities I stop and look at an inscription but hardly ever do so in the UK. There is a way I don’t need to consider them, as if they are just part of my heritage as a white person. The statues of famous, influential and wealthy people (usually white men) are ubiquitous presences on our city squares proclaiming their importance. Street names and the names of important buildings form a similar function. They tell white people who their heroes are and have been. This is not the case for those who are not white. Contrary to the general view, black people did not only arrive in the UK in the latter part of the 20th Century. There was a large presence of black people long before that.
Many of these statues have been raised to commemorate the lives of people who perpetrated some of the most shameful aspects of our heritage. The fact that we don’t notice this does not exonerate us; it makes it even more culpable. That it took the Black Lives Matter movement to insist on us considering this is also shameful.
I have a chapter on Reparative Justice in my book, ‘White Privilege’ in which I suggest that the UK National Trust, which seems not to be included in present challenges, could make it very clear where the money came from to build each Stately Home. Much of the money for large 18th century houses came from wealth made on the backs of slaves. This could be acknowledged by detailed information boards and artifacts on show as well as special days where slavery is discussed and the lives of slaves shown. A percentage of the revenue from these houses could go to restore justice to those whose ancestors were slaves and are themselves disadvantaged because of this heritage. It might go a small way to repair the injustice that, on the abolition of slavery, slave owners were richly compensated while the slaves were not given anything for the abuse they had received and many slaves were indentured, which meant that their lives change little.