“Do we still need to talk about colonialism in this day and age? Hasn’t it become a relic of the past, something to leave behind as we focus on the present?” These questions often come up as a response to anti-colonial sentiments, urging us, migrants from colonies, to leave the past behind and focus on […]

