Prince William, speaking at the unveiling of a new Windrush statue, admitted that racism is an “all too familiar” experience for black people in modern Britain.
The national monument pays homage to the thousands of people who came to Britain from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971 to help with post-WWII reconstruction.
It features a man, woman and child in their Sunday best on suitcases and was unveiled at Waterloo Station to mark Windrush Day.
The Duke of Cambridge, who attended the unveiling alongside his wife Kate and members of the Windrush generation, said the nation would be poorer without their efforts.
“We know without question that the Windrush generation has enriched our culture, strengthened our ministries and made our countrymen safer,” said the future king.
Prince William acknowledged that members of the Windrush generation faced racism and discrimination when they came to Britain to help solve the labor shortage 75 years ago and said it remains the case today.
He also addressed the injuries and pain caused by the Windrush scandal.
In 1971 an Immigration Act was passed giving all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK permanent residence rights.
But due to a lack of official documentation, many were told they were in the country illegally despite having lived and worked here for decades.
This resulted in members of the Windrush generation being held in detention centers, denied their rights, threatened with deportation and, in some cases, unjustly deported.
William said: “Unfortunately… members of the Windrush generation (were) victims of racism when they arrived here and discrimination remains an all too familiar experience for black men and women in Britain in 2022.
“Just a few years ago, the Windrush scandal deeply wronged tens of thousands of this generation.
“That rightly resonates throughout the Caribbean community here in the UK as well as in many other Caribbean countries.
“So, in addition to celebrating the diversity of our families, our communities and our society as a whole – to which the Windrush generation has contributed so much – it is also important to acknowledge how the future they have sought and deserved is yet to materialize.” .
“Diversity makes us strong and reflects the modern, cosmopolitan values that are so important to our country.”
William’s speech comes after his controversial trip to the Caribbean in March, which was met with protests demanding redress for the royal family’s role in slavery.
Acknowledging the tour was a “learning curve”, the Duke told the crowd: “Our trip has been an opportunity for reflection and we’ve learned so much – not only about the various issues that matter most to people in the region, but also about how the past weighs heavily on the present.’
He also spoke about the wide-ranging areas of British life that have been shaped by the work and skills of the Windrush generation and their descendants, including commerce, manufacturing, sport, science, engineering and fashion.
They have also done valuable work for the transport system and the NHS which was formed two weeks after the Empire Windrush hit England in 1948.
Jamaican artist and sculptor Basil Watson, who designed the statue, said it was an honor to create the memorial.
He said the statue pays tribute to the “dreams and aspirations, the courage and dignity, the skills and talents” of the Windrush generation, who “arrived with the hope of contributing to a society that they expected to have in the would welcome a return”.
He said: “My parents, along with many others, made the long, arduous journey from the Caribbean with very little or nothing other than their aspirations, courage and promise of advancement.
“This memorial tells this story of hope, determination, a strong belief in yourself and a vision for the future.”
The Government, which has committed £1million to the project, said it symbolized the courage, commitment and resilience of the thousands of men, women and children who traveled to Britain between 1948 and 1971 to start new lives.
The statue also pays tribute to the Windrush generation’s “outstanding contribution” to British society and is intended to be “an enduring place of reflection,” she added.
Community Secretary Michael Gove described the event as a “historic and deeply moving moment” but also said “apologies” for the pain caused by the Windrush scandal.
The Windrush generation had been discriminated against upon their arrival in Britain and referring to the scandal he added that “the state made mistakes”.
Patrick Vernon OBE, a British political activist of Jamaican descent, described the memorial’s unveiling as a “bittersweet” moment.
After the Windrush scandal made headlines in 2018, the government apologized for its “appalling treatment” of the Windrush generation and promised compensation for those who lost their jobs and fell into poverty because they were wrongly labeled as illegal immigrants.
But four years later, only one in four has received compensation.
“Any tribute to the Windrush generation is always welcome and I hope there will be others,” Mr Vernon told The Independent.
“But there are problems as Windrush victims and survivors of the scandal have concerns because the memorial was funded by the government and the compensation scheme does not meet their needs.”
Waterloo Station was chosen as the location for the statue because people arriving from the Caribbean passed through the station on their way to new lives across the country, the government said.
The unveiling is one of dozens of events and activities across England to celebrate Windrush Day 2022.
Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, carrying 500 passengers from the Caribbean.
More than 100 leaders from politics, faith and civil society, sport, culture and business have signed a joint letter published in The Times newspaper, starting the one-year countdown to the milestone.
They write: “This isn’t just black history – it’s British history. It should be something we all know and remember.
“We are calling on the Government and all UK institutions, from politics to civil society, faith, culture, business and sport, to step up and play their part fully over the next year.”
Polls commissioned to mark Windrush Day suggest that 64% of the public think children should be taught about Windrush to better understand the history of the British Empire and its diverse society.
Almost half (49%) of respondents said they were familiar with the history of the Windrush, while 46% said they would like to know more.
The survey was conducted for the Windrush 75 network, set up to coordinate efforts to mark the 75th anniversary over the next 12 months, and for the think tank British Future.
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/22/prince-william-highlights-racism-in-2022-at-unveiling-of-new-windrush-statue-16872010/ Prince William highlights racism in 2022 at unveiling of new Windrush statue