There has been much celebration over the past week of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMS Windrush.

The ship was a troop carrier, that brought a group of people from the Carribbean to the UK in June 1948.

The arrival of the Windrush marked the start of a migration from the Caribbean islands to the UK.

This generation helped rebuild post war Britain, working in construction, the NHS, transport and many other areas.

The welcome, though, was not always friendly. In fact, it was often aggressively racist.
The Windrush generation, together with the Irish migrants that went before, had to endure the ignominy of the no Blacks, no Irish and no dogs notices in the windows of available accommodation.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Paul Donovan is remembering Windrush DayPaul Donovan is remembering Windrush Day (Image: Paul Donovan)

There is an interesting reflection from the times at the London museum' s slavery exhibition. 

A Black resident of north London reflected that a third of the population are friendly, a third aggressive and hostile and the final third didn't care as long as Arsenal won on Saturday.

The Windrush generation continued to contribute against an often hostile background, contributing to the wealth and well being of the country, bringing up families building community.

Some protections came in with legislation like the Race Relations Act of 1971 - no more racist boarding house notices for one thing.

Though, in time racism didn't so much go away as become more covert and hidden.
Discrimination in the workplace, in education and particularly from the police force, toward the black community continued. It is still very evident today.

The ultimate insult to the Windrush generation came when the Home Office recently started sending people back to their countries of origin. Many hardly knew the country they were being sent back to, having lived in the UK for practically their whole lives.

What a disgraceful way to treat a generation of people who came here to contribute and help rebuild this country.

Unfortunately, the attitude that led to this injustice with the Windrush generation pervades the British Government's approach to migrants, which is basically racist.
Migrants are not looked on as net contributors to the economy, the culture and the community. Instead, the government spurred on by a right wing media, talk numbers, drains on public services etc.

The truth is that were it not for the migrants of the Windrush generation and others most public services like the NHS, care and the public transport network would have collapsed years ago.

The Windrush generation must be celebrated for what they have brought and done for this country. Fortunately, most people recognise that contribution. The indices of the North London man may have changed - certainly fewer will be concerned about how Arsenal do on Saturday!.

Changes in attitude only come about with a constant effort to promote equality, diversity and tolerance. The Windrush Day celebration is a fine way to do this. 

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (