Back to Navigation

Statues | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #45

Statues

Be it resolved, the statues must come down.

Guests
Cornell William Brooks
George Will

About this episode

It has become one of the more divisive topics in today’s culture wars: what to do with the statues of historical figures with controversial pasts. And while many can agree that the monuments of Robert E Lee and Edward Colston should not stand in city centres, the debate becomes murkier when the likes of Winston Churchill, John A MacDonald, Queen Victoria, and Abraham Lincoln enter the fray.

Those calling for statues to come down and streets to be renamed argue that this is not a case of ‘cancel culture’. Rather, it is an overdue re-examination of past heroes and their subjugation of marginalized groups. Those who promoted racist and imperialist policies in their time should not be given the privilege of public glorification in ours.

Others argue that social justice “mobs” are ignoring the context in which these transgressions took place, viewing history through a distorted lens comprised of their own values and assumptions and purposely rewriting the past to serve their ideological purposes today. If progressives succeed in their purity purge, we will be left with no heroes, no history, and no nuanced understanding of our own past.

Share:

Guests

Cornell William Brooks

“When you have commemoration, as opposed to education, it leads to misinformation. And it literally debilitates our ability to grapple with the past in order to come to grips with the present.”

Cornell William Brooks

“When you have commemoration, as opposed to education, it leads to misinformation. And it literally debilitates our ability to grapple with the past in order to come to grips with the present.”

As well teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School, Cornell William Brooks leads as Director of The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the School’s Center for Public Leadership and serves as Visiting Professor of the Practice of Prophetic Religion and Public Leadership at Harvard Divinity School. Brooks is the former president and CEO of the NAACP, a civil rights attorney, fourth-generation ordained minister, writer, orator, writer, and the executive producer of two films. 

Prior to leading the NAACP, Brooks was president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. He also served as senior counsel and acting director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities at the Federal Communications Commission, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, and a trial attorney at both the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the U.S. Department of Justice. He was also the executive producer of the CNN docuseries The People v. the Klan.  

Brooks holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review, and a Master of Divinity from Boston University’s School of Theology, where he was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar. 

George Will

“My worry is about the question of control. I don't want to control the past. I want the past to be faced as what it was, and not controlled for any political agenda, good, bad or indifferent."

George Will

“My worry is about the question of control. I don't want to control the past. I want the past to be faced as what it was, and not controlled for any political agenda, good, bad or indifferent."

George F. Will's newspaper column has been syndicated by The Washington Post since 1974. Today it appears twice weekly in more than 440 newspapers. In 1976 he became a regular contributing editor of Newsweek magazine, for which he provided a bimonthly essay until 2011. In 1977 he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in his newspaper columns.

In 1981, Mr. Will became a founding panel member on ABC television’s "This Week" and spent over three decades providing regular commentary. Then followed three years with Fox News where he appeared regularly on "Special Report" and "Fox News Sunday." 

In June 2019, Mr. Will released his most recent work, The Conservative SensibilityAltogether eight collections of Mr. Will's Newsweek and Washington Post columns have been published, the most recent being One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation (2008).
 

Comments