England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Windrush line: A hollow gesture to paper over Tory racism

By Daniel Hood, Socialist Alternative West Yorkshire

In February it was announced that the London Overground’s East London line would be renamed The Windrush Line by the government, in ‘honour’ of the Windrush generation who lived, worked and raised families in Lambeth.

On the face of it, this would seem like a good-hearted gesture honouring Black citizens of the Commonwealth who have helped to shape the British identity. But the mind need not be cast back too far to recall the appalling scandal of 2018. Thousands of Black British citizens were wrongly detained, denied any legal rights or protection, threatened with deportation, sometimes simply deported outright. Many had documents seized, benefits and medical care denied.

Originally, Black Caribbeans were classed as British citizens and many of them viewed Britain as a sort of homeland. After World War 2, when Britain was suffering a labour shortage, Black Caribbeans were invited to live and work in the UK. Many of these workers faced the horrors of racism, stirred up by the government and the media. Groups would form like the National Front who would commit campaigns of violence against Black people.

Over the years and decades the face of the “great immigration threat” would morph, Pakistanis, Polish, Romanians, Africans and middle easterners would take the racial hot seat that the government needs to peddle their divide-and-rule tactic.

In 2012 the government began their Hostile Environment policy to make the UK unliveable for immigrants. They would raid homes, destroy documents and deport the Windrush generation, many in their 70s and 80s and even their children and grandchildren who were born here were victims of this initiative and treated like vermin.

Lives were destroyed along with these documents, possibly thousands. The government has done little to nothing to compensate or undo the damage that has been done to these people and to offer this hollow gesture of renaming a train line is insulting and infuriating. The powers that be must be pressured into undoing the damage they have caused. A new name for a rail line is no tonic for the sickness of institutional racism.


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