The Windrush celebrations leave me feeling ambivalent. There was a generation of people from the Caribbean who came to Britain and in many fields became trailblazers. As the Kittitian author Caryl Phillips described it “sinking their hopeful roots into difficult soil”. Without the individual and collective resilience of the Windrush generation many of the, the lesser known as well the famous stars would not have been able to imagine the possibilities that they went on to realise. We should celebrate this contribution. We should say thank you over and over again whilst some of the trailblazers are still alive.
I am struck however that the movement toward celebrating the Windrush generation coincided with the stark exposure of the racist policies and practices in the Home Office designed to exclude people from the so-called ‘West Indies’, like the Windrush generation. The other side to the story of celebration is the abuses that were systematic in nature, no with serious and sometimes fatal consequences to individuals and their families. Much of this has been documented elsewhere.
There is a long history of social movements being colonised to remove the sting. Each month and year of strategic silence by distraction consigns the stories deeper into to things of the past, from which we need to move on. The assurances that there is a real political and societal desire to transform the Home Office policy, with action to deliver is sparse to the point of invisibility.
There is work still to be done. True accountability is not just like the school child who spits out sorry. Accountability shows up as action. This kind of accountability is seldom embraced proactively. Accountability stems from a light being shone on injustice not from dancing and sharing food and drink in multicultural settings.