Julia Hartley-Brewer on student who wanted to 'paint over' mural of 'white men': 'I'm not offended, I think she's stupid'

Vice chair of BAME thinktank defends student who called for removal of WWI mural: ‘I don’t think she is stupid’

Friday, October 26, 2018

A social commentator has defended a student who called for a WWI memorial to be "painted over" because it only featured "white men". 

Vice Chair of Race on the Agenda Maurice McLeod said he did not think Astrophysics student Emily Dawes was “stupid” after the Student Union President tweeted that she wanted the mural taken down.

talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer said that the student’s threat was “worrying”.

“The fact that she is an astrophysics student at a British university thinking that a mural depicting ‘white men’ is in someway offensive – I find that really worrying. I am not offended by it, I just think it makes her stupid.”

Mr McLeod defended Ms Dawes, saying that she was making a point about “our vision of history”.

He said: “I don’t think it makes her stupid at all, I don’t like to say what others think – she should speak for herself – but I would assume the point she was making is that we have this vision of history.

“Our vision of history is monocratic and that everyone who fought in World War One was white.”


'You don't see it was a world war' 

WWI mural painted by Sir William Rothenstein in 1916 as a memorial to members of British universities who served in the war. Image: University of Southampton/PA Wire

Julia Hartley-Brewer added that no one would be "outraged" if a mural of Nigerian soldiers showed them all to be black. 

"It's a mural of the people at Southampton University who were white," she said.

“If it was a mural of Nigerian soldiers they would be black and no-one would say that was outrageous.”

Mr McLeod said it was “reasonable” to have a WWI mural of those who lost their lives but “you don’t see that it was a world war”.

“The fact that the mural is of people from the university who went and lost their lives overseas, that is perfectly reasonable.

“But, if you look at descriptions of World War One you don’t really see that it was a world war.

“It included people from all over the commonwealth.”


'We're taking down the mural'

Screenshot of Emily Dawes' tweet about the WWI mural. 

A petition for Mr Dawes to step down has been launched.

A University of Southampton spokesman said: "The comments made by the students' union president regarding the Rothenstein Mural are not shared by the University of Southampton and do not represent the views of the university community.

"We are very proud to display the mural, painted in 1916, which serves as a memorial to all members of British universities who served in the Great War [World War I]."


'No intention of being taken literally' 

The student later apologised for her comments saying she “had no intention of the tweet being taken seriously”.

She said: "Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offense (sic) and upset I have caused with what I have said.

"I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future. I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was.

"My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication and disrespect of history. I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to erase the past.

"Once again, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused."