I am… a Windrush generation immigrant
Catherine Ross on being part of the Windrush generation
I am a black Caribbean, born on the sunny island of St Kitts in 1951. I left my island home at seven years old to settle in England, and was one of the happiest little girls that crossed those seas to do so. After all, how many people get to live in a country that has a real queen and real princesses too! Life was going to be great. A true fairytale.
Not for one moment did I or my parents expect the treatment we received from the English. We had, after all, moved to the motherland at the invitation of the UK government, but we were treated poorly. People made our life difficult, made settling in a very unsettling experience and getting access to housing, employment, leisure opportunities and even religious worship difficult.
I was subjected to a barrage of name calling from my first day at school, taunted and teased with words I had never heard before. Descriptors dogged my years right up to my sixth-form years – ‘nigger’, ‘gollywog’, ‘sambo’, ‘blackie’, ‘monkey’, ‘coon’ and ‘darkie’. A lot of these names were accompanied by monkey imitations.
In my higher education years and throughout my ensuing career – spanning law, accounting, teaching and advisory professions – things changed. Name calling was rare – at least to my face – but I still felt negative sentiments. I was different, not wanted, or just tolerated. I would never be fully one of the group. I know this because I have been denied promotions and development opportunities. They told me I was ‘doing well for a black person’ when I asked for these rights. …
Catherine Ross is founder of the National Caribbean Heritage Museum (www.museumand.org)
This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2018 edition of Reform