openDemocracyUK: Opinion

We should treat slavers like we treated Jimmy Savile

We forgot Saville's charitable works when we found out about his child rape. We should do the same with "philanthropic" slavers.

Peter McColl
8 June 2020

When it emerged that Jimmy Savile was a prolific rapist and sex offender I was working for a charity which had a cafe named for him.

The charity very quickly moved to rename the cafe. Many of the other facilities named after him were given new names. There wasn't a single complaint.

Yet strangely when we suggest that we remove statues and memorials to slave traders there is an outcry: we should leave them so we remember the wrongs of the past.

I still struggle to see the difference between Savile and slave traders. The statue of Edward Colston that was removed yesterday commemorated someone who is estimated to have killed 19,000 slaves. Some of the people in Bristol who saw that statue on a daily basis will have been descended from slaves traded by Colston.

What Jimmy Savile did was so bad we erased all the "good works" he'd done immediately that we found out about them. There are no memorials to him, not even his gravestone.

But for many people arguing we should keep these statues and other honours to racists in place I feel there's something else going on.

It's a belief that slavery was "of it's time", something that was inevitable, that other countries were doing and that is therefore something that is excusable.

And that's one of the sources of structural racism. Which is why I think we need to cleanse our streets of these people, their statues and the streets named in their honour.

Because when someone has done something we are genuinely repelled by we take their name off things. As we did with Savile.

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