By John Western
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Additional resources for A Passage to England: Barbadian Londoners Speak of Home
I let drop that perhaps I can see Britain in a different perspective, because I am a sort of stranger now, although once from the United Kingdom. "Huh, you've been away nineteen years maybe, but I've been here twenty-four. And you say you don't belong, but you can be back here . . " "Okay, not belong then . . but you're welcome here. " This point can be taken a little further. Those among the white English who—formerly overtly, but usually more indirectly nowadays—wish to deny the Barbadians the right to their goal in England, also wish, as seen above, to oblige them to "return home" to the Caribbean.
Far enough back, we are all immigrants. Ultimately, none of us can claim uncontested belongingness—just as, far enough forward, none of us can have and hold it forever. There is another argument, upon less philosophical, less absolutist grounds, against the superior claims of landowning lineage, against the Sacketts and the Cobbs, and by extension, against the superior claims of the "native" white English. On their behalf, it is asserted solemnly that over a thousand years or so an island culture has been created in Britain, a culture of continuity, not to be tampered with.
I knew my roots, my home place, no one could dispute them. But now I felt a novel unease about my authenticity as a belonger. Doubt had sidled in where before there was none. Similar doubts had been visited upon the Barbadian Londoners, though to a much more unsettling degree. " England, they had been taught, was home, and they partook of its reflected glory. " They assumed they would be welcomed in this home, that Transatlantic Homes 15 they had some entitlement to it. " One autumn evening in 1987 some Barbadians and I were discussing contemporary Canadian immigration policy and the prospects of a young family member gaining entry there.