President Steenkamp: A statue is not a history lesson

July 17, 2020
By: 
Philip Steenkamp, PhD
Tags: President

Last month, anti-racism protesters in Bristol, England toppled a statue of philanthropist slave trader Edward Colston. Critics say destroying monuments like Colston’s makes us forget our past—erasing history from our collective conscience.

In this week’s message, I argue that a statue is not a history lesson.

To say that removing statues somehow erases history misrepresents not only what history is, but also what statues are supposed to do. Statues are not about recording history. They are meant to shape our perceptions of history for a particular purpose—usually to reinforce the existing order, and the position of the rich and powerful.

Watch the full message