'Black lives are cheap at Oxford'

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At Cape Town University in South Africa in 2015, a statue of 19th-century businessman and white supremacist Cecil Rhodes was removed from campus after student protests. A social media movement, #RhodesMustFall, brought similar protests to Oxford.

Following intense arguments over whether a college at Oxford University should take down a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the school has decided to keep it.

The prominent university has been struggling with how to condemn the 19th century businessman and political figure's racist views and actions without erasing him from campus history.

On Thursday, Oriel College announced that after "careful consideration," school officials had decided the statue would remain, noting that they would try to provide a "clear historical context to explain why it is there."

"The College believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artefacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today," a school statement said. "By adding context, we can help draw attention to this history, do justice to the complexity of the debate, and be true to our educational mission."

Opponents have called Rhodes the "Hitler of southern Africa" and said that his statue at Oriel reveals Britain's "imperial blind spot."

The decision to keep the statue in place "reminds us that black lives are cheap at Oxford," law student Ntokozo Qwabe, a Rhodes scholar from South Africa, wrote on his Facebook page.

Rhodes was known in the 19th century for his determination and racist views. A staunch believer in British imperialism and white supremacy, he founded Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia) and was prime minister of the Cape Colony in southern Africa at a time when the government limited voting rights for black Africans.

Still, Rhodes was - and is - a fundamental figure at several storied universities. He was a student at Oriel College and, upon his death in 1902, donated more than $100,000 to the college - money that was used to create the Rhodes Scholarship program for foreign students.

A building was named after Rhodes and his statue was built above its doors.

But opponents say a man who saw the English a "master race" has no place on the campus.

"I contend," Rhodes once said, "that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. Just fancy those parts that are at present inhabited by the most despicable specimens of human beings, what an alteration there would be if they were brought under Anglo-Saxon influence. Look again at the extra employment a new country added to our dominions gives."

The contentious debate over how schools should handle complicated historical figures is hardly limited to Oxford.

Last year, students at Princeton University wanted Woodrow Wilson's name removed from buildings on campus, and some students at Harvard complained that the law school's crest was also the coat-of-arms for a slaveholder.

The Rhodes controversy started at the University of Cape Town in South Africa early last year when some people began to voice their objections to remembrances there, according to BBC News. Activists in South Africa launched a social media movement using the hashtag #RhodesMustFall, and it soon spread to South Africa's Rhodes University and north to Oxford.