Lewis Hamilton has called on school children to be taught about black history after not discovering his grandparents were from the Windrush generation until this year.
He also said that the Black Lives Matter movement helped drive him on to clinch a record-equalling seventh Formula One title last season.
The Brit, who equalled Michael Schumacher’s remarkable world title haul, has been a huge advocate of the movement this year.
And Hamilton, who was a guest editor for BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Boxing Day, said he wants schools to shift their curriculums to teach more black history.
Lewis Hamilton has called on school children to be taught about black history after not discovering his grandparents were from the Windrush generation until this year. Pictured: Hamilton with his grandfather Davidson
He said: ‘Growing up in the UK, you learn about white history, simple as. I never learnt about black history, I never learnt about where my family were from.
‘My family is from Grenada but my Dad hadn’t really taken me through the history books of where my granddad’s roots started, where my grandparents, [and] great-grandparents were from.
‘It wasn’t until this year it became a real learning year, I had to go and do that learning from myself and discover my grandparents are from the Windrush generation, which I’m even more proud of my granddad now and my grandparents and what they achieved.’
Hamilton drove to his fifth world championship in the shadow of his grandfather’s death in 2018.
Davidson Hamilton brought his family over from Grenada to Britain in 1955, escaping the storms that destroyed most of the nutmeg trees he farmed.
Lewis Hamilton has been vocal in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020
In his town of Grand Roy on the west coast of the island he earned a reputation as the fastest man on two wheels.
Scornful of the dangerous roads snaking through the hills, he is reputed to have scorched on his BSA motorbike from Grand Roy to the neighbouring town of Gouyave three miles away in five minutes.
Speaking today, Hamilton continued: ‘We can’t let this movement die a quiet death. We have got to keep it alive but I think the curriculums need to shift finally. And my nieces and nephews, I want them to learn about both of their sides.
‘The great white history and also, they’re mixed race, so it would be great for them to learn about where their dad’s from and their black history.
‘We are caught in a trap because our history cannot be told without confronting two things that we in this country do not like to talk about. One is slavery and one is the violence of empire.’
The Brit revealed the movement gave him ‘extra drive’ to seal his seventh world title last season
During many race events last season, Hamilton was seen taking the knee on the winner’s podium in protest against the killing of George Floyd while he wore many T-shirts and masks with anti-racism slogans on them.
The 35-year-old, who recently won Sports Personality of the Year, said: ‘I had this extra drive in me this year to get to the end of those races.
‘It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past.
‘To get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform [for Black Lives Matter] and shine the light as bright as possible.’
The 35-year-old driver dons a T-shirt reading: ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’
Hamilton regularly called for political change throughout last season by using his platform as Formula One’s biggest star.
After winning the Tuscany Grand Prix in September, Hamilton escaped punishment for carrying a slogan on his T-shirt reading: ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor,’ in reference to the black woman who was killed by police in Kentucky in March.
His Mercedes team also adopted a black livery for the 2020 campaign in a stand against discrimination.
Seven-time world champion has been regularly calling for political change within Formula One
And when asked by Professor David Olusoga whether he was afraid of how people would react to his public stand in support of BLM, Hamilton replied: ‘There is no way that I could stay silent.
‘And once I said that to myself, I didn’t hold any fear.’
Hamilton was also quizzed by presenter Nick Robinson about racism in his sport and the fact that he is the only black Formula One driver.
Hamilton replied: ‘There are many other young kids of colour that deserve the opportunity to progress, have a great education, be an engineer or whatever it is they want. But the fact is, the opportunity is not the same for them.’
Timeline of the Windrush Scandal (1948-2020): How UK subjects were wrongly classed as ‘illegal immigrants’, lost their jobs and homes, and were threatened with deportation by the Home Office
1948-70 – Nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain, which in 1948 faced severe labour shortages in the wake of the Second World War. The immigrants were later referred to as ‘the Windrush generation’.
Working age adults and many children travelled from the Caribbean to join parents or grandparents in the UK or travelled with their parents without their own passports. Since these people had a legal right to come to the UK, they neither needed nor were given any documents upon entry to the UK, nor following changes in immigration laws in the early 1970s. Many worked or attended schools in the UK without any official documentary record of their having done so, other than the same records as any UK-born citizen.
