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Protesters call for the removal of a statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes, in Oxford, England Protesters call for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist, in Oxford, England, June 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

Legacies of Colonialism Are Holding Back Racial Justice in Britain and France

, Thursday, July 30, 2020

Black Lives Matter protests have erupted in cities across Europe in recent weeks, in solidarity with the uprisings in the United States following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May. Some European demonstrators have called on their governments to more formally acknowledge the connections between the slave trade and colonialism and racism in their countries today.

In Europe’s two largest former colonial powers, France and the United Kingdom, there are signs that protests are eroding the popular indifference toward their history. While France and the U.K. have never apologized for their colonial past, they have come close to it. The British government has expressed regret for specific colonial-era atrocities, and French President Emmanuel Macron has called the French role in Algeria a “crime against humanity.” But such statements remain controversial. Both British and French colonial legacies—and the enduring racism they helped foster—continue to act as barriers to change, if in different ways. ...

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