The people behind Rhodes Must Fall were the biggest pussies in the UK

They should have taken the statue down themselves


Around 20 feet above Oxford High Street, Cecil Rhodes is still standing, stone eyes gazing out from Oriel College, oblivious to all the trouble he’s caused. Late last night we learned Rhodes will not fall, not for the time being anyway. He’s staying in place because future donors threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100 million if the statue was removed. Money proves itself stronger than principle.

Ntokozo Qwabe and the protestors who wanted Rhodes gone have attracted many labels since the controversy erupted last year. Time and time again they’ve been told to adjust to the world as it is, rather than how they want it to be. They’ve been called hypocrites, revisionists, fascists and intellectual vandals. I think this misses the point completely. If Qwabe and his followers are anything at all, they’re pussies. Massive, cowardly pussies.

Some context before we go on, because the injuries done to others are easy to ignore. BME students make up 13 per cent of the student body at Oxford, as opposed to an average 21 per cent at other universities in the UK. There is one full-time black professor at Oxford. Only 24 of the freshers at Oxford last year were black. When Oxford says it’s committed to inclusion and diversity, to representing people from all backgrounds, we can reply “is it fuck” without worrying.

This, for me, is what makes Qwabe and the Rhodes Must Fall movement such pussies. They’re surrounded by entrenched racism and they’ve chosen a statue of some old, dead dude from the 19th century to represent it. Fine. What I don’t really understand, and what makes me question the sincerity of the entire protest, is why they haven’t got their hands dirty and fucked up the statue themselves. How much does a paintball gun cost? How much does a hammer and a big ladder cost? How hard would it be for these protestors to make Rhodes fall? Cecil could be gone in twenty minutes if these people were prepared to risk a few months in prison for the sake of what they say they believe in. It wouldn’t cost them more than 50 quid.

Give me a ladder and I'll take this down for you

Give me a ladder and I’ll take this down for you

But no.

Instead, knowing full well that the game they’re playing is rigged against them, they’ve gone down all the usual Oxford channels: debates at the Union, poorly attended demos, online petitions. These people aren’t childish enough, they’re not punk enough. Did they think Rhodes was going to fall if they wrote a few letters and pissed off a few white dudes who write for The Telegraph? Again and again Qwabe has described Oxford as institutionally racist. Why then did he bother to engage with it on its own terms? In South Africa they covered a statue of Cecil Rhodes with excrement. It was taken down a few days later.

If they believed what they said, if the statue disturbed and upset and oppressed them, if they found it problematic, if Cecil Rhodes really was the same as Adolf Hitler, then they wouldn’t have sat around and talked about him falling – they would have made it happen. Maybe deep down they know how pointless it is to make a piece of rock a symbol of everything that’s wrong with history. Maybe they know that actually making it fall would jeopardise all the things Oxford has handed them on a plate: privilege, power, glittering future careers, the chance to be known and to be discussed.