The symbols matter – rename Cecil Rhodes House now
18 June, 2020
Cecil Rhodes House in Somers Town
• WE write to support calls by Black Lives Matter activists to remove symbols of racism from our urban landscape.
While the world should not forget the key aims of the protests in tearing down all aspects of structural racism, symbols do matter where they create daily grinding reminders of the way our society has too often honoured the perpetrators of racism, instead of its victims.
In Camden we have a block named after Cecil Rhodes, a 19th-century businessman and imperialist in Southern Africa whose legacy is symbolic of racism and prejudice against Black people. Rhodes (in)famously believed that White people were a “master race”.
Rhodes’ legacy has no place in a borough which values equality and inclusiveness and, in this light, we would strongly urge our colleagues to support the Black Lives Matter activists who are calling on all decision-makers to uphold anti-racist values.
We feel that the time has come for us in Camden to rid our borough of symbols that glorify racism whether past, present or future.
It is welcome that the council has set up a working group on place names with racist associations; however some decisions on this are obvious and can be taken without delay.
In that respect we are requesting that the council rename Cecil Rhodes House immediately without needing to wait for the outcomes of the working group.
While there will be different thoughts about the new name the block should be given, we would say a good starting point for these thoughts would be to honour the man whose murder has sparked so much consideration of structural racism – and to consider naming the block George Floyd House.
LABOUR COUNCILLORS: MARYAM ESLAMDOUST, SUE VINCENT, DOUGLAS BEATTIE, THOMAS GARDINER, GEORGIE ROBERTSON, GAIL McANENA WOOD, NAYRA BELLO O’SHANAHAN, LEO CASSARANI, RANJIT SINGH, SIMON PEARSON