‘What the Hell Can I Call Myself Except British?’
Thursday 29th April 2021,
Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series presents Black Britons not as objects but as protagonists, not as heroes but as humans.On October 24, 2017, Paulette Wilson was transferred from Britain’s Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre to London’s Heathrow Airport for deportation to Jamaica. It didn’t take long to pack; she was arrested at a regularly scheduled appointment at a government immigration center, and the clothes she was wearing were confiscated. She would make this journey in her prison clothes. Wilson, who was by then sixty-one, had been sent to Britain from Jamaica by her mother forty-nine years earlier to live with her grandparents and had never been back. Indeed, she had never left Britain.a special needs teaching assistant sacked from his job…an ambulance driver made homeless…a car mechanic denied cancer treatment [and] a man whose children took him to Jamaica for a fiftieth birthday surprise holiday, who wasn’t allowed to travel back to Britain for almost two years.future historians…writing about Europe in the nineteen fifties and sixties will presumably devote a chapter to the coloured minority group in this country. They will say that although this group was small, it was an important, indeed an essential one. For its arrival and growth gave British society an opportunity of recognising its own blind spots, and also of looking beyond its own nose to a widening horizon of human integrity.It almost passes belief that at this moment twenty or thirty additional immigrant children are arriving from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week…. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.One of the notable things…about when Windrush broke was [that] we all had to go and educate ourselves…. No one knew…about British colonies that got independence and what happened to people from those colonies…all of that was thirty, forty years ago. Well, it’s still live—it still matters but nobody had thought about that for a very long period of time.