Oxford Pushes Back Letter About Cecil Rhodes Statute-Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
An open letter to Oxford students demanding that a statute of Oxford benefactor Cecil Rhodes be removed from campus has gone viral.
No author is listed for this open letter to Oxford University students demanding the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statute, and we haven’t been able to verify where it came from.
The “Rhodes Must Fall” movement gained widespread publicity in early 2016. The Cecil Rhodes statute, which has sat outside a building at Oriel College for more than 100 years, represents racism and colonialism, student activists have argued. According to a Change.org petition started by supporters of the group:
We find it deplorable that Oriel College continues to glorify an international criminal through its uncritical, deeply violent iconography. As long as the statue remains, Oriel College and Oxford University continue to tacitly identify with Rhodes’s values, and to maintain a toxic culture of domination and oppression. We believe that the colonialism, racism and patriarchy this statue is seeped in has no place in our university – which for many of us is also our home. The removal of this statue would be a welcome first step in the University’s attempt to redress the ways in which it has been an active beneficiary of empire. While it remains standing, the statue of Rhodes remains a celebration not just of the crimes of the man himself, but of the imperialist legacy on which Oxford University has thrived, and continues to thrive. While the statue remains standing, Oxford University continues to condone the persistent racism that shadows this institution.
At issue is Cecil Rhodes’ legacy of British imperialism in South Africa, where he served as prime minister of Cape Colony and enforced racial segregation. Rhodes was intent on “painting the map red” (a term for British colonization) in Africa, and he even dreamed of reclaiming the American colonies for the British Empire, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
After his political career, Cecil Rhodes became the benefactor of the Rhodes Scholarships. Each year, 32 American students are selected as Rhodes Scholars for “their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”
Oxford University Chancellor Chris Patten told student demonstrators in January that Nelson Mendela had endorse the Rhodes scholarships, and that those who were not prepared to embrace freedom of though should “think about being educated elsewhere,” The Guardian reports:
In early February, Oxford University administrators announced that they would not remove the Rhodes statue from campus, despite concerns from student groups. After the Oxford Union backed a motion to remove the Cecil Rhodes statute on January 20th, it was later revealed that the statute would remain due to pressure from donors, the Telegraph reports:
“I think that we are giving them [the students] the respect of listening to their views, even when we don’t agree with them,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
“But if people at a university are not prepared to demonstrate the sort of generosity of spirit which Nelson Mandela showed towards Rhodes and towards history, if they are not prepared to embrace all those values which are contained in the most important book for any undergraduate, Karl Popper’s Open Society, if they are not prepared to embrace those issues then maybe they should think about being educated elsewhere. But I hope they will embrace those issues and engage in debate.”
“That focus on Rhodes is unfortunate but it’s an example of what’s happening in American campuses and British campuses,” Patten said. “One of the points of a university – which is not to tolerate intolerance, to engage in free inquiry and debate – is being denied. People have to face up to facts in history which they don’t like and talk about them and debate them.”
He added: “Can you imagine a university where there is no platform? I mean a bland diet of bran to feed people, it’s an absolutely terrible idea. If you want universities like that you go to China where they are not allowed to talk about western values, which I regard as glob.”
By mid-February, administrators made clear that the Rhodes statute would not be removed. Around that same time, the “Oxford Pushes Back” letter to student demonstrators first surfaced on a discussion board called the Daily Gripe, on February 13th.
Some of Patten’s quotes are included in the Oxford Pushes Back letter, but there’s no indication that he actually wrote it, or that it came from the university. In the end, there’s no way to tell who the original author was.