50 years later

Just imagine a time when the UK and US were predominately missing our Asian presence. It wasn’t just the Windrush boat that brought over many Caribbean immigrants. Post the West’s calls for labor, the message also ‘rang out’ to the East. Early migrants moved in the early 1900’s. People in North India also came over in boats in the mid to late 1950s. What were their hopes and aspirations? Greeted to placards of ‘no wogs or dogs’ the early immigrants had no shops to cater for their needs or reliable sustainable housing. Instead they supported each other, lending money to buy a flat or house. Often they would share both the cooking and rooms. Their determination is to be commended together with the motivation to strive for a better way for their future families. Our fathers and mothers (1st generation) worked hard to build the infrastructure that we all enjoy today.

I suggest that they must have originally considered that ‘the west’ had greater opportunities to offer. Little did they know that neither their qualifications, skills nor original vocations would be respected or honoured. They would send money back to their relatives.

Amongst local host negativity, they were optimistic. The sensation of a new country and hope is something that drives explorers and discoverers. It’s this spirit that drove them to understand their new surroundings and retain their culture and religion. Another word that comes to mind is resilience. In the 1960s and 1970s many of the early immigrant children faced being bussed out of education regions to satisfy an absurd quota theory. Over the years we’ve all had to face-up to the hate ignorance generated by racist attitudes, parties and associated rallies. What came as a shock to many was how isolationism professed itself. One could argue that the same happened to early Irish and Jewish settlers. However, the whole issue of immigration has been continuously hijacked as a political instrument, from a local and national perspective. Interestingly, inner cities still bare the scares of under investment of particular dense populations from sets of ethnic groups.
On a positive note, the vibrancy of multi-ethnic shopping districts has fuelled business opportunities. The Asian Rich 100+ continues to grow and many new business ideas are coming to the fore. Unfortunately, recently, The Economist suggested that in Southall, London, yesterday’s immigrants are today’s landlords, redeveloping their shops into multi-units for rent to fresher migrants – who’s being fair now?

Although our economic contribution is nationally recognised, why is it that after over 50 years of struggle we still have an integration and education issue on our hands. For example, 200 years of the British Raj isn’t emphasised in at school. Instead we’re reliant on distorted Hollywood interpretations of what happened.

Today, I suggest that you consider if the concept of multiculturalism is truly understood from an education and employer reality? Are we happy to call ourselves British, British Asian or does the term ‘immigrant’ still sting us?

What can we do about the current situation? Or, are we all happy that our history and heritage of how is often overlooked? Here are some suggestions:

Write to local TV channels to question their broadcast policy – otherwise ethic TV will continue to reach your screens at ‘around midnight’!
Complain to the advertising council if you see an advertisement that offends you.
Encourage your children to research the contribution of immigrants during the World Wars.
Write to museums to feature more exhibits on Eastern themes
Teach your children about what happened in the 70s and 80s when the youth of the time ‘stood-up’ against racist attacks.

The important thing is to respect your parents not just because they struggled through the early settlement issues but for their underlying passion to bring you the opportunities that you have in front of you today.

Categories: 2004

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