UK Prime Minister Theresa May under pressure from Black academics and public intellectuals
|By Thomas L Blair 22 June 2018 ©|
Celebrating the newly announced Windrush Day celebration continues the ugly pattern of short-changing the centuries-old Black Presence in Britain, says prominent academics and public intellectuals.
“A national Windrush Day? Theresa May has some nerve”, thunders Kehinde Andrews, founder of the first British African Studies programme at Birmingham City University. No more than a token, “Thousands of the very generation we are meant to be celebrating are facing hardship as a result of the prime minister’s policies”.
As Professor Gus John, Equality and Human Rights Campaigner, wrote rejecting his invitation to the Day’s celebration 22 June at the Prime Minister’s office, “I do not believe that you [prime minister Theresa May] are entitled to the magnanimity of those misguided folk who might well be happy to receive your invitation and to attend your Windrush anniversary celebration”.
The Black Presence and the Struggle Against Racism in Britain Pre-dates 1948
The academics do not deny the cardinal importance of the damaging policies of the Windrush era. Indeed, they condemn the uncaring ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants. The trauma, uncertainty, misery, physical hardship and denial of the same life-saving health services for which they had paid throughout their working lives.
However, they know that Britain has a long inexcusable history of truth decay. Hence, by projecting ‘The Windrush’ as representing the birth of Black – and multi-cultural –Britain, is not only false but dangerous, says professor John.
- “It is dangerous for five main reasons he says:
• “First, it rather suggests that Britain was mono-racial prior to the arrival of the Windrush passengers and those that followed them in the 1950s and 1960s and that until then the nation was at ease with itself and with the foreigners it had magnanimously welcomed from elsewhere.
- Second, it erases the struggle of earlier generations of Africans from the Continent and from the West Indies for equal rights and justice and against racism and fascism in Britain, struggles which the Windrush and later generations themselves had to join, or replicate.
• Third, it compounds the divisions, generated and reinforced by the British themselves, between Caribbean people and African people as two separate ethnic groups, rather than as one people, belonging to a Global African Diaspora, with a common heritage and an interrupted history.
Fellow academic Andrews suggests “we should not have been fooled by that tokenism, neither should we be appeased by a national day to celebrate Windrush. On the issue of racism, May is parading before the public in the emperor’s new clothes, and it should be easy for us to see through her naked cynicism and empty gestures”.
John says “I have massive misgivings about the entire Windrush project and I would go so far as to say it is not only completely wrongheaded, it runs the risk of distorting British colonial and post-colonial history and the struggles of former colonial subjects with Britain, both in the former colonies and in Britain itself”. Therefore, he concludes “It would be a shameful betrayal to them all to accept your invitation.
Black public intellectuals take the truth-telling message to the community.
Stafford Scott, co-founder of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985, and consultant on racial equality and community engagement, tweets:
“Professor Gus John’s rejection letter to the British Prime Minister’s invitation to 10 Downing Street is a must READ and SHARE letter, not simply because of the beautiful way in which it has been drafted, but also to inform and educate those who would be foolish enough to accept such an invitation”.
How are we doing? We’d love to have your feedback. Please forward the article to your sharing list and contacts.