Forty years after the civil rights movement and with the Obama administration, (referred to by many as the crowning achievement of the history of struggles for Black emancipation), the 2010s marked the end of the neoliberal illusion that the United States had become a ‘colour-blind’ society, capable of guaranteeing equal opportunities to all its citizens.
Recognising that formal discrimination no longer exists, US society is intersected by a structural racism that perpetuates the marginalisation and economic exploitation of the non-white population. As civil rights writer Michelle Alexander and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor have shown, the new forms of racism act above the security policies that criminalise the poorer classes, and therefore the African American and Hispanic communities.
Violence of the police, is the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement founded in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, it is only the tip of the iceberg of a profound inequality of class and race that is manifested in policy brutality, the high incarceration rate, in hyper-surveillance and urban exclusion, in low wages and in less access to health and education.
Black Lives Matter 2018. Photographer Lorie Shaull.
In this context, the legacy of struggles for civil rights appears to be significant especially for the practice of non-violent resistance as an action aimed at showing the violence of power and highlighting the indignation of public opinion and political activism.
One of the forms of the Black Lives Matter protest was in fact based on the dissemination of videos and images on police violence through social media networks. Not least, the orientation towards economic causes of the racial inequalities that Martin Luther King adopted in the last two years of his life, is today at the centre of anti-racist struggles.
Continuing with the thread of how the past informs the future, towards the end of the 2010s, the Dean of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, and the Chief Operating Officer of the University of Glasgow, Dr David Duncan, signed a historic compensation agreement for slavery – the first contract since people enslaved by the British were completely freed in 1838.
The symbol of the £20 million deal, was the sum the British government paid to slave owners as compensation for the abolition of slavery. Now, it will be used for research and other development initiatives between the two universities. Symbolically the day and location the deal was ceremonially signed on 31 July 2019. On this day 181 years earlier, total emancipation finally entered into force across the Caribbean (the eve of the annual celebration of Emancipation celebrated in many territories of the region).
The start of 2010s, London had the honour of being the first city in history to host the modern Olympic Games for the third time in 2012. Everything had changed in comparison to the first two editions, starting with the city. 2012 brought more diversity at local and international level and the infrastructure was more sophisticated.
Simultaneously Britain celebrated and deported those of the Windrush generation. With a scandal that shocked the world and in particular other nations suffering similar impact of the old colonial rule.
Very quickly the “Windrush case” in Great Britain, became a “Windrush scandal”, as the many stories of the people involved have emerged: British nationals who, after 50 or 60 years of living in the UK, suddenly found themselves without work or health care and faced deportation threats because they lacked the necessary documentation to recognise their status.
From the Guardian to the Times, all the major British newspapers had reported the incredible testimonies of immigrants from the Caribbean overwhelmed by the case: like that of Gretel published in the Independent. A woman of Jamaican origins living in the UK for 60 years and who was stuck in Jamaica since 2009, where she had gone for a funeral, because she suddenly lacked the “correct documentation” that proved her stay in Britain since 1958.
In a climate where confusion and uncertainty have reigned for some time in the United Kingdom – the Windrush scandal appeared as the heart of systemic racism and years and years of rigid and confusing anti-immigration policies, focused too much on the control of immigration numbers and less to enhance the contribution these people have brought or will ever bring to the country.
Brexit and Windrush are now seen as two halves of the same coin as we push to leave Europe built on the issues around immigration, jobs and economics we find different title similar issues one which will have a last change of shape and face Britain. As we approach the end of 2010s and move in to 2020 and commonwealth games in 2022 what will this look like? What will this mean for commonwealth countries who have a new legacy of race and discrimination instituted in Windrush.
Cultural Olympiad produced an incredible on-street performance to accompany London 2012 torch relay across the east midlands with Follow the Light in Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough, Skegness and Lincoln. 3 Cities, 3 towns, over 650 people aged from 10 to 65, all working together as one team to celebrate London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
2017 was an opportunity to celebrate 30 Years of BHM and for Leicester this manifested itself in programme of work entitled Lost Legends. It was the beginning of a Black archive documenting history and achievements of the Black community across the East Midlands and push to have a programme that respects BHM is 365 days a year.
In 2016, Leicester also joined in solidarity the Black Lives Matter campaign to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, a Black man killed by police in 2011. In 2018, Tommie Smith, the athlete who raised his fist in a ‘silent protest’ on the podium at the Olympic Games 1968 visited Leicester to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary. “People see it as a sacrifice, I view it as a responsibility. It was a sign for hope. I did it for humanity.”
Bright, S.P., Garza, A., (2018), #1960Now: Photographs of Civil Rights Activists and Black Lives Matter Protests, San Francisco: Chronicle Books
McKesson, D., (2018), On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, 1st edition, New York: Viking Press
Taylor, K-Y., (2016), From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, 1st edition, Chicago: Haymarket Books
Black Lives Matter. Available at: https://blacklivesmatter.com/. (Accessed on: 20 August 2019)
Black Lives Matter: From a Facebook post to an activist movement. Available at: https://csusmchronicle.com/17421/news/black-lives-matter-from-a-facebook-post-to-an-activist-movement/. (Accessed on: 20 August 2019)
The Windrush Scandal. Available at: https://www.bl.uk/windrush/themes/the-windrush-generation-scandal. (Accessed on: 20 August 2019)
Perspectives on the Windrush generation scandal: A response from David Lammy MP. Available at: https://www.bl.uk/windrush/articles/perspectives-on-the-windrush-generation-scandal-a-response-from-david-lammy (Accessed on: 20 August 2019)
Channel 4 News. Windrush Generation: The scandal that shook Britain explained and debated. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izsLi-FB5Fg (Accessed on: 13 September 2019)
Statement from the Vice-Chancellor. Available at: https://www.mona.uwi.edu/marcom/newsroom/entry/7496 (Accessed on: 13 September 2019)
Collaborations. Available at: https://serendipity-uk.com/3529-2/ (Accessed on: 30 September 2019)
Windrush generation could be offered immigration status lifeline by records in National Archives. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-generation-migrants-landing-cards-hostile-home-office-records-archives-a8315516.html (Accessed on: 30 September 2019)