HSUTR: It’s time to decolonise Haringey - let us get rid of these symbols of oppression

Simon Hester, co-convenor, Haringey Stand Up To Racism, wants Haringey decolonised.

Simon Hester, co-convenor, Haringey Stand Up To Racism, wants Haringey decolonised. - Credit: Archant

Haringey Stand Up to Racism (HSUTR) welcomes this opportunity to respond to the article by Councillor Mike Hakata on place names and racist symbolism (‘Black Lives Matter: Symbols are important but change is urgent’).

We salute the council for openly debating this issue and for allowing a delegation from HSUTR to present a case for the renaming of streets to the council meeting on July 13.

We argued that Black Boy Lane, Rhodes Avenue, Kitchener Road, Redvers Road and Buller Road be renamed.

Whatever the origins of the name Black Boy Lane (at the height of the slave trade, pubs and taverns were popularly named ‘The Black Boy’), it is now offensive and racist.

Cecil Rhodes was a white supremacist, architect of apartheid in southern African and founder of the racist state of Rhodesia.

General Sir Redvers Buller and Field Marshal Kitchener crushed resistance to British rule across the Victorian empire, slaughtering thousands of African and Indian people. In his last will and testament, Rhodes said of the English: “I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted how the history of British colonialism and imperialism is embedded in monuments, statues, streets and public buildings, from Edward Colston to Clive of India.

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Cllr Hakata would also like to change the names, and there is no conflict of principle between us – we know that he and his Labour colleagues are committed anti-racists.

However, we don’t agree when he argues that budget constraints mean that the cost of changing names is prohibitive, and that ‘real concrete change which eradicates structural

inequalities is more urgent and matters more’.

We think this is a false polarity. It is not good enough to expect the community to accept racist symbolism in order to preserve essential services.

We demand and expect more from our council.

We know that inner-city Labour councils across the country have been hit far harder by austerity cuts than Tory councils in the leafy shires. Twelve years of austerity has increased the gap between rich and poor - deepening poverty and deprivation in our communities.

We want to see Labour councils united in resistance to Tory austerity.

Haringey has a proud history of challenging racism.

As part of its contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement, we also call on Haringey Council to consider the erection of a new monument to the struggle against racism in the heart of the borough.

The Battle of Wood Green at Ducketts Common in 1977 was a historic moment in the struggle against the racist National Front and deserves recognition.

We propose that the council establishes a working party to produce a project plan and make funding proposals – along the lines of the GLA review of the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square.

It’s time to decolonise Haringey. Let us get rid of these symbols of oppression once and for all. And let’s go beyond symbols – now is the time to eradicate institutional racism in the justice system, in employment practices and in health inequality.