Bim Afolami – follow up

We spoke about Bim  recently ( ) but overlooked a small matter. We were desperately trying to be as charitable as possible. We attributed some foolish comments to Club table talk. But there were some statements in that interview which cannot be excused so easily.

In defence of Cecil Rhodes’ statue he said that it should be remembered that  several Black Africans have become recipients of the Rhodes scholarship!

Cecil Rhodes, a staunch believer in white supremacy and that the settlement of the rest of the world  by people of English origin was for the betterment of humanity,  set up the Rhodes scholarship  and the aim was to strengthen the empire .

In his last will Rhodes wrote:

‘Whereas I consider that the education of young Colonists at one of the Universities in the Education. United Kingdom is of great advantage to them for giving breadth to their views for their instruction in life and manners (/) and for instilling into their minds the advantage to the Colonies as well as to the United Kingdom of the retention of the unity of the Empire.’ (The Last Will and Testament of Cecil J Rhodes’ p.23)

The Trustees are simply responding to a changing world, the Empire no longer exists,  and not to Cecil Rhode’s original intention.

A similar situation of embarrassment arises in Belgium with  Leopold II.

The Guardian of  12 June 2020   wrote:

‘In just a few weeks, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has forced Europe’s former colonial powers to reckon with the past, and few more so than Belgium. It has had some of the biggest anti-racism protests activists can remember: 10,000 people, many wearing masks, gathered in central Brussels on Sunday while smaller, physically distanced protests took place in other cities. 

The target was King Léopold II, whose brutal rule of Congo from 1885 to 1908 caused an estimated 10 million Congolese deaths through murder, starvation and disease. Brussels city authorities are facing a petition to remove all statutes of the king by 30 June, the 60th anniversary of Congo’s independence. By Friday, more than 75,000 people had signed it. ‘

( )

They added that ‘The country’s longest-serving monarch used Congo’s rubber wealth to fund a lavish programme of public works, ‘. So do the Belgians say that because part of the wealth gained over the dead bodies of Africans was used to build public works then it was OK? Are the public works in Bath UK  sufficient to whitewash the source of this wealth in slave plantations?

This is of course the age old practice of reputation laundering whereby people with dreadful reputations make donations later in life to sweeten the smell of their name. A more recent example is the Sackler family.  The opiod Oxycontin has called untold suffering and many thousands of deaths. This Sackler family owned the company Purdue Pharma that made Oxycontin also made large donations to many museums around the world  gaining great prestige for their family name. In the light of the Oxycontin  disaster there are calls for removing their name (they  have no statues) .

‘Parents whose children fatally overdosed on opioids are demanding Harvard University remove the name of a family whose company makes the powerful painkiller OxyContin from a building that housed one of its art museums.’

( )

According to Bim their donations should be seen as successfully white washing their name. Many families of the victims do not agree.

To put this in the simplest terms that any Oxford undergraduate would explain: if Hitler left a million pounds in his will to establish a Jewish Museum would that cleanse his reputation? According to Bim’s earlier statement the answer should be YES. This is truly appalling. No doubt he will deny intending this, but that is not the point. The point is that it is a natural consequence of what he said and any half awake  Oxford undergraduate would spot this.

Clearly this is a case of ‘mouth open, mind not engaged’. Bim will come to regret such appalling public statements made on air. Disappointment barely catches this.


Oriel College had already voted to remove the statue of Rhodes on 17 June 2020