Prince William tells Windrush victims ‘racism remains all-too familiar for Black people in Britain’

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, speaks during the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station in London on June 22, 2022.  (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, speaks during the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station in London on June 22, 2022. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Prince William has said racism remains an “all too familiar” experience for Black people in Britain during a speech for the national Windrush monument unveiling at Waterloo station.

The monument is a 12-ft statue – of a man, woman and child in their Sunday best standing on top of suitcases – that was unveiled on Wednesday to mark Windrush Day.

After paying tribute to the Windrush generation’s “enormous contribution” to British life, the Duke of Cambridge said his recent tour of the Caribbean was a learning curve.

“Our trip was an opportunity to reflect and we learned so much - not just about the different issues that matter most to the people of the region, but also about how the past weighs heavily on the present,” the future king, who attended the unveiling with Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, said.

Prince William spoke of the Windrush scandal which began to surface in 2018 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the Windrush generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights.

“Sadly that is also the case for members of the Windrush Generation who were victims of racism when they arrived here. And discriminations remains an all too familiar experience for Black men and women in Britain in 2022.

“Only a matter of years ago, tens of thousands of that generation were profoundly wronged by the Windrush scandal that rightly reverberates throughout the Caribbean community here in the UK and as well as in many of the Caribbean nations.

“Therefore alongside celebrating the diverse fabric of our families, communities and our society as a whole - something the Windrush generation has contributed so much to - it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which the future they sought and deserved has yet to come to pass.”

In a speech to those who had gathered for the unveiling, which included Windrush passengers and high-profile members of the black community, William said: “We know without question that the Windrush generation have made our culture richer, our services stronger, and our fellow countrymen safer.”

“Therefore, alongside celebrating the diverse fabric of our families, our communities and our society as a whole – something the Windrush generation has contributed so much to – it is also important to acknowledge the ways in which the future they sought and deserved has yet to come to pass.

“Diversity is what makes us strong, and it is what reflects the modern, outward-looking values that are so important to our country.”

Prince William’s rocky voyage across Belize, Jamaica and the Bahams, in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, was dominated by protests against the crown and calls for slavery reparations.

By the end of the duke’s week-long tour of the former British colonies, Jamaica, Belize and Saint Kitts and Nevis had indicated a desire to become a republic and remove the Queen as head of state.

Prince Edward tour of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda in April was equally fraught with protests. The Grenada leg of the trip was cancelled at the last minute after fresh details emerged regarding Britain’s role in the enslavement of Black people in its former colony.

Next year marks 75 years since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, bringing 500 passengers from the Caribbean.

The government, which has provided £1 million in funding for the monument, said it “symbolises the courage, commitment and resilience of the thousands of men, women and children who travelled to the UK to start new lives from 1948 to 1971”.

It also acknowledges the Windrush generation’s “outstanding contribution” to British society and is intended to be “a permanent place of reflection”, it added.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by Baroness Floella Benjamin  (left) attending the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station (PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, accompanied by Baroness Floella Benjamin (left) attending the unveiling of the National Windrush Monument at Waterloo Station (PA)

The Queen has also paid tribute to the “profound contribution” of the Windrush “pioneers”, describing the new national monument at Waterloo Station as “fitting thank you”.

In a written message on Windrush Day, the monarch said she hoped the statue – of a man, woman and child in their Sunday best standing on top of suitcases – would inspire present and future generations.

Waterloo station was chosen because thousands of people who arrived from the Caribbean passed through the station on their way to start their new lives across the country, the government said.

However, the gesture has been met with mixed reaction as campaigners demand that victims of the Windrush scandal are swiftly compensated by the Home Office for their plight.

“Windrush Day will continue to be bittersweet as the scandal is still present and the needs of the survivors have not been met,” Patrick Vernon told The Independent.

The statue created by Jamaican artist Basil Watson, who said his monument pays tribute to the “dreams and aspirations, courage and dignity, skills and talents” of the Windrush generation who arrived with “a hope of contributing to a society that they expected would welcome them in return”.

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