RACIAL JUSTICE NETWORK STATEMENT ON DEPORTATIONS, WINDRUSH GENERATION AND THE BBC AIRING OF ENOCH POWELL’S ‘RIVERS OF BLOOD’ SPEECH.
In a socio-political climate that is manifestly hostile to people with migrant, asylum and refugee status, the BBC’s decision to air Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech is both detestable and dangerous. Powell’s speech incited racial violence and represents one of the most hateful speeches by a political figure in modern history. Meanwhile, in contemporary Britain, racism and xenophobia represent huge problems at the individual, institutional and structural level. Black and Brown people continue to suffer from racist abuse, and the Conservative government’s ‘hostile environment’ agenda has made the lives of our communities increasingly difficult.
The choice of timing to air the speech is questionable and a trigger for some who were children at the time of the speech or had not long since arrived in the country. There is national outrage against the government’s current treatment of the Windrush generation who have lived and worked in UK for many decades and are now being threatened with deportation, facing difficulties accessing the NHS, housing and benefits. Immigration policies and uncertainty around Brexit make many people vulnerable so encouragement of far-right narratives should be unwelcome.
The inhumane spate of deportations, for example, has seen families and communities devastated, lives lost, and the government’s inhumanity laid bare. Similarly, as the ‘Hunger for Freedom’ protests at Yarl’s Wood have drawn attention to, Enoch Powell’s hateful rhetoric continues to live on through the most disgusting nationalist policies and practices. David Lammy alluded to this when he spoke about National Day of Shame over the Windrush generation crisis. Whilst RJN and our allies are championing anti-racism, our government and the BBC are fanning the flames of racist hate. This will have very real implications for our communities and we should be deeply concerned about the role of the BBC as a state broadcaster.