Top positive review
One person found this helpful
Thoughtful and thought provoking eighteen years on
on 22 November 2016
It’s a work of social history structured as a series of chronological interviews with additional material by the authors which provides context and explanation and it is absolutely fascinating. I can’t actually remember why I decided to order it from Amazon, especially given my normal lightweight choice of reading material, but it’s not unknown for me. I also own a copy of Bloody Foreigners by Robert Windeler which is a history of immigration into Britain from the very earliest of times and is an interesting complement to Windrush. The Phillips brothers do briefly provide an account of black people in Britain but they really begin with the Second World War when men from the Caribbean came to join the armed forces to fight for their motherland which gives a context for the post-war immigrations when their reception was very different.
The book is clearly from the point of view of the black immigrants which is hardly surprising as the authors, both respected writers and journalists (I read several of Mike P’s crime novels a number of years ago) are black and grew up in London during the 50’s. But it also is balanced as it attempts to explain the racism the West Indians encountered without rancour. In an interview with a (white) newspaper editor who was a good friend of Enoch Powell, Powell is revealed as cultured, intellectual, deeply Christian, and an absolutely conscientious constituency MP more so than anyone the editor ever met. Powell was also incapable of admitting he could ever be wrong even incontrovertible facts proved it. Their friendship ended with the Rivers of Blood speech. Ironically, the phrase is a classical allusion and it’s possible it wasn’t even meant literally.
Windeler’s history reveals a consistent pattern of the indigenous inhabitants to successive waves of immigration -initial hostility, grudging acceptance, integration. Windrush mirrors this pattern to an extent, only limited by the fact that it was written/compiled almost a generation ago and integration/acceptance have continued apace, though there are always shadows. One significant fact is that Britain has the highest proportion of mixed-race marriages in the West.
On reflection, I think that my subconscious reason for picking up this excellent book are my concerns over Brexit and the unstoppable rise of Donald Trump, both of which have encouraged the racist right, feeling legitimised by both, to come crawling out of the woodwork and into the light of day and in particular to attack the latest visible immigrant group -Moslems.