A very politically relevant exhibition on show in the UK next month is From a Small Island by Andrew Jackson ( opening at the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham on 4 May – 8 July 2018).
'The show commemorates the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948 and explores the psychological impacts of migration through first, second and third generations of migrants from Jamaica and asks questions such as
What happens when migrants stay and don't leave?
What are the consequences?
What is the impact of migration from one small island to another?
Jackson’s parents migrated from Jamaica to Britain in 1956, and their story opens connections to history, space and notions of belonging. The exhibition showcases photographs produced both in England and Jamaica, where Jackson has explored how the connection to the island has been shaped by the mythologies of his family and the legacy of colonialism.'
At the heart of the project is another question, which is...
What happens when narratives and home are denied through the legacy of post-colonialism?
part of that legacy is the denial that there is a legacy. Denial is at the heart of everything it seems. We're all living in denial.
That denial is politically relevant right now and has a direct effect right now because members of the Windrush generation are being subject to the most hostile and unpleasant persecution, ranging from denial of healthcare, denial of working rights to forced removal - despite having been in the country for over 50 years. You can read more about it here.
And denial begets denial. As these horror stories were publicised, responsibility was denied. The government pretends that it was an accident, that it has nothing to do with consistent policies on harassing people out of homes, out of jobs, out of the country - all of which have happened. The UK government is currently pretending to appear shocked at this, but it is worth remembering that they have as their leader a woman who, back in 2013, thought it fit to have this van parading the streets of London.
Anyway, never mind all that, the good news is that finally the payments promised to slave owners following the Slave Abolition Act in 1833 have finally been completed. No compensation to slaves was ever made, but compensation to slave owners was provided to the equivalent of £300 billion in today's money.
The payments to these slave owners was completed in 2015, a fact that only came to public attention in a tweet a few weeks ago from the UK Treasury.
~"Here’s today’s surprising #FridayFact. Millions of you have helped end the slave trade through your taxes. Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade.”
Money was still being paid to the corporate descendants of banks from whom money was borrowed to 'compensate slave owners for the crimes of their ancestors. Who are these people/banks that money was being paid to? The linked article shows some of the names in the past and this is a larger database here from the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership site , but who were the more contemporary payments made to?
Who was the last payment made to? Who was paid compensation/interest in 2015? Or 2014, or anytime in the last 30 years say. It would be really interesting to know this, to see the names of the banks publicised, to see what the response is to the receipt of this money, to see how this money was used? Is somebody researching this? Is this information in the public domain? Do let me know in the comments if it is.
The upshot of this is that people who came to help rebuild the UK in the 1940s and 1950s are being forcibly returned home due to 'lack of documentation' while banks which profitted from lending money to pay compensation to people whose ancestors owned slaves were still profitting in 2015.
This is the economic denial of history, or worse the justification of history, a justification of the slave trade. You have holocaust denial, and that essentially is what this is, the only difference being that nobody is paying the relatives of Hitler, Himmler, Eichmann, Heydrich, Goebbels or the shareholders of IG Farben, Bayer or Siemens compensation for messing with their genocidal profits.
The denial of history is something you can see in the United States where contemporary history books have confused slaves with workers, or describe how some slaves were actually quite happy with their lot.
Read more about the denial of Slavery here.
And Sunday 22nd April is the 25th anniversary since the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Above is the Daily Mail's finest hour (perhaps their only finest hour), pictures of some of the people who did it complete with a front page accusation. Below is the incredible press photograph of the five men walking away at the end of the Macpherson Enquiry. What's missing are the pictures of the police who let the murderers walk away to destroy their incriminating evidence. If you are in the UK, watch the excellent but heart-breaking Stephen Lawrence documentary here.
And here's the Macpherson Enquiry report on the murder and police and institutional racism. As the BBC documentary shows, the positive aspects of the Macpherson Enquiry have not been accepted by everybody, including the police. Denial of the past has many facets.