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Thread by @richmondbridge: "The triumphant story about Windrush wasn't what the whole country believed in 2012 either. It was just a question of which narrative had mor […]" #Windrush

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The triumphant story about #Windrush wasn't what the whole country believed in 2012 either. It was just a question of which narrative had more power to be heard. (1/?)
By 2012, Windrush had already become part of many versions of Britain's national myth - part of UK public commemorative culture, ripe for the beginning of a story about tolerance and progress.
The idea of Britain welcoming the Windrush Generation, and the story of 1990s/2000s society moving on from the racism of the 1960s and 1970s, symbolised the kind of Britain that would be comfortable with having a Commonwealth not an Empire.
What first put Windrush on to the timeline of UK public history was black activists campaigning for it to be taught about. By 2012, commemorating Windrush might have seemed like consensus; in the 1980s it had been a radical demand.
Commemorating Windrush as part of Britain's national narrative meant telling a story about Britain where black Britons belonged on the same terms as white Britons. (Even if it didn't delve too deeply into how Britain had enslaved the Windrush Generation's ancestors.)
And so commemorating how Britishness had supposedly become multicultural, by marking Windrush, invited participants to join in the happy feeling of how far 'we' had come.
Arguably what catapulted Windrush into institutional as well as community commemorative culture was the aftermath of the Macpherson Report (into police inaction after murder of Stephen Lawrence) in 1999, which popularised the phrase 'institutional racism.'
Museum and heritage professionals' own anti-racist engagement combined with the impact of Labour equalities legislation to make institutions keen to mark Windrush as the turning point of black history in Britain (or often the *beginning*, which it wasn't).
The London 2012 opening ceremony was a pageant of history-from-below that imagined a nation made up of its oppressed groups as well as its elites. Like the workers of the Industrial Revolution, like the suffragettes. Like Windrush.
London 2012's opening ceremony staged its 'mosaic history' magnificently, but didn't invent it: in fact the story dates back to leftist traditions of 'radical patriotism' from at least the 1930s...
...as well as the socialist principles that inspired historians like Raphael Samuel to write 'history from below' and suggest the heritage of 'ordinary people' could be a leftist way of linking the public with the national past.
(There's a direct link from Raphael Samuel to Frank Cottrell Boyce, scriptwriter for London 2012 opening: Samuel edited three volumes on 'Patriotism' in 1989, from this radical-heritage POV, and a young Boyce contributed a chapter on the I-Spy books while doing his English PhD.)
Back to the politics of commemorating Windrush. It *felt like* the whole country was celebrating in 2012, when the BBC showed such a cheering crowd and the ceremony tugged so many quirky heartstrings. But it wasn't.
The story of London 2012 was already being contested on the night itself, when Conservative MP Aidan Burley tweeted that it had been 'leftie multicultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones.'

What's changed since 2012? Which narratives get most platform.
What have narratives about Windrush got to do with the fact that the Home Office has deported black Britons who came to the UK with British passports, before their islands became independent?

Because national identity is a story about who belongs.
Or rather, national identity is a story about who belongs unconditionally on the land inside the nation's borders, and whom the hosts might graciously extend the right to stay.
The Windrush Generation who came to Britain, and the children they had there, spent decades hearing racists like Enoch Powell and the National Front openly call for them to be 'repatriated'. Sent back home.
(As if it needed saying - but apparently, to BBC Radio, it does - this is exactly why the way to mark 50 years since Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech shouldn't be TO BROADCAST HIS ENTIRE SPEECH ON NATIONAL AIRWAVES. )
Now, when many of Windrush Generation have retired - and some might have looked back and thought they were living in a better country - they can't prove citizenship like 'hostile environment' policies require. Why, outside dystopian nightmares, would they have needed to before?
Black people who came to the UK decades ago from the Caribbean have found they can't rent homes, prove 'right to work', get NHS treatment. Some *have already been deported*, 'in error,' Home Secretary told Parliament today.
.@marcusjdl started collating reports of these cases long before the liberal white public started noticing they were connected and expressing the kind of outcry there's been this week.
But why has the Windrush Generation moved the British public so much more than other inhumane deportations? The power of the Windrush myth itself.
Aidan Burley's tweet in 2012 wanted to turn the clock back on multiculturalism. So did UKIP (on ever larger platform BBC gave it after 2014 Euro elections). So did many of the voices backing Brexit.
In 2012, the idea that that progress could be thrown into reverse, and Britain in a few years' time could become 'more racist' not less, was very far from most people's minds.
But visa rules for non-EU citizens became even tighter than New Labour had made them.
Brexit stripped 3m EU citizens of freedom of movement rights they took for granted.
Elders born in Caribbean are facing *now* what Enoch Powell threatened them with *then*.
The threat to deport the Windrush Generation doesn't just disturb the myth of multicultural Britain that grew between the 1990s and 2012, it tears it up.

And it does so as knowingly, as gleefully, as it can.
And if you've followed this far, read people who have been speaking out on this for longer and with more first-hand knowledge than me, like @DavidLammy who forced debate in Parliament today ...
...historian of Britain and the Caribbean @jamaicandale, @LukeEdeNoronha studying deportations from UK to Jamaica, sociologist @GKBhambra who gave this talk on citizenship and Brexit ...
(And someone's going to ask about London 2012, so the stuff about its historical narratives comes from an article I wrote a few years ago: academia.edu/6839567/Beyond…)
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