In an English city, an early benefactor is now ‘a toxic brand’
By Mark Landler
Standing beneath an empty stone plinth, from which the statue of the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled last week, Richard Saunders showed his son photos of three black Americans who had been killed by police an ocean away and 200 years after the end of Bristol’s slave trade.
Saunders, a 51-year-old veterinarian, explained to his son, Dylan, 9, what had happened to the three victims: George Floyd, Eric Garner and Breonna Taylor. Connecting their deaths to Colston was harder — not just because he is such a distant figure but also because his name is inscribed on a concert hall across the street, a school nearby, a pub up the hill and housing for the poor next to it.
“He’s almost on the syllabus as the local hero,” said Saunders, who is white, as Dylan went off to inspect a half-dozen black balloons fluttering in the wind where the statue had stood. “But it doesn’t excuse the evil of his original acts. It’s like mugging a grandmother and giving half the money to charity.”