Windrush Scandal: Why the Personal is Political

 

Below is an adapted version of a sermon I delivered at St. Peter de Beauvoir Town Church in May 2018.

I know that everyone will know what the Windrush scandal is and how it came into being as there has been a lot of coverage of it in the news, so I won’t go into any detail about its history. Instead, I will start off by reinforcing the reality of the situation for those affected by the scandal – the impact of this injustice should never be forgotten.

Despite numerous promises, platitudes and assurances from various government officials, scores of West Indians are in limbo, either stranded in the West Indies or stranded in their own homes, with no jobs, no access to welfare or to their hard-earned pensions.  The physical and mental toll that this long-running uncertainty has had on them is immeasurable, to say the least.  The Home Office is slowly making its way through the large numbers of cases, but there has been no interim relief for those affected while this is taking place, and there have even been reports of those who have received compensation being asked to sign NDAs.

Hearing about the scandal on the news and reading about it in the papers was upsetting and left me incredulous.  My parents and grandparents came here from Jamaica during the Windrush era. I have heard numerous stories throughout my life about the struggles they and other West Indians faced when they arrived here. So for me, hearing about this scandal simply added insult to many decades of injury.

I felt compelled to act. I organised a protest march from Parliament Square to the Home Office that took place on April 28th. I had never organised anything like that before, and I honestly didn’t expect it to be successful.  But thankfully, for the sake of the cause, it was. The march received coverage on both Sky and ITV News and it helped to keep the issue in the public consciousness at a crucial time (the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned the following Monday after it emerged that she had “inadvertently misled” the Home Office Select Committee about removal targets). It also helped to show the real strength of feeling and the true impact that this situation has had on individuals, as people who were affected by it also attended. I was fortunate enough to speak to them and hear their stories.

I have two main reasons for explaining all of this. They are where I want the crux of this sermon to lie, and to be the two messages that you take from this.

It is very difficult to discuss the plight of the Windrush generation without touching on politics. We cannot escape the fact that this situation emerged largely as a consequence of political decision-making. But I am not here to discuss differing political views or leanings. My point is a much wider one.  My point is that, contrary to popular belief nowadays, politics is not some abstract concept to be debated on Facebook and Twitter, or on TV panel shows.  Nor is it something to be avoided altogether. I have heard people (including friends of mine), say that they don’t “do politics.”

On the contrary, the Windrush scandal should teach us that politics has a human face.  That political decisions have real-life impacts on people, not abstract ones.  The political is personal, and the personal is political.

This leads me to my second message. As a Jamaican, as a descendant of the Windrush generation and, most importantly, as a human being – I was hurt and angered by what has happened, as I know many people were.  As an individual I was concerned that my actions wouldn’t have much of an impact, because this problem seemed so much bigger than me. But I was wrong – and happily so.

And so I want to end on this message of hope. As individuals and as a community, we do have the ability to make an impact.  The political and the social are irrevocably intertwined and we ought not to be afraid or to shy away from that fact.  The struggle is not over for the Windrush generation and, as we live in a world that carries out and perpetuates injustice after injustice, there will be many others we can stand up for.  Every little we can do does help.

Whatever you can offer to do is valid. The problem is never too big or untouchable.

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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