hey celebrated Windrush Day at my kids’s faculty immediately. Windrush Day was launched 4 years in the past, on the seventieth anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush to Tilbury Docks, Essex and its goal is to “recognise and thank all those that arrived on Empire Windrush and their descendants, for the big contributions they made to Britain”. At my kids’s faculty the day is being marked with a Caribbean Carnival full with metal band and the youngsters sporting vibrant garments and consuming tropical fruit.
I’m happy the contribution of the Windrush technology is being celebrated. I’d be mendacity nevertheless if I didn’t additionally really feel a bit unhappy that there isn’t a equal day to mark the contribution made by these whose ancestors got here from the Indian sub-continent. Unhappy that I had no reply when my daughter got here house from faculty final yr and requested me why there was a Black Historical past Month however there was no Brown Historical past Month.
There’s South Asian Heritage Month, which begins on July 18 and ends August 17, however it’s nonetheless comparatively low-key and the truth that it runs nearly solely through the faculty holidays will not be supreme. I want we didn’t want such days and months — I want we might all, no matter background, really feel snug with our a number of identities. However such issues can’t be taken with no consideration.
About two years in the past my daughter — who’s of blended Scottish/British Pakistani heritage — began to complain she didn’t like her brown pores and skin. She wished to be white. After I pressed her on what it was she didn’t like about being brown, one reply she gave was that nearly all the authors of the books she learn in school and the folks whose lives she studied had been white — or they had been black. They had been by no means brown.
I requested what would assist her really feel higher about being brown. “Possibly if I knew about some heroic brown folks,” she replied. How heart-breaking and miserable that kids like my daughter weren’t seeing themselves mirrored within the historical past they had been taught.
The truth is the historical past of Asians in Britain is stuffed with pioneering, extraordinary and, sure, heroic characters — and it stretches again a lot sooner than the Commonwealth migration of the Sixties, earlier than the Raj to the times of Shakespeare.
Do you know, for example, that the primary identified baptism of an Asian in London was in 1616, or that the primary Asian to be elected MP entered Parliament in 1892, or that there have been 300 Asians serving to the British military at Dunkirk?
That is historical past that everybody in Britain, brown, white and black, can be enriched by understanding nevertheless it stays largely untold. Which is why kids like my daughter can, even in 2022, really feel lower than wholly safe of their brown pores and skin.
And that’s the reason, whereas I welcome Windrush Day, I lengthy for the day when the epic historical past and heroic contribution of Asians to Britain can be recognised and celebrated.