7 June 2023

Report examines attitudes to race today as Britain marks 75th Windrush anniversary

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As Britain prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the Windrush on 22 June, a new report from British Future offers a 'state of the nation' picture of public attitudes to race and diversity in Britain today.

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As Britain prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the Windrush on 22 June, a new report from British Future, Why the Windrush matters today,‘ provides a ‘state of the nation’ picture of public attitudes to race and diversity in Britain today.

New polling by Focaldata, with a large sample of Black Caribbean and other ethnic minority respondents, finds a balanced picture of attitudes towards the progress made on race and the progress still needed:

 Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future and co-author of the report, said:

“The Windrush 75th anniversary is an important moment to honour the pioneers of this history. It should now be seized as a chance to imagine our future too. Britain has changed for the better in these 75 years but we must also focus on the progress we still need to see on race. Committing now to an ambitious agenda for change in the quarter-century to come would be a fitting legacy.”

 Time to change the debate

The new research uncovers a public desire, among majority and minority audiences alike, for a less heated and more constructive public conversation about race. Two-thirds (66%) of the public and 70% of people from an ethnic minority background agree that “We would make more progress in tackling racial inequality if we focused less on arguments about language and more on practical action”. And more than half the public (57%) feels that “UK political and media debate has become more divisive on questions of race in the last 10 years”. Two-thirds (66%) say they would welcome a less heated debate on race, as do 61% of ethnic minority respondents.

Why the Windrush Matters today

People recognise that the 75th anniversary of the Windrush, marked later this month, is an important moment in Britain’s history. Six in 10 people (61%) feel that the 75th anniversary of Windrush is important for the country. That rises to 71% of ethnic minorities and 84% of Black Caribbean Britons.

Three-quarters (74%) of the public and 8 in 10 people (79%) from an ethnic minority background think that children should learn about the Windrush and how post-war migration shaped today’s society. Teaching this history is most important to the Black Caribbean community, among whom 89% said it was important.

Patrick Vernon, Convenor of the Windrush 75 network, said:

“The Windrush is black history and it is British history, the story of how our society came to look as it does today and why we all have a stake in it. It is something that all of our children should learn about at school and something that all of us can celebrate.

“It is also history that we must take care not to lose as the Windrush generation sadly passes away. We should act now to capture and preserve their stories, engaging the next generation so they understand their heritage.”

Looking forward: An agenda for change by the time we mark Windrush 100

The anniversary is not just a moment to look back at our history. It also offers a chance to look forwards to the kind of future we want to share. Two-thirds of the public (65%) and 7 in 10 ethnic minority Britons (71%) would support setting a Windrush 100 goal of ‘net zero racism by 2048’. However only 28% of the public think we could achieve it in 25 years. Ethnic minority Britons are more positive, however, with 45% thinking we can get there in a quarter-century.

Asked what policy areas should be a priority if the government were to set a ‘net zero by 2048‘ target, tougher rules on online hatred was the top priority for the general public, chosen by 47%; while people from an ethnic minority background preferred a focus on fair chances in employment, chosen by 51%.

Dr Wanda Wyporska, Chief Executive of the Black Equity Organisation, said:

“In the 75 years since the arrival of the Empire Windrush, although some things have changed for the better, descendants of those pioneers are still fighting for acceptance and justice.

“The ongoing Windrush scandal highlights just how vulnerable the Windrush generation and their families are to the structural racism hard-wired into many UK institutions. Being Black in the UK means being three times more likely to die in childbirth, nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and three times more likely to be detained than White people.

“In education, housing, finance and healthcare the picture is the same. Being Black can mean ambitions are stymied, opportunities denied,  treatments withheld, and citizenship stripped. So, although we rightly celebrate the contribution and resilience of the Windrush generation, the British Future report highlights the urgent need for current and future generations to take on the fight of dismantling structural racism once and for all.”

Anniversary events, Windrush voices and new perspectives

The report features an overview of Windrush 75 activities happening across the country. These range from major events at Southwark Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall and the Port of Tilbury; the nationwide ‘Raising The Standard For Windrush’ initiative, which will see groups and organisations around the UK raising the Windrush flag in their cities and towns; as well as festivals and community events all over the UK.

The report also features key facts about the Windrush, a series of first-person Windrush stories and perspectives on what Windrush 75 means for different sectors like business, sport and heritage and how we should teach children about Windrush in schools.

Research for the report was made possible by the support of Spirit of 2012 and the Phoenix Group.

Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, said:

The arrival of HMT Windrush is an event which is indelibly woven into the fabric of this country. Seventy-five years later, we have the opportunity to use the anniversary of Windrush as a springboard towards closer communities and greater understanding. Anniversaries like these are major national moments which – with careful planning and consideration of legacy – can bring people from across divides together in celebration, much like the other huge events which have taken place in 2023.”

Andy Briggs, Group Chief Executive of Phoenix Group, said:

“Since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush into Tilbury docks 75 years ago with more than 800 passengers from the Caribbean, four generations of descendants have been making an enormous contribution to the UK’s social, economic and cultural life.

As an organisation, we are committed to promoting and celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion, and ethnic and cultural diversity is a key priority for us. That’s why Phoenix Group is proud to be sponsoring Windrush 75, which marks an important milestone and provides us all with the opportunity to honour and celebrate the stories and achievements of generations of people, whilst also acknowledging the sacrifices they made and the difficulties they faced and overcame.

The HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing more than 800 passengers from the Caribbean. It is a moment that has come to symbolise the start of post-war Commonwealth migration and the multi-ethnic society of Britain today. On 22 June 2023 we will mark its 75th anniversary, with events taking place across the UK.

British Future helps to coordinate the Windrush 75 network, which brings together more than 370 organisations and individuals that want to make 2023 a year of celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Windrush. The network helps to broaden public recognition of the contribution of the original Windrush Pioneers, as well as increasing public understanding of the history of race and migration to Britain across the decades. Full listings of events to mark Windrush 75 across the country can be found at www.windrush75.org/events.

Download the ‘Why the Windrush matters today’ report here

Picture appears courtesy of TopFoto

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