2012 – The hostile environment policy, which came into effect in October 2012, comprises administrative and legislative measures to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people without ‘leave to remain’, in the hope that they may ‘voluntarily leave’. The policy was widely seen as being part of a strategy of reducing UK immigration figures to the levels promised in the 2010 Conservative Party Election Manifesto.
Measures introduced by the policy include a legal requirement for landlords, employers, the NHS, charities, community interest companies and banks to carry out ID checks and to refuse services if the individual is unable to prove legal residence in the UK. Landlords, employers and others are liable to fines of up to £10,000 if they fail to comply with these measures.
The policy led to a more complicated application process to get ‘leave to remain’ and encouraged voluntary deportation.The policy coincided with sharp increases in Home Office fees for processing ‘leave to remain’, naturalisation and registration of citizenship applications.
2013 – The Home Office received warnings that many Windrush generation residents were being treated as illegal immigrants and that older Caribbean born people were being targeted. The Refugee and Migrant Centre in Wolverhampton said their caseworkers were seeing hundreds of people receiving letters from Capita, the Home Office’s contractor, telling them that they had no right to be in the UK, some of whom were told to arrange to leave the UK at once. Roughly half the letters went to people who already had leave to remain or were in the process of formalising their immigration status.
People considered illegal were sometimes losing their jobs or homes as a consequence of having benefits cut off and some had been refused medical care under the National Health Service (NHS), some placed in detention centres as preparation for their deportation, some deported or refused right to return to the UK from abroad.
Caribbean leaders had put the deportations on the agenda at the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka and in April 2016 Caribbean governments told Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, that immigrants who had spent most of their lives in the UK were facing deportation and their concerns were passed on at the time to the Home Office. Shortly before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, twelve Caribbean countries made a formal request for a meeting with the British Prime Minister to discuss the issue, which was rejected by Downing Street.
2017 – Newspapers reported that the British government had threatened to deport people from Commonwealth territories who had arrived in the UK before 1973, if they could not prove their right to remain in the UK. Although primarily identified as the Windrush generation and mainly from the Caribbean, it was estimated in April 2018 on figures provided by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford that up to 57,000 Commonwealth migrants could be affected, of whom 15,000 were from Jamaica. In addition to those from the Caribbean, cases of people affected who had been born in Kenya, Cyprus, Canada and Sierra Leone were identified in the press.
The press coverage accused Home Office agencies of operating a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and ‘deport first, appeal later’ regime; of targeting the weakest groups, particularly those from the Caribbean; of inhumanely applying regulations by cutting off access to jobs, services and bank accounts while cases were still being investigated; of losing large numbers of original documents which proved right to remain; of making unreasonable demands for documentary proof – in some instances, elderly people had been asked for 4 documents for each year they had lived in the UK and of leaving people stranded outside the UK because of British administrative errors or intransigence and denial of medical treatment.
Other cases covered in the press, involved adults born in the UK, whose parents were ‘Windrush’ immigrants and who had been threatened with deportation and had their rights removed, because they were unable to prove that their parents were legally in the UK at the time of their birth.
The Home Office and British government were further accused of having known about the negative impacts that the ‘hostile environment policy’ was having on Windrush immigrants since as early as 2013 and of having done nothing to remedy them.
2018 – Questions were raised in Parliament about individual cases that had been highlighted in the press. On March 14, when Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn asked May about an individual who had been refused medical treatment under the NHS during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Theresa May initially said she was ‘unaware of the case’, but later agreed to ‘look into it’. Parliament thereafter continued to be involved in what was increasingly being referred to as ‘the Windrush scandal’.
On April 16, David Lammy MP challenged then Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the House of Commons to give numbers as to how many had lost their jobs or homes, been denied medical care, or been detained or deported wrongly. Lammy called on Rudd to apologise for the threats of deportation and called it a ‘day of national shame’, blaming the problems on the government’s ‘hostile environment policy’.
Rudd replied that she did not know of any, but would attempt to verify that. In late April, Rudd faced increasing calls for her to resign and for the Government to abandon the ‘hostile environment policy’. There were also calls for the Home Office to reduce fees for immigration services.
On May 2, Labour introduced a motion in the House of Commons seeking to force the government to release documents to the Home Affairs Select Committee concerning its handling of cases involving people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and the 1970s. The motion was defeated by 316 votes to 221.
On April 25, in answer to a question put to her by the Home Affairs Select Committee about deportation targets, Rudd said she was unaware of such targets, saying ‘that’s not how we operate’.
The following day, Rudd admitted in Parliament that targets had existed, but characterised them as ‘local targets for internal performance management’ only, not ‘specific removal targets’. She also claimed that she had been unaware of them and promised that they would be scrapped.
Two days later, The Guardian published a leaked memo that had been copied to Rudd’s office. The memo said that the department had set ‘a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18’ and ‘we have exceeded our target of assisted returns’. The memo added that progress had been made towards ‘the 10% increased performance on enforced returns, which we promised the Home Secretary earlier this year’.
Rudd responded by saying she had never seen the leaked memo, ‘although it was copied to my office, as many documents are’.
The New Statesman said that the leaked memo gave, ‘in specific detail the targets set by the Home Office for the number of people to be removed from the United Kingdom. It suggests that Rudd misled MPs on at least one occasion’. Diane Abbott MP called for Rudd’s resignation: ‘Amber Rudd either failed to read this memo and has no clear understanding of the policies in her own department, or she has misled Parliament and the British people.’Abbott also said, ‘The danger is that (the) very broad target put pressure on Home Office officials to bundle Jamaican grandmothers into detention centres’.
On April 23, Rudd announced that compensation would be given to those affected and, in future, fees and language tests for citizenship applicants would be waived for this group.
On April 29, The Guardian published a private letter from Rudd to Theresa May dated January 2017 in which Rudd wrote of an ‘ambitious but deliverable’ target for an increase in the enforced deportation of immigrants. Later that day, Rudd resigned as Home Secretary.
Parliamentary committees – On June 29, the parliamentary Human Rights Select committee published a ‘damning’ report on the exercise of powers by immigration officials. MPs and peers concluded in the report that there had been ‘systemic failures’ and rejected the Home Office description of a ‘a series of mistakes’ as not ‘credible or sufficient’. The report concluded that the Home Office demonstrated a ‘wholly incorrect approach to case-handling and to depriving people of their liberty’, and urged the Home Secretary to take action against the ‘human rights violations’ occurring in his department.
On July 3, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) published a critical report which said that unless the Home Office was overhauled the scandal would ‘happen again, for another group of people’.
The report found that ‘a change in culture in the Home Office over recent years’ had led to an environment in which applicants had been ‘forced to follow processes that appear designed to set them up to fail’. The report questioned whether the hostile environment should continue in its current form, commenting that ‘rebranding it as the ‘compliant’ environment is a meaningless response to genuine concerns’.
Home Office replies – On June 28, a letter to the HASC from the Home Office reported that it had ‘mistakenly detained’ 850 people in the five years between 2012 and 2017. In the same five-year period, the Home Office had paid compensation of over £21million for wrongful detention.
Compensation payments varied between £1 and £120,000; an unknown number of these detentions were Windrush cases. The letter also acknowledged that 23 per cent of staff working within immigration enforcement had received performance bonuses, and that some staff had been set ‘personal objectives’ ‘linked to targets to achieve enforced removals’ on which bonus payments were made.
National Audit Office report – In a report published in December 2018, the UK’s National Audit Office found that the Home Office ‘failed to protect [the] rights to live, work and access services’ of the Windrush scandal victims, had ignored warnings of the impending scandal, which had been raised up to four years earlier, and had still not adequately addressed the scandal.
‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ – On March 19, 2020, the Home Office released the Windrush Lessons Learned Review. This study, described by the Home Secretary as ‘long-awaited’, was an independent inquiry managed and conducted by Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary.
The report was a scathing indictment of the Home Office’s handling of Windrush individuals, and concluded that the Home Office showed an inexcusable ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’, and that what had happened had been ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. It further found that immigration regulations were tightened ‘with complete disregard for the Windrush generation’, and that officials had made irrational demands for multiple documents to establish residency rights. The study recommended a full review of the ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy.