Thought-Piece on the Pitfalls of Windrush Generation Caribbean
Exceptionalism and the Potential for Increased Divide & Rule in the Quest to
Effect and Secure Afrikan Heritage Reparatory Justice
Please note, these are notes written by ‘Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide!’ Campaign (SMWeCGEC) Coordinator-General, Esther Stanford-Xosei; co-produced as a result of scholar-activism under the auspices of the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE), the Global Afrikan People’s Parliament (GAPP) and the SMWeCGEC.
These notes were produced for the purposes of a reparations WhatsApp action-learners group that I a part of. I have decided to share these notes more publicly. They were originally written on 19/04/2018.
“I Is a Long-Memoried Woman“
“You must not abandon discussion out of tact . . . There should be no
concession where there is a question of establishing a scientific truth . . .
Remember we are focused on a quest for truth and not on a sacrosanct idol
we must avoid debasing”
Cheikh Anta Diop [quoted in Ivan Van Sertima, 1986: 13]
“…and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So, it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive”
Audre Lorde, A Litany for Survival, 1978
Greetings Reparations Action-learners!
I am offering some, more thoughts for the purpose of this group and reparations action-learning. I am interested in feedback on the viewpoints I am sharing in the spirit of Maatian ‘reparations dialogue’.
Taken whilst working at the Barbados High Commission, (London) Esther Stanford-Xosei & her father, the late Courtney Stanford
First of all, let me say that I am of the Caribbean to some degree in that I was raised by parents, who were born in the region and continued to maintain links with the countries of Barbados and Guyana where they were born. Despite the fact that my Mother came to the UK in the late 1950’s and my father in 1960, my family and I have maintained these links with community, family, friends and associates in the Caribbean. I have worked at the Barbados High Commission with my late father, who was a ‘British’ Royalist and through him, was entitled to claim citizenship of Barbados by descent which I took out in my 20’s. I have therefore, been on a journey and now locate my identity, journey and struggle (as did my predecessors) within the context of Afrikan people globally not as ‘Black Britisher’ or a ‘Caribbean’ person which are socially engineered identities which have particularly been cultivated within the past 15-20 years.
Many of my reflections and political responses have therefore been shaped by my own experience and what has been learned by my family and communities struggles for advancement, belonging, recognition, justice and development. I must also say that despite the differences in my self-identification and that of my parents, I continue to love them and other family members dearly although we have chosen different life paths in our quest to realise our full-humanity as a result of the damage caused by the Maangamizi.
Esther Stanford-Xosei’s parents, Yvonne Stanford & Courtney Stanford, circa 1963
It is important to realise that we are in a political moment, this can help advance the movement, (International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR), but not the way much of the campaigning and public discourse has been directed so far. The intergenerational mission and goals of the ISMAR is totally absent from this self congratulatory fervour about the apology to so-called “British Caribbeans” and promises of compensation, (remember when we were referred to as ‘Afro-Caribbean’ and then saw ourselves as African-Caribbean?).
As promoted at the recent INOSAAR (International Network of Scholars & Activists for Afrikan Reparations) Birmingham Conference which took place in March, according to PARCOE the intergenerational goals of applied reparations are to:
1. Learn about, recognise and ‘Stop the Maangamizi’ including the horrors of enslavement, colonisation, neocolonisation, recolonization and other imperialist and foreign impositions on Afrikans at home and aboard, including forced Europeanisation and Arabisation.
2. Counter Afriphobia as a manifestation of white-supremacy, eradicating Afrikan dehumanisation, and assertion of the Afrikan personality.
3. Restore Afrikan sovereignty by redressing with MAATUBUNTUMANDLA (Pan-Afrikan Government of Peoples Power) the disrepair in our power and usher in a fundamental change of the existing world order that would definitively bring about new geopolitical realities such as MAATUBUNTUMAN; the antiimperialist sovereign Pan-Afrikan Union of Communities/polity of Afrikan people’s power.
4. Effect systemic change globally to ensure the expropriation and redistribution of ill-gotten wealth, resources and income worldwide.
5. Implement New paradigms of development including a new, international, legal, political, cultural and economic order.
6. Institutionalise the Afrikan cosmovisions and ethical principles of Maat and ubuntu in terms of global justice for all. 1
7. Enforce environmental elements of global justice full respect for Mother Earth/
Nana Asase Yaa rights. 2
We can actually measure how consonant the approaches being taken to campaigning for the ‘Windrush generation’ with the pre-existing and ongoing struggle for Afrikan Reparatory Justice by looking how much or little Windrush campaigning is relating to the aforementioned political goals.
I shall say more about the Caribbean case in relation to the Global Afrikan case for reparations later in this thought-piece.
First of all let me say that we must be mindful that our historical and contemporary oppressors are masters at deception and psychological manipulation.
At the risk of mistakenly being considered insensitive, in the awareness of so many harrowing testimonies of Windrush generation affected persons, I am also interested in why there is so much media and governmental focus on the ‘Windrush Generation’ to the exclusion of all other atrocities and injustices against people of Afrikan heritage. Perhaps it has something to do with the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the landing of the Empire Windrush in 1948, the British establishment-promoted re-conditioning, contemporary ‘seasoning process’ and re-affirmations of benevolent notions of Britishness etc. as well as the elevation of the ‘special relationship’ Britain has with the Caribbean, as did their forebears who colonised the peoples found and brought there.
I have been wondering about the other Commonwealth citizens who may be affected by this British governmental ‘hostile environment’ created around the situation of economic and political migrants who came from the Caribbean and Afrika. Are we certain that it is only ‘Windrush generationers’ that are being affected? Or is this an issue that is happening to other so-called Commonwealth citizens?
The former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake, said that some ministers were “deeply unhappy” about the introduction of the “hostile environment” strategy under then Home Secretary Theresa May. Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Lord Kerslake, said some saw the policy, which has come under the spotlight during the Windrush row, “as almost reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the way it’s working”, i.e. genocidal!!!3
This matters, because we must be on guard against a select group of us as members of the Afrikan Diaspora being elevated for special concern (apology, compensation etc. which is not being framed as part of Afrikan people’s struggle for reparatory struggles) and not others.
In a recent Guardian article by Kate Osamor, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, she points out that she is dealing with a number of cases within her constituency of Commonwealth citizens being threatened with deportation. Notably, she points out that some of these constituencies come from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda – all Commonwealth countries and emphasises that countless people came to the UK from Commonwealth countries before 1973. 4
So, I am wondering why we are not hearing the testimonies and further news reporting on other Afrikan people who are citizens of Commonwealth countries. Whose voices and lives are being deemed not to matter, and how are we advertently or inadvertently feeding into this silencing and marginalisation of the narratives of other Afrikans?
As Professor Gus John has stated in his recent commentary ‘70th Anniversary of Windrush 1948 – A View by Professor Gus John’ 70th Anniversary of Windrush 1948 – A View by Brofessor Gus John:
“To focus upon and make iconic the arrival of the Windrush in 1948 carrying 492 members of the Global African Diaspora from the Caribbean, a region that imperial Britain had made home to their enslaved Ancestors, is to suggest that there was not an African presence in Britain prior to 1948, including a sizeable number of people from the Caribbean”
It is important to remind ourselves that they were part of the Afrikan Diaspora in Britain and made common cause with their brothers and sisters from the Afrikan continent (and other parts of the Afrikan Diaspora) who were/are also resident in Britain. By projecting ‘The Windrush Generation’ above other Afrikan Diaspora and Afrikan ‘Commonwealth citizens’ we are not only in danger of erasing the contributions and struggles of earlier generations of Afrikans from the Continent of Afrika and from the Caribbean in Britain, we are also feeding into compounding:
“the divisions, generated and reinforced by the British themselves, between African Caribbean people and African people as two separate ethnic groups, rather than as one people with a common heritage and with an interrupted history.”
– Taken from ’70th Anniversary of Windrush 1948 – A View by Professor Gus John’
What is being cultivated in this political moment of spotlight on Windrush is Caribbean exceptionalism based on a special relationship to ‘Britishness’. The Caribbean has been portrayed as a place where people are being sent to as though they are criminals and have done something wrong, this is coming from the testimonies of those who have been affected. There are assertions of people’s right to be British and some of those affected have gone so far as to say “I am an Englishman” (e.g. Junior Green, aged 60, who arrived in the UK when he was 15 months old as part of the Windrush generation). These are all examples of identity erasure and misrecognition. Identity erasure is the act of neglecting, looking past, minimizing, ignoring or rendering invisible an other.
In my view, this distorted sense of self, i.e. individual, collective and community self, is one of the greatest Maangamizi crimes perpetrated by the British state in creating and misusing the economic, political and cultural conditions which compelled many of the so-called Windrush Generation to come to these shores – For it cultivated a sense of natal alienation, the seeds of which were already planted by the systematic dispossession of the descendants of the Afrikan enslaved, social and civil death of Afrikan personhood and personality as well as the subsequent erasure of Afrikan identity which began in the colonies and continued in the British metropolis. All this could only be done because of the British colonial and post-independence CARICOM states-induced forgetting and disassociation from the Afrikan Motherland, as well as devaluation of Afrikan heritage and culture, designed to inculcate in us defence of and servility to the British Empire.
I have even heard reference to the phrase descendants of the Windrush Generation which is a historical departure to the notion of being of Afrikan decent or ‘African descendants’ a term that was popularised following the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. In effect reducing us to just a small aspect of our history and experience of the Maangamizi (i.e. The Windrush Experience); thereby inadvertently denying people of Afrikan heritage a right to everything that has been taken from us and that we are entitled to by virtue of our people’s experiences of the Maangamizi. The entitlement of the whole is being misguidedly reduced to the compromised position of going after a part of our entitlement in terms of narrow proposals for Windrush compensation.
More disturbingly, we are witnessing a weaponizing of the cultivation of ‘Windrush Generation Consciousness’ as an effective form of British state counterinsurgency in order to further prolong aspects of the Maangamizi and counter Afrikan heritage communities resistance to the Maangamizi today; especially in terms of seeking to undermine Afrikan Heritage Communities struggles and advocacy of holistic reparations. In addition to dissuading people of Afrikan ancestry and heritage from identifying as ‘Afrikan’ or of ‘Afrikan heritage’ thereby completely diverting us from waging any real struggle in our own group (collective) best interests resulting in us appealing to our historical oppressors and contemporary oppressors as saviours inculcating in us more forms of servility. What comes to mind in this regard is to look at how fowls are caught, often all it takes is to throw the fowls some corn or feed. The fowl will often go after it, not examining who is throwing the feed, whether it is good for them, genetically modified, or even being used as a bait to kill them etc. On the contrary there are members of the Animal Family that will instead sense some form of danger even when it may appear that they are being offered something good.
What is happening causes a great dilemma e.g.: what is the nature of the fight that we wage in support and defence of those affected? What are we and they fighting for and are they the same thing? This is a question which is not just a personal but also a historical question.
In the GAPP emerging position on CARICOM reparations, it states:
“Claims and case of Afrikan reparations are based on the principle of intergenerational justice and therefore has transgenerational, transnational and intercultural dimensions…As descendants of Afrikans who were enslaved, we are mindful of our ancestral responsibility to ensure that when we speak in their names we do not allow the enslaver’s visions of justice to prevail in advocating what are considered to be adequate reparations. The discourse on reparations has to move beyond merely calling on the name of our ancestors as justification for the genesis of our entitlements to redress today to truly recognising the personhood, worldviews and visions of justice of the Afrikans that were enslaved in the Americas and the Caribbean. … To give primacy to their enslaved status and legal and justice frameworks of their enslavers and their descendants; continues their deracination, invisibilisation and dehumanisation…We therefore endorse the view of Professor Chinweizu that our own search for reparations must, of necessity, be tailored to our peculiar condition, to our peculiar experience. In this regard, the measures of reparations must be flexible and account for the ethnic and cultural diversity amongst Afrikans as well as the diverse historical experiences of enslavement, colonialism and their legacies today. Frameworks for Afrikan reparations (including reparations for people of Afrikan origin in the Diaspora), must also address Afrikan & Afrikan Diaspora epistemologies (ways of knowing) concerning what ‘repair’ means and looks like…Equally, we have a responsibility to future generations to ensure that the decisions we make today do not negatively impact the interests or wellbeing of the unborn and each generation to come. This means that whatever reparations outcomes we seek to effect and secure today leave a better legacy for our children and our children’s children and do not end up looting their freedom account and ability to live lives of dignity as Afrikans and people of Afrikan heritage on this earth.”
Reflecting on several British anti-establishment dramas/films that have been screened in recent times to prepare our minds for the ‘defender of Empire’ role that many of us are being socially-engineered to assume:
‘Hard Sun’ 6
‘The Foreigner’ 8
…it become more visibly apparent that some of us as Afrikan Caribbean people actually end up being the most trusted and loyal servants, defenders and advocates of the British empire/establishment. This defence of the British Empire is not to be conflated with the claim for Afrikan Reparatory Justice which has always been in opposition to Empire and for Afrikan Self-Determination, locally, nationally and internationally.
I am re-sharing aspects of the analysis of I’Nora Kamala (Dr Nora Wittman) in her article ‘Slavery Reparations – A Caribbean or Global African Claim’:
“Indeed, there is a fundamental problem with the recent CARICOM reparations initiative. Basically, that problem is that it is a Caribbean initiative, based on the conceptualization of a ‘Caribbean’ reparations claim. But the claim for transatlantic slavery reparations is not a Caribbean claim, it is a global African entitlement to reparations, and intrinsically so…It is thus crucial to grasp that it is not Caribbean societies and states as such that have a claim to transatlantic slavery reparations – though they will undoubtedly profit in their entirety from comprehensive global African reparations. The structural and most ferocious violence against the African by Europeans is what Caribbean societies were founded upon. Thus, without reparations and healing directed specifically at the African, no healing can come for Caribbean societies. Global African reparations are the heartpiece of healing for Caribbean societies…Yes, Caribbean nations need healing, but the violence that was and still is perpetrated against the African part of the Caribbean was so fundamental to the coming into existence of Caribbean societies that the healing also has the be directed specifically at Africans. And not only Africans
in the Caribbean, but Africans globally and especially also on the African continent.”9
In proclaiming the United Nations International ‘Decade for People of African Descent’, Flavia Pansieri (former United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights) said: “people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected”. People of Afrikan descent’s legal personality is based on being Afrikan not ‘British’, ‘English, ‘Afropean’ or ‘European’. Afrikan people have other options than to confine themselves to a second-class deracinated status of Britishness, they can be also fighting for their ‘right to Afrika’ as is being championed by ENGOCCAR, (the Europe-wide Consultative Council for Afrikan Reparations), who are partners to the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Campaign, in Europe.
What is the Right to Afrika?
Right to return (repatriation) and belong (rematriation) which is one process. One cannot happen without the other. It encompasses the Akan Sankofa principle of going back to fetch your Afrikan personality in material and spiritual terms all routed in the land of Afrika. Your personality includes the continent of Afrika, the land, peoplehood and wealth for Afrikans at home and in the Diaspora. This does not mean that everyone physically has to up and return to Afrika, but that one can enjoy the citizenship rights and responsibilities of being an Afrikan wherever we are. Ultimately it is about seeing yourself as having the right to all the material and spiritual wealth of Afrika to the point that such wealth as a whole ought to be utilised first and foremost for your own personal and community development, wellbeing, security and prosperity in the present and in the future wherever you are.
So here in Britain, for example, anyone of Afrikan heritage should feel entitled to being the main determinant and stakeholder in how the British State and Society best relates to the people and continent of Afrika in order to ensure that the benefits of that relationship first and foremost uplift the dignity and standard of living of people in our Afrikan Heritage Communities in this country. Nothing should be done about Afrika by the British State or any of its organisational and individual representatives without respecting the agency of our Afrikan Heritage Communities in determining how this should be done. In effect this means that the power inherent in determining what Britain gets or does not get from Afrika is entirely in the hands of people in our Afrikan heritage communities here in Britain shared only with other Afrikan people throughout the Continent of Afrika and the Diaspora. This gives Afrikan Heritage Communities here in Britain a decisive say in the affairs not only of Afrika but of Britain and the rest of the Euro-American world;which cannot exist and wields the kind of global might and influence they currently have without the stranglehold they have had on Afrika since the full imposition of the chattel enslavement phase of the Maangamizi.
That is why instead of craving for the fake carrot stick of Britishness we should be demanding and fighting to secure global Afrikan citizenship that will entitle people from our Afrikan Heritage Communities to belong not only to one particular country in the Euro-American World but more importantly to Afrika and anywhere else in the World where the crimes of the Maangamizi have been perpetrated and continue to be committed against us by all the powers of European imperialism.
What is glaringly obvious is the betrayal of CARICOM heads of government and their Caribbean Reparations Commission in terms of saying noting at these CHOGMs (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings) about reparations. Despite recent Emily Thornberry’s assertions about the need for the UK PM to apologise for historic wrongs, this has resulted instead with Theresa May’s apology to ‘LGBT’ communities for “colonial-era anti-gay laws.” 10 It is said that May was responding to calls from LGBT activists for an apology over the UK’s legacy on the issue. Yet despite all this talk of colonial-era legacies, we have not heard a dickie bird from any of the Heads of Government present at these CHOGMs about the cause of reparatory justice for the Afrikan people in the Caribbean, or indeed their own CARICOM ten-point plan!
Rather, the focus has been on decriminalisation of ‘anti-sodomy’ laws in Afrika and the Caribbean. The ongoing struggle for reparatory justice which is at its core a struggle for Afrikan people’s liberation at home and abroad, features nowhere!
Whereas support for and recognition of homonationalism and LGBTI minority rights is what seems to be gaining unprecedented recognition. 11 There is some interesting scholarship on how LGBTI social movement organizations have been engaging internationally and focused on engagement in the Commonwealth as a terrain of struggle.12 It has generally been under-theorised how human rights can be co-opted into imperial political projects, particularly concerning the elevation and promotion of sexual nationalisms:
“Since its formation in 2011, the Kaleidoscope Trust has emerged in the United Kingdom (UK) as the leading institutional actor working internationally on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights. In particular Kaleidoscope as a non-governmental organization (NGO) has been pivotal in defining and developing the Commonwealth as an intergovernmental structure to be engaged by LGBTI social movements. A particularly interesting development has been Kaleidoscope’s leading role in creating The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) as a transnational network of national LGBTI NGOs, to lobby the Commonwealth. 13
In fact, there is a sinister silence from them! After all, the CARICOM claim is based on reparations for Afrikan slavery and native genocide. So, it is clear that CARICOM Heads of Government do not mind seeking to receive benefits on behalf of Afrikan heritage citizenries but fail to represent their interests in international gatherings. Not only have they failed to represent the interests of their citizenries on reparations in these CHOGMs, they are also marginalising the interests of those communities in the Caribbean who have always been linking with Afrika and promoting Afrikan identity such as the Rastafari Community etc. (see the video below for a discussion on LBC radio PARCOE as well as SMWeCGEC Co-Vice Chair, Kofi Mawuli Klu which highlights this point). Instead, we can see them contributing to a form of genocidal ethnic cleansing of Afrikan heritage communities in the Caribbean and denial/marginalisation of the their ancestral as well as contemporary links to Afrika and by extension other Afrikan Diaspora communities.
We as various constituencies of the ISMAR within Europe, Abya Yala (the so-called Americas), including the Caribbean and indeed Afrika should have been better prepared to find raise to raise the issue of reparations for these CHOGMs. This issue was raised with the delegation from the Jamaica National Council on Reparations that visited the UK in November 2017 among a number of other proposals for action that we could take together. However, we have not heard back from them about our proposal for joint-working since. 14
“You cannot successfully oppress a consciously historical people”
John Henrik Clarke
1 Cosmovision is a view of the basic nature of the Cosmos, it is fundamentally different than that of European culture. This means that we can’t simply force Afrikan ideas into Western and Eurocentric conceptual categories. A people’s cosmovision can be manifested in and studied via its material culture.
Nana Asasa Yaa is the Earth goddess/deity of the Ashanti people also known as is Nyamewaa (goddess) and is the personification of the planet many people call Earth. She is also identified as the First Woman in the form of Aberewa. She is wife and consort of Nyame Anansi Kokuroko, the Creator of All. There is an Afrikan equivalent of Mother Earth Rights.
11 Homonationalism, coined by Rutgers University professor Jasbir K. Puar in 2007 is the intersection of gay identity and nationalist ideology. According to Puar, as gay people have become “normalized” in Euro-American consciousness, these victories in their struggle for recognition have created space for the homonationalist who abandons intersectional activism and advocates racist, xenophobic, capitalistic self-interest. Homonationalism involves conceptually realigning the ideas invested within the realm of LGBT activism to fit the goals and ideologies of neoliberalism and the far-right. This reframing is used primarily to justify and rationalize racist and xenophobic perspectives. It remains notoriously difficult to define who makes up the “LGBT community”, and particularly what identifying as LGBT means in terms of lifestyle, political goals etc.
Other concepts to be familiar with are homocolonialism and pink-washing: Homocolonialism – Building upon Lisa Duggan’s notion of homonormativity, and Puar’s homonationalism, Momin Rahman conceptualises homocolonialism as a process of triangulation that legitimises Western exceptionalism illustrating how LGBTI politics is caught up in the promotion of the assumed civilizational superiority of western modernity, and thus opposition to SOGI rights (Sexual Orientation, Gay & Intersex) becomes framed as resistance to western cultural colonialism.
Pink-washing is the invocation of gay rights in order to divert attention from and justify the occupation of the lands and territories as well as the violation of the group rights of colonised and oppressed peoples. The term combines the words pink and whitewashing. In the context of LGBT rights, it is used to also describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed at promoting products, countries, people or entities through an appeal to gay-friendliness, in order to be perceived as civilised, progressive, modern and tolerant. Celebrating LGBT rights is a fashionable topic in marketing land. Its main usage is to describe the Israeli government’s ‘deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life’. http://www.nopinkwashing.org.uk/
See this link for my own encounters with homonationalism/s in the workplace