Long Reads Opinion

Level It UP: If Badenoch, Kwarteng , and Cleverly were White, Jewish or Hindu

Dear Ministers (Badenoch, Kwarteng, and Cleverly),

If you were White, Jewish, or Hindu, there would be no proposal for the UK’s Rwanda re-trafficking scheme. Britain would have been straight dealing with Afrika in grown-up post-colonial terms, similar to how it handles USA, Canada, New Zealand, and lately, Indian business. The Windrush Compensation Scheme would have been wholly paid out by now. The Windrush Generation monument would also have been appropriately located and erected as per community wishes. Therefore, the: “Say no to a Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station” campaign, which is now in full swing, should not be necessary, as per the rationale below.

On June 22, 2019, Britain’s former Prime Minister Theresa May announced that London Waterloo Station had “been confirmed as the location for a permanent Windrush monument.” In using the word “confirmed,” May gave readers the impression that there was a discussion with the Caribbean community about its location. There was not. May’s announcement about the site of a Windrush monument at Waterloo Railway Station was a denouncement to the Caribbean community. Dictating and imposing a monument without openly consulting our community is not how a democratic nation treats its citizens.

Mrs. May also announced the establishment of a Windrush Commemoration Committee to consider how best to create a permanent, fitting tribute to the “Windrush generation and their descendants.” The committee was supposed to be a community-led group that would explore a range of options. Unfortunately, the committee did not speak with Windrush Foundation, despite the Windrush Foundation being the first organization to have held yearly Windrush commemorative events in the UK since 1997. Its co-founders, the late Samuel B. King and Arthur Torrington, had kept alive the contributions of Caribbean men and women who arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on the Empire Windrush ship on June 22, 1948.

“Those responsible for poor decision making in Black community affairs and ‘dragging their feet’ on speeding up decisions concerning our people could do with your (Badenoch, Kwarteng, and Cleverly) constructive or helpful guidance; in much the same way as Jewish ministers and Members of Parliament, intervene on behalf of their Jewish community’s interests”

Windrush Foundation holds the archives of the “Windrush Pioneers.” Sam King was the first person who kept the names of dozens of men and women who traveled with him on the Empire Windrush in June 1948. Every Christmas since 1948, he sent postcards to them and kept in touch. On June 22, 1988, Mr. King worked with Lambeth Council to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the arrival. A Windrush plaque is on the wall in the Town Hall. He was first to have coined the phrase, Windrush Generation, years ago. Committee Chair Baroness Benjamin said: “Having a Windrush monument located at Waterloo Station where thousands of Windrush pioneers – including children like myself – first arrived in London, will be a symbolic link to our past as we celebrate our future”.

But Baroness Benjamin is mistaken. It means much more historically and socially that the monument is “appropriately” placed as if it were Jewish.

Windrush passengers arrived at Tilbury Docks on June 22, 1948, and 236 of them spent their first night at Clapham South Deep Shelter, Brixton (not via Waterloo Station). Within a few days, the Mayor of Lambeth held a reception for them, and this was the only formal welcome they received. The local MP spoke up for them. They visited the local employment exchange in Brixton, found work, and set up a home in the borough. Brixton was the first “Windrush community” in 1948, and it is still going strong today. Windrush Square, which is in the center of Brixton, commemorates and celebrates the contributions of the Windrush passengers. Brixton’s Windrush generation are the ones who laid the foundation for those who arrived later. Therefore, having the first Windrush monument in Windrush Square, Brixton, will be the symbolic link to “our past as we celebrate our future.” This would materialize Sam King’s dreams and legacy.

Why place a Windrush monument at Waterloo Station, when the Caribbean men and women who arrived on the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, Essex, on June 22, 1948, did not travel to London via Waterloo Station or have anything particularly symbolically relevant to do with the place?

Those responsible for poor decision making in Black community affairs and “dragging their feet” on speeding up decisions concerning our people could do with your (Badenoch, Kwarteng, and Cleverly) constructive or helpful guidance; in much the same way as Jewish ministers and Members of Parliament, intervene on behalf of their Jewish community’s interests.

“This general ‘and what’ attitude within the Black communities in Britain towards Afrikans holding high offices in this government has also been fuelled by Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch’s utterances leading up to and during her ascendancy”

One of the many draining consequences of Britain’s Hostile Environment Policy (HEP) is that it makes Black people with British papers “joyless, dubious and overly introspective” about the achievements of Black professionals, such as yourselves. So, for example, not many Black people congratulated the three of you for securing a record triple ground-breaking cabinet minister roles in a British Government — achievements of which Black people would “normally” have been justly proud before knowledge of the Windrush tragedy. A tragedy in which thousands of West Indian citizens of the British Empire, who were invited to rebuild Britain after the second world war – and did so legally in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s – were wrongly designated illegal immigrants by the Home Office. As a result, many were deported, with disastrous consequences, and some lost everything they’d worked so hard for in Britain. Since the tragedy, nine (at minimum) Windrush victims have died without receiving compensation.

Sadly, most Black Britons now dismiss your political achievements as valueless. This is especially the case after seeing the stealthy night-flight deportations of the “Colonial” Commonwealth citizens, primarily Jamaicans, specially targeted by your government for attrition. The UK’s Rwanda scheme is not atypical of your seeming helplessness or collusion.

This general “and what” attitude within the Black communities in Britain towards Afrikans holding high offices in this government has also been fuelled by Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch’s utterances leading up to and during her ascendancy. Regarded by many as misanthropic and ignorant concessions, it seems she felt obliged or was encouraged to make as dues for her accession. Key examples of such utterances are:

1. Claiming to not "care about colonialism" [because] there was never any concept of "rights,"
as [the] people who lost out were old elites not everyday people
2. Unschooled or uninformed overview on teaching Black history
3. Disrespectful references to Diane Abbott
4. Insensitive comments about LGBTQIA+ rights

Cross-party politicians and people frown upon Ms. Badenoch, undoubtedly for other reasons; but rightly wondered if she could be trusted with leveling up “class, regional and disability inequalities,” given her contempt and lack of understanding of the historical impact that adverse socio-economic factors have on gender, sexuality, and race inequities. Indeed, how can she redress socio-economic disparities if she misunderstands their roots causes?

In addition to these intellectual challenges, the stress levels that the combined offices she holds will undoubtedly bring could be catastrophic for the “work-horse” employment conditions of being lumped with several executive offices, each of which should be a whole ministry. Ms. Badenoch’s “Levelling Up” portfolio includes responsibility for elections policy, local government policy and finance in England, the supporting families program, integrated communities, and the holocaust memorial. She is also Minister of State (Minister for Equalities) at the Government Equalities Department. Indeed, her mental health or physical stamina could eventually be severely challenged, especially as she’s a parent, and will likely produce diminishing marginal returns that could damage Black women seeking government office prospects. Why should Ms. Badenoch have placed herself in such an unenviable position, given the risk of “burnout” and especially her vilification of Ms. Abbott?

Believe it or not, we do care about Ms. Badenoch’s mental health.

In particular, hostile sentiments toward Ms. Badenoch and Mr. Kwarteng could have been sparked by what some members of the Descendants of the Enslaved Afrikan Diaspora may perceive as a general lack of understanding or empathy. This aversion is shown by some elite Afrikans whose ancestors had not been enslaved towards Afrikans whose ancestors had been enslaved, as exampled by Ms. Badenoch’s lack of empathy, even apathy, for colonized Afrikans. Such a “lack of empathy,” or even contempt, expresses itself in patterns of abuse on the continent, such as name-calling, structural discrimination, social taboos, especially in marital customs, prevention from holding high office, and prevention from pursuing other forms of socio-economic advancement, in her ancestral land Nigeria. Therefore, there’s much that Ms. Badenoch shares with White supremacy. After all, West Afrikan elites, mainly Nigerians, Ghanaians, and now Rwandans, have had more in common with enslavers and colonizers. Historically collaborating or serving the White colonizers in preference and to the detriment of fellow Afrikans and the Afrikan continent. The elite slave dealers and collaborators of Badagry, Calabar, Sokoto Caliphate, Dahomey, and Oyo spring to mind, and so does the recent unspeakable UK’s Rwanda re-trafficking scheme.

So far, “our” Black ministers Badenoch, Cleverly, and Kwarteng, appear to have remained “neutral” on the Windrush monument placement proposal-decision despite community outcry; and must now bring pressure to bear on their government’s failure to level up and expedite these matters. Too many Windrush victims have died without receiving so much as a penny or without seeing their efforts honored. Could a lack of “organic empathy” cause their lethal neutrality and silence on the Windrush monument placement proposal-decision?” Or is it that these Black ministers don’t care about the Black community because they don’t identify with it? In Badenoch’s case, less than one hundred Black people voted for her, so she might not feel particularly obligated to Black people in the UK.

Nevertheless, her ministerial brief(s) could not be more diverse. Furthermore, in addition to standing on Dianne
Abbott’s shoulders, she owes her ascendancy to Black struggles and achievements. Consequently, “Levelling Up Windrush matters; and discontinuing the disproportionate deportations of Black people, should be top of the list of Levelling Up priorities.

Let’s have no-nonsense about the fact that there are fewer than one hundred Black people living
in her constituency Saffron Walden (based on most recent census data); or that she owes no particular political obligations or allegiances to Black people.

Compare Kwarteng, Cleverly, and Badenoch’s apathetic treatment of Black community interests to Priti “deport dem” Patel and Rishi “Eat Out to Help Out” Sunak’s attention to the Hindu community in Britain; or compare Jewish Tory community interests. British Hindus are undoubtedly very well looked after. They receive generous access to Britain’s White supremacist industrial contracts, jobs, and immigration access.

Moreover, even though White supremacist billionaires still rule the world, Hindus seem to be managing it for them. The chief executive officers of some of the world’s leading captains of industry are Hindus, such as Big Tech’s Microsoft, Adobe, and Google. Then there’s Michael Martin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Kamala Harris, Priti Patel, and Rishi Sunak. Consequently, Brown-skinned Hindus are doing very well for themselves, mainly because they help each other, as they should do. So do Jewish people. For example, if the Jewish community required monuments of any kind from Ms. Badenoch — whose portfolio is responsible for holocaust monuments; Jewish people inside the government and the Conservative party would ensure that Ms. Badenoch pulls her finger out. The Jewish “lobby” within and outside government would ensure that their monuments were placed correctly or located per the Jewish community’s wishes. Compare this to the monument sort by the Windrush Generation, which includes all so-called West Indians (Afrikan Caribbean Diaspora) and continental Afrikans who came to Britain around the same time and for the same purposes. Instead, the Tory government has perversely decided to impose on the Caribbean community a monument at London Waterloo Station, against their wishes and advice. This contemptuous act would not happen to Jewish, Hindu, or other minoritized communities.

“And so, these questions arise, what is your individual ‘Levelling Up Agenda’ for the Black community in particular? Are they rid of misguided views, bland half-truths, and casual beliefs that ‘Black people’s needs are not dissimilar to everyone else’s’?”

And so, these questions arise, what is your individual “Levelling Up Agenda” for the Black community in particular? Are they rid of misguided views, bland half-truths, and casual beliefs that — “Black people’s needs are not dissimilar to everyone else’s?”

Are you even aware, or do you care that Black people face unique historical, intergenerational, institutional, persistent, and personal challenges and subsquent needs, created by centuries of institutional victimization and corporate abuse, not unlike those suffered by other communities? Unfortunately, your government does not recognize these victimization patterns, as evidenced by the Sewage Sewell CRED report. Yet they keep popping up all over the place. The most pertinent manifestations of which, at the time of writing you this letter, are: police mistreatment of Child Q; the unschooled declaration by the education minister Nadhim Zahawi that leveling up the National Curriculum and its pedagogy should “stay out of the classroom;” and the disreputable UK’s Rwanda re-trafficking scheme.

Those responsible for the “dragging of feet” on expediting these matters are awaiting your intervention,

Claudine Boothe

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