My uncle once told me that while attending the London School of Economics, he used to see signs on the doors of houses that were renting flats that said… NO IRISHMEN ALLOWED… NO DOGS ALLOWED… NO WEST-INDIANS ALLOWED…
At the time my uncle told me this, I had just come back from school in New York to spend the summer with him again. We sat on a verandah that overlooked a valley covered over with a white mist in Gordon Town. Doctorbirds floated nearby above passion flower vines with their purple blossoms. And from inside this mountaintop house came the voice of my aunt talking to the maid about the menu for dinner. In other words, we sat surrounded by a lifestyle far removed from his days as a student in England.
My uncle was a Bigman in Jamaica, a man with a driver, a bodyguard, and a whole host of people in his office who called him Boss. He traveled the world on behalf of Jamaica and was friends with ambassadors and presidents. Yet, this same man had once stood in front of flats for rent where he would not even be considered as a tenant because of the color of his skin. This might not sound like anything new to Blacks in America or to Blacks who have lived in England for more than a minute, but for my uncle, it was a life-changing event.
He told me he had been taught that he had the same rights as any other British subject and yet, there was evidence to the contrary hanging on more doors than he could count. “I could never live in a country like that,” he said. “I had to come home.”
Home for my uncle and a select group of other educated-abroad individuals, almost entirely men at the time, meant a house on a hill with servants and status. Yet, the majority of Jamaicans who moved abroad did not have access to the education my uncle had and all the opportunities that came along with such an education. Most West-Indians had to make a home in cold places like London, New York, and Toronto. And this meant that what my uncle experienced for a few moments while attending school in London, most West-Indians had to experience for the rest of their lives.
- January August 1919 workers of color were attacked by white mobs because it was felt they were stealing jobs. Homes were burned down and lives were lost.
- On the 23rd of August 1958, a “Race Riot” supposedly broke out after a West-Indian man was assaulted for having a drink with a blond woman. West-Indian houses were attacked by mobs of hundreds of white men who also found the time to viscously assault West-Indians on the streets.
- August 30th, 1976 “Race Riots” broke out at the end of Carnival supposedly as a result of constant harassment on the part of the constables. There were running battles between Blacks and constables in the streets.
- The 80s saw multiple “Race Riots”
- 2001 was the year the Asians had their chance to finally say enough was enough and they fought back… Yep, you guessed it.. “Race Riots”
And these are just a few of the explosive events that have been recorded. What has not been recorded are the everyday slights suffered by people of color in Egland: The looks of scorn, the words of hate, the closed doors, the unavailable flats, the jobs denied, the police brutality, the quiet murders never publicized, the jokes on BBC shows about those West-Indian folks, the constant dehumanization of millions of people, etc…..
The story is pretty much the same for Blacks in Canada and in America. So you think that there is nothing new under the sun, that you have heard it all before, whether it is a story of how we are being oppressed in the States, in Canada or in England. But how wrong you are….
The Windrush generation in England is being threatened with deportation, those West-Indians who were brought to England to help rebuild the nation, to bolster a workforce that had been depleted as a result of the war, are now being threatened with deportation. These are not “illegal immigrants”!!!!! These are people who were British citizens at the time that they arrived to work in England.
How could this happen?? Well, let us begin with the fact that the Landing papers many of them would need to prove their status have been thrown out by the Home Office. Also, the party in power has been flying the flag of Nationalism over Humanism for more than a minute. It all makes sense when you think of it. The British empire is flying the Union Jack again and hence, the proper order of things must be reestablished. This means all of us people of color must be reminded of the golden rules… especially the one my uncle saw all those years ago… that said…
NO IRISHMEN ALLOWED
NO DOGS ALLOWED
NO WEST-INDIANS ALLOWED