Earlier this year the government announced their plans to hold a ‘National Windrush Day’ to commemorate the impact of the Windrush Generation and their families. These contributions can be seen in culture, music, food, art and most importantly in helping create the multi-cultured Britain that we are familiar with today. The Windrush Generation did not just pave the way for the improvement of black people’s rights in the UK but also set the ball rolling for others to challenge the poor treatment of all minorities.
Clement Atlee’s government invited Caribbean workers to the UK in order to fill gaps in the labour mark after the Second World War. Their arrival was key to creating one of the strongest post-war economies in Europe. If we jump forward seventy years, we only have to look at the Notting Hill Carnival, which thousands of people attend each year, to see that there is a celebration of Black Culture in the UK. But as celebrities and socialites take to the streets to join the party every August bank holiday, the problems the Windrush Generation faced seem to be somewhat glossed over.
The Windrush Scandal has prompted many questions. Who should shoulder the blame? What can be done to make the problems go away? How many people have been affected? These questions all need to be answered. However, they should not overshadow the importance of the stories of individuals.
It would be nice to think times have moved on since the murder of the teenage son of Jamaican migrants Stephen Lawrence in 1993. However, other stories show that there is still an inherent unfairness in our systems.
Sylvester Marshall came the UK when he was 19 in 1973. He had no idea there were problems with his citizenship status until 2009 when his application for a new driver’s licence was denied as he didn’t have the right documentation. Sylvester subsequently became homeless and denied emergency accommodation and has had to live in hostels ever since. In 2017 Sylvester was diagnosed with prostate cancer, when he arrived to receive his first round of radiotherapy, he was told he would have to pay £54,000 for treatment as he wasn’t a British citizen. This is a man who has legally lived in the UK for 45 years. His story has been widely reported and even discussed in Parliament. The Home Office have admitted to their mistakes and granted Sylvester citizenship, he received the necessary treatment this summer and has since made a strong recovery. This story however shows that there are still clear issues in how cases such as this are handled.
The stories of the maltreatment of British citizens should be scrutinised as they are the ones that shock people into action. However, the successes of the Windrush Generation and their relatives should be celebrated. Diane Abbott, despite her inability to quote simple statistics on policing, is a brilliant example of the success of the Windrush Generation. Ms Abbott was born to Jamaican parents in London, her mum was a nurse and her dad was a welder. Through her hard work she gained a place at Cambridge to read history and after graduating she was fast tracked through the civil service. In 1987 Ms Abbott was elected as MP for Hackney North, making her the first ever black, female MP. She has risen through the ranks and now is shadow home secretary. She has used her position to fight for major social issues and has been outspoken in pushing for compensation for Windrush victims. Diane Abbott’s story is one that will have no doubt been challenging but a story of success.
Although the Windrush Scandal has re-enforced that there are still clear injustices within institutions and society as a whole, it is important to remember the positive impact the Windrush Generation has had on the UK.