Windrush 75: Royal Family can’t unite people while it remains so divisive, expert says


King Charles has paid tribute to the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain.
Last year, while Prince of Wales, he commissioned a series of 10 portraits that will be part of the Royal Collection and act as a tribute to the contributions of the Windrush generation — he also attended a service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor in recognition of the anniversary on 22 June.
The Windrush generation were Commonwealth citizens who arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 to help fill job shortages and rebuild a postwar Britain.
Ten pioneering members of the Windrush generation were chosen to sit for the portraits, by a committee which included Baroness Floella Benjamin, but the artists who painted them were selected personally Charles.
However one royal commentator has noted that, although the portraits are “absolutely beautiful”, and that they demonstrate Charles is trying to be a unifying figure for the country, whether his attempts will work remains to be seen.
“The monarchy still remain so hugely divisive,” Afua Acheampong-Hagan, a broadcaster and royal commentator, told Yahoo News. “In the things that they’ve done, in the way that they’ve treated certain members of the family… so if you’re gonna go to unity, go for unity properly.
“He’s trying to be that unifying figure, he’s trying to bring people together. I think that applies to both King Charles and Prince William, whether there’ll be successful on it, I don’t know.”

The Inability of the Royal Family to Unite a Nation

Acheampong-Hagan also cast doubt on whether the “stunning” series of portraits are enough to undo the damage done by the Windrush Scandal.
The Windrush scandal saw over 160 people wrongly deported or detained, because the Home Office had not kept records of which Commonwealth citizens who arrived in the UK before 1973 had permission to stay in the country, or issued the proper paperwork to them.
“I think it’s a good thing that they have been done,” Acheampong-Hagan said of the portraits, “[and that] contribution that the Windrush generation have made to the UK has been acknowledged in this way.
“Coming from the different islands, we have done a lot in this country – I say we have put the ‘Great’ in Britain,” said Joan Harry, who came to the UK in 1960, aged 19.
She was one of thousands of people who made the move from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s, known as the Windrush generation.
I discussed the anniversary with her and some of her friends in a nostalgic recreation of a classic, mid-century British-Caribbean home, run by the Windrush Generation Legacy Association, tucked away in a Croydon shopping centre.
For Ms Harry, the anniversary is an opportunity to remind people of what her generation has accomplished in – and for – this country.

Evaluating the Royal Family’s Role in Dividing Society

“It means a lot – because it’s about memory, and it reminds you of how Windrush came about,” she said.
“We have worked hard to put this legacy forward – that is a mark that our children can look back and say, ‘our forebears did that’.”
June Grandison, meanwhile, tells me that many believed that their stay in the UK would only be brief.
“I came here in 1962,” Ms Grandison recalled. “I thought I was coming for five years, and then would go back home to practise as a nurse. But 60 years later, I’m still here!”
For others, the day has also brought up a lot of memories of when they first arrived here.
But while there was a lot of light for this generation, there has also been shade.
Ms Grandison told me of one of her earliest experiences of discrimination in this country, which is still vivid in her mind.
“Before I did nursing, I applied for a job in the West End – not knowing anything about racism, because of course we came from the mother country,” she said.
“My [maiden] name was ‘Brookes’. I applied for the job, I went for the interview, and the lady put me in a room and she never came back to me. I sat there for about six hours, and then the shop was closing, and I left.

How the Royal Family’s Divisiveness Impacts Windrush 75

“Because my name was ‘Brookes’, they thought when I applied that I was an English person.”
Inequality has been pervasive for this generation – not just in those early years, but also in recent ones.
In the last five years, the name “Windrush” has become synonymous with injustice. The Windrush scandal affected thousands of people from former British colonies who moved to the UK before immigration laws changed in 1971.
They were given the permanent right to live and work in the UK, but not the documentation to prove this.
This meant they were later denied employment, housing and benefits to which they were entitled. Many were also deported.
Johnny Samuels, from Coventry, came to the UK in 1964, aged eight.
After an injury left him out of work in 2008, he was told he could not claim benefits.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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