winston churchill graffiti

The Truth Behind The Winston Churchill Graffiti

The Winston Churchill Graffiti Controversy

Standing in Parliament Square, London, the statue of Winston Churchill is somewhat unobtrusive in nature. 

It is not excessively large or grandiose, nor does its plinth display a list of the former Prime Minister’s achievements. It does however contain an engraving- simply the name ‘Churchill’ in block capitals. 

This simplicity was almost certainly deliberate. The artist behind the statue, Ivor Roberts-Jones, likely felt that for a man like Churchill, the name alone speaks for itself. 

Yet on Sunday the 7th of June, as Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets of the capital, three additional words were added:

‘Was a racist’. 

The hastily spray-painted message has since triggered a tidal wave of outrage and anger, with Conservative MPs and army cadets alike rushing to remove the daubings. 

But despite the widespread disgust, it is important to have an open and honest discussion about the views and actions of the man voted ‘greatest ever Briton’. 

The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London. [Image: Wally Gobetz, Flickr]

Winston Churchill was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in 1874. Following a stint in the Royal Cavalry, he was elected as Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900, before later defecting to the Liberal Party. 

The hastily spray-painted message has since triggered a tidal wave of outrage and anger, with Conservative MPs and army cadets alike rushing to remove the daubings.

He then returned to the Conservative Party during the interwar years, but did not become Prime Minister until the resignation of Neville Chamberlain in 1940. It was in this capacity, as leader of an all-party wartime government, that Churchill’s almighty acclaim stems from. 

Renowned for his ability to raise spirits in the midst of conflict and suffering, Churchill formed a crucial part of the allies’ collective effort to defeat the scourge of Nazism. He showed tremendous leadership in the face of adversity, and will always be commended for this. 

A talented orator and speech writer, his words helped to galvanise a nation under serious threat. From ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ to ‘give us the tools, and we will finish the job’, he posssessed the power to instil courage and belief at a time when such commodities were deeply sought after. 

Churchill will ultimately be remembered for leading Britain to victory in the Second World War. He will go down in the annals of history as a man whose grit and determination played a decisive role in vanquishing the evil of Hitler.

Yet whilst these achievements must never be detracted from, it is important to recognise and discuss other aspects of Churchill’s character. 

There is plentiful evidence that proves he was a white supremacist. In 1902, he described China as a barbaric nation, before going on to say:

‘I believe in the ultimate partition of China—I mean ultimate. I hope we shall not have to do it in our day. The Aryan stock is bound to triumph.’ 

Such degrading and racist comments about other nations and ethnicities were not uncommon. In fact, Churchill displayed a consistent belief that certain races were superior to others. 

Mr Churchill was renowned for his skills as a writer and orator. [Image: Levan Ramishvili, Flickr]

Speaking in the late 1930s, Mr Churchill described Palestinians as ‘barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung’. 

In addition, he said the following to the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937:

“I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”

Such degrading and racist comments about other nations and ethnicities were not uncommon. In fact, Churchill displayed a consistent belief that certain races were superior to others.

Churchill was a staunch nationalist and imperialist, viewing British imperialism as for the benefit of the ‘primitive’ and ‘subject races’. 

From these quotes alone, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the graffiti was based on fact. 

Despite the outrage, and despite the fact that a national monument should never be vandalised, it is true to say that Winston Churchill held intensely racist views. 

Understanding this and being honest about it is absolutely necessary. History can only be properly learned from when all of the requisite facts are laid bare. Rather than obfuscating the truth and glossing over Churchill’s plethora of character defects, now is the time for acceptance.

His belief in white supremacy was so strong that he became a vocal proponent of eugenics, showing support for the ‘confinement, segregation and sterilisation’ of those deemed ‘feeble minded’.  

Yet a discussion about Churchill and racism would be wholly incomplete without covering his views and actions towards Indians. 

Not only did he say ‘I hate Indians, they are beastly people with a beastly religion’, he is widely regarded as contributing directly to the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million Indians tragically died.

After choosing to direct vital provisions to ‘well-supplied’ allied forces instead of those starving in India, British officials wrote to him pointing out that he was causing an unnecessary loss of life. 

In response to this, he evidenced his vehement opposition to Indian independence by asking ‘why hasn’t Mr Gandhi died yet?’, before following up by saying that Indians themselves had caused the famine by ‘breeding like rabbits’. 

Taking this into account, it is impossible to deny that the graffiti is based on truth. Rather than overlooking it, it is time to come to terms with it. 

Written by
Cameron Boyle
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