The irony of the Windrush saga, the momentum of the press and publicity that has unfolded over the last few weeks, can only be said to be part of God’s plan, that is if you are a believer. Here we are in the year of 70th anniversary of HMT Windrush reaching the shores of the UK in 1948, with the first cohort of economic migrants from Jamaica; a celebration that may have only reached those of us who were informed, but for the political controversy at the treatment of the children of the now oft-repeated group now known as the ‘Windrush Generation’. As a result the ensuing media fallout culminating in resignation of the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the whole country were reminded how in immediate post war years, where Britain had to be rebuilt, the call to the colonies for British subjects to come and help the mother country; with a lure of economic opportunity and an improved quality of life.
Are you from the Windrush generation? Is a question that was now being asked to those of Caribbean heritage. Subsequent generations of the British population on the whole were totally uninformed or very often ill informed as to the reasons or the background history of caribbean people coming to these shores, and the narrative of the journey they have had in establishing themselves and their communities socially, economically and culturally.
A journey which has involved collective suffering from the different shades of oppression which manifested in discrimination, racism, prejudice in all its forms, subtle, overt, direct, indirect, structurally, institutionally, and from the media coverage given to far right organisations like the National Front, British National Party, English Defence League.
Contrary to the promise of a better life in England, the disproportionality of numbers of successive generations of the Windrush generation are still suffering from economic deprivation, being pathologically criminalised and up to 8 times more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system with negative outcomes, similarly with the mental health system, higher rates of suicide, and homelessness. Then when you observe the lack of representation in positions of power to influence change, i.e. in politics, the media, the criminal justice system, senior levels of the civil service, local government, and the NHS, those of us who have origins in the Caribbean, have reason to argue we would have been better off if our forebears stayed where they were, for all the hardships and racism suffered.
Our default has been to develop the tenacity to withstand the onslaught of the constant overtones of a media narrative of the model British identity as being typically white, male and imbued with a sense of ‘rule britannia’; which is often supported by subliminal reference’s to the greatness of the empire, which automatically leaves black people outside the frame.
Nevertheless subsequent Windrush generations can certainly claim to have literally given this country colour with a counter-culture of resistance and resilience that is now the heart of, and arguably an engine of modern social, cultural and creative output from the UK, evidenced now in the arts, media, music, fashion, language, sport, despite the commentator’s like Rod Liddle and David Starkey’s who like to insult us en masse attempting to be commentators.
Facts are that we have been an easy target in the power dynamic in the land of social climbing as the UK has sought to reconcile its own class system and transition into a productive economy after World War II when the riches of empire were started to trickle away from the nation’s coffers into the new world where global corporate organisations stepped into the fray.
It seems that the political class have got caught out again, serving their own interests. This sorry affair has been building up for a few years with news stories of Jamaican born, but living in the UK being published in the Guardian and posted on facebook, going viral amongst, the UK’s black community, which culminated with now the what will become the famous address by Rt. Hon David Lammy MP in parliament giving the Home Secretary Amber Rudd a dressing down at the treatment of 1,000’s of cases of displaced UK citizens unable to demonstrate proof of citizenship, because Home Office administrative errors such as destroying landing cards which would have evidenced their status. David Lammy for once does not mince his words, and in his moment the black community, could only be proud that he was their to condemn the hostile environment and far right rhetoric of this immigration policy.
Theresa May, Amber Rudd presided over the Home Office whose employee’s were no different from those who over the years have sought to take cheap shots at those from African Caribbean origin. After all who really cared about the first immigrants of colour who have always been perceived as being lower on the food chain; in a country where race and immigration synonymous. To them ‘creating a hostile environment’ must mean if your black and cannot prove your status, you can be deported and there would not be any come back. The way to ensure there would be not any come back let’s destroy all of the records we have on file, that evidences their status.
The Windrush Scandal gave rise to an outpouring of sympathy, disgust and dismay, when it became apparent that the UK had failed to acknowledge the debt owed to those who came here on the HMT Windrush and through their efforts succeeded to support the mother country to recover from the war to transition into a modern society, by fighting to survive against all the odd’s, despite the oppression suffered. They had gone about their business working hard to maintain family ties and a sense of identity and community. Now the current Home Office were trying to deport succeeding generations, when all they have known is growing up and living in this country.
The folly of this at a political level though is not just today in 2018. The truth is that the UK has been indifferent ever since the arrival of the HMT Windrush in 1948. The legislature has repeatedly sought to put restrictions on freedom of movement if your skin colour was not white.
Legislative immigration act since 1948 (Windrush) :-
- The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962
- The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968
- The Immigration Act 1971
- The British Nationality Act 1981
- The Immigration Act 1986
- The Immigration Act 1988
- The British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990
- The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996
- The Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997
- The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
- The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004
- The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006
- The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009
- The Immigration Act 2014
- The Immigration Act 2016
makes it abundantly clear that all that immigration policy has ever been about is to control the numbers of people of colour in the United Kingdom.
So how did we get here? A well known edict in politics is about ensuring that you as a party are electable, having a sense of where public opinion is, especially those who you know are going to use their vote. It is well known in political circles that how you position your party’s manifesto on immigration policy can make all the difference. Hence the reason why the Labour, themselves sought to position themselves a little bit more right of centre in latter years knowing that the conservatives always had the trump card of scaring the electorate, that Labour would let everybody in without any sanctions. For the most recent example all we need to do is reflect on the country’s response to Brexit and Europe, to get an understanding of how people in the UK relate to difference.
In reality this is really more black and white than we care admit. Ever since the fateful emergence of a black community in the post war era, politically, there has been a delicate posturing about the blatantly obvious. That being that discrimination exists, and that racial discrimination is likely persist in some shape or form in the UK for the foreseeable future, especially where there is a power dynamic in terms of access to resources.
The Windrush Scandal has shown that those given the responsibility of governance are accountable have not provided the required leadership to enact that which is equitable and just. As those in public office try to give a rhetoric that suggests that the UK is moving towards tackling race discrimination. Theresa May and her government have been wanting. The Equalities Act 2006 saw the demise of the Commission for Race Equality, suggesting that post The Stephen Lawerence Inquiry the UK found a new footing. The Windrush Scandal proved otherwise, demonstrating the UK has much further to go.