Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) last night tagged Gonville & Caius College’s ‘Gate of Honour’ with the image of Ronald Fisher, a college alumnus, and a message: ‘Eugenics is Genocide. Fisher Must Fall’. We are joining others, including Cambridge students and staff, in calling for the college to remove its memorial window to Fisher and to recognise the role he played in perpetuating white supremacy.
Fisher, who attended the college from 1909 - 1912, was the founder of the Cambridge Eugenics society. As a eugenicist, he argued that people were divided into ‘genetically inferior’ and ‘genetically superior’ groups along racial lines. In response to this, he claimed that a cap should be placed on the fertility of the ‘genetically inferior’. He also claimed that colonialism led to the extermination of those with ‘lower genetic value’ and therefore improved the human race. These ideas, common in eugenicist circles, are part of the foundation of white supremacy and have been debunked by modern science.
In the weeks since the death of George Floyd, there have been anti-racist protests around the world. During this time, a number of monuments - including Bristol’s statue of slave trader Edward Colston - have been removed or defaced to reflect their racist heritage. XRYC join other groups, including students and staff of the University of Cambridge, in calling for the removal of Fisher’s statue.
We have been watching in awe as people around the world stand up to their governments and demand justice. in XRYC, we are painfully aware that the city we live in has made immense contributions to injustice of all types - climate, racial and social. The repercussions of racist and exploitative research right here have been felt all around the planet. It is long past time for Cambridge to own up to its racist heritage and end the glorification of white supremacy.
We were acting alone, but we note that there are several other organisations taking the lead on addressing racism in Cambridge. This includes Cambridge Black Lives, who organised the recent protest on Parker’s Piece, and a group of Gonville and Caius students who have produced a petition calling for the removal of the Fisher memorial window. The petition can be found here.