I think I understand where many people are coming from when they look at the news of the removal of Edward Colston’s statue* and say, ‘perhaps it should have been removed, but not by a crowd; it should have been done by democratic means’.
I think I do understand, because the legal option is my very strong preference default too. Indeed, my own family history from the first half of the last century is a reminder of how precious the rule of law is – and how awful the consequences are when it is absent.
But here’s the thing.
Don’t stop once you’re expressed a preference for decision-by-democracy over action-by-crowds.
Carry on with that train of thought.
Because democratic means had been tried to remove that statue and failed. We only got action-by-crowds because democracy failed.
So if you don’t like action-by-crowds, we need to redouble our efforts to tackle racism through democratic means.
So roll up your sleeves and help our democratic system do just that.
(And if you’re a Liberal Democrat, joining the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality is a great way to help.)
* As with many of the controversial statues in the US South, this one too was put up many years after the death of the person it depicts. Colston died in 1721. The statute went up in 1895. Those who put it up knew fully of the evils of the slave trade. Slavery had already long been illegal in Britain at the time they decided to honour Colston.