Windrush

Imagine that you’re living your life as it is, it’s not perfect by any means but it’s OK. You have a house and a job, you live in a community. Then one day an opportunity arises for a new life, a Mecca of opportunity, a modern world full of wealth and industry.

You are sold.

Convinced by the dream of a land of new hope and idealistic optimism you pack your bags and go. You are legally a citizen and a tax-payer. You are told that there is work, that you will be valued and as much a part of that country as everyone else already there.

In 1948 The British Nationality Act was passed giving citizenship to people of British Colonies encouraging people to migrate to Britain. The Empire Windrush brought 492 fee-paying British citizens, who were mostly skilled workers, from the West Indies to the UK in 1948.

It’s not quite as the picture looked but it’s OK. There are other new people like you and it’s nice that you have all been put together so none of you feel out of place. You all work together, build lives together and have families together. You become the community, part of the country, you make a home.

Years later a letter comes through the door. It is suspicious, full of questions and demands. It says that you don’t belong here, that you never belonged here. It has no recognition of your citizenship or contribution. It has broken its promise. You are not wanted anymore. You have out-stayed your welcome. Now you must prove your worth.

And if you can’t? If you haven’t kept every bank statement, every pay-slip, a record of every address you’ve ever lived in? Then you are told to leave.

In July 2013 these controversial ‘go home’ vans were driven around some of the most diverse communities in London in order to create a ‘hostile environment’ for people who had migrated to Britian by the Conservative Government.

This is what is happening to a whole generation of British people. They are being degraded by a government that’s meant to protect them. They are being isolated, disrespected, locked up in detention centres like criminals. Imagine someone going to your Grandparents house and telling them they are not legally allowed any health service, benefits or a right to remain without four pieces of documentary evidence for every single year that they have lived here. It’s happening now. Maybe not to your family but to someones.

And why is this happening? A mistake? Did someone forget to tick a box? Is Grandad not computer literate enough to fill in the online forms?

No.

It’s far simpler than that. This is no clerical error. A mistake is when you order a rare steak and it arrives well done. Threatening deportation to elderly citizens is something else. These people are being treated so poorly and with so little respect because their skin colour is darker than the majority of people in this country. We can dress it up in as many accidental apologies as we like but the reality is that descendants of Generation Windrush and practically any first, second, third generation immigrant that isn’t white have never been looked upon as the British citizens they are. For a country that claims to promote decency, morality and forward thinking we sure are racist.

How many times have you asked someone where they are ‘really’ from implying that they can’t actually be of British heritage if they are not white?

Post war British governments brought at least 600,000 people from post war (pre EU) Europe to the UK at the tax payers expense whose grandchildren are now classed as indigenous British and are not facing these ridiculous demands for documentary evidence. I wonder why that is?

What’s really scary is that our government and media have encouraged this way of thinking, promoting a fear of the ‘foreigner’. If you look different you can’t be from here. This fear of otherness makes it so easy for those light skinned politicians to blame their own mistakes on immigration; the health service is failing because of the immigrants, there’s no social housing because of the immigrants, all the benefits have run out because of the immigrants. Desensitising us to that word until we forget that immigrant is just another word for person. Comparing people escaping war torn countries to cockroaches. Allowing hateful words to be displayed in our papers. This particularly nasty version of the Home Office has ignored the law in this instance destroying people’s records (never mind their rights) and deporting them, returning them to countries they may not even remember.

Mahatma Ghandi once said ‘A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members’. Maybe we should change our name to Not-so-Great Britain.

This island mentality driven by nostalgia seems to be rooted in the childlike phase of calling everything ‘mine’.  It isolates us encouraging xenophobic views that don’t belong in any decent society. This fear of missing out pushes people to frown and complain about what other people might get instead of recognising our own privilege and allows a minority of profiteering politicians to manipulate a nation into hate crime.

The Daily Mail is famous for publishing anti-immigration, racist rhetoric. It recently published an openly racist review of The RSC’s production of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich criticising an actor for being black.

Our jobs, our people, our country.

None of it matters. None of it belongs to any of us. You come into this world with nothing and you’ll leave the same way; even identical twins are different. Who cares if people want to move here? What are we protecting? A photograph? An imagined fairy tale of what we were once told was good? Bunting? How is it that in 2018 there are still people who actually believe that character can be skin deep, that one human being could possibly be more important than any another? Identifying so strongly with a nationality that it causes you to resent people of other nationalities. It’s madness. We are living in a so-called Modern world with incredibly out-dated thinking. We allow ourselves to be blackmailed by frightening headlines convincing us of a made up human hierarchy where we treat some people one way and other people another. When will we see through our own prejudice? Will we ever learn?

Imagine arriving to a country that you don’t know. Your family are far away. Your friends, your house, your life gone. You don’t have a house, you are too old to work, you don’t belong.

You are Generation Windrush.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com

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