Earlier this year, Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced she was not proceeding with multiple recommendations made by Wendy Williams’ public inquiry into the Windrush Scandal. The inquiry examined the Home Office’s adverse actions against people from the Windrush generation who predominantly migrated to Britain from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1973 (Gentleman 2019; Slaven 2022). Reports have detailed the profound effects on those directly impacted, revealing stories of individuals who were denied healthcare and welfare services, and in some cases were ripped away from their families; detained and even deported (Gentleman 2019; Williams 2020; Slaven 2022). The ensuing scandal thrust their treatment into the public consciousness and ignited a public uproar. Yet, as the scandal faded from media attention, we still have a limited understanding of the scandal’s broader impact on Britain's racialised communities, beyond those directly affected by the Home Office’s actions.
Put simply, the Windrush scandal occurred in the hostile environment, which has been the British government’s increasingly anti-immigrant policy, and more recently has culminated in plans to resettle asylum seekers in third countries, such as Rwanda. The scandal more specifically shone a light on how those migrants whose belonging to the nation remained contested, despite their settlement and contribution to the country. In our Identities article, ‘Paperwork or no paperwork, we are guests in this country’: mothering and belonging in the wake of the Windrush Scandal’, we examine the wider impacts of the scandal through a lens of motherhood, given the salient and distinct role ethnic minority mothers play in belonging work within the nation. Drawing on in-depth interviews with five Black British Caribbean mothers whose communities had been affected by the scandal and were all living in London, collected two years after the scandal broke, we examined how the scandal affected the mothers’ sense of belonging. Further, how the mothers sought to instil belonging in their children against this fraught anti-immigrant frame that has galvanised around who belongs and who does not that imbues public and political discourse.
We found that the scandal challenged these mothers’ sense of belonging, reminding them, as one mother candidly stated, that ‘paperwork or no paperwork, we are guests in this country.’ To them, the scandal was experienced as yet another moment of rupture that challenged their place in the nation, despite their longevity in the country. It made them acutely aware that, as mothers, they had to socialise their children in distinct ways to instil belonging in this hostile environment. Our article discusses the three strategies that the mothers deployed as a response. First, they emphasised teaching their children the rich and complex history of colonialism and migration, to establish their historical and contemporary connections to Britain. Second, they made efforts to ensure their children were proud of their Caribbean heritage, as a form of resistance to discrimination and racism they may encounter. Finally, they made a conscious effort to instil a sense of local belonging, given the racialised exclusion they encountered regarding national belonging. They perceived local belonging in London as more permeable given the city’s diversity, and through their embeddedness in their local communities.
The Black British Caribbean mothers’ accounts suggested that the scandal was yet another example of racialised state violence that reinforced existing and adapted socialisation strategies to fit in and belong in Britain. Our article shows that examining the Windrush Scandal through a lens of motherhood sheds light on its far-reaching impact on Britain’s Caribbean communities, whose sense of belonging was disrupted. Despite 2023 marking 75 years since the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush, the symbolic moment marking the arrival of the Windrush generation, the scandal exposed the enduring racialised boundaries of national belonging, which extends to British-born generations. The government’s decision not to follow through with the recommendations from the public inquiry demonstrates a failure to redress the harms of its policies. Our article showcases some of the far-reaching impacts of the scandal, which has shaped Black British Caribbean mothers’ sense of belonging and the various ways they have continued and revised their socialisation strategies to help their children forge a sense of belonging despite ongoing challenges like the Windrush Scandal, which continue to undermine it.
Image credit: William Fortunato on Pexels
Blog post by William Shankley, University of Nottingham, UK and Tania Stein, University of Manchester, UK
Read the Identities article:
Stein, Tania & Shankley, William. (2023). ‘Paperwork or no paperwork, we are guests in this country’: mothering and belonging in the wake of the Windrush Scandal. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2023.2189349
Read further in Identities:
The vulnerability of in-between statuses: ID and migration controls in the cases of the ‘Windrush generation’ scandal and Brexit
Private empowerment and public isolation: power in the stories of migrant ‘Mother-Poles’
Reproductive injustice in Britain: punishing illegalized migrant women from the Global South and separating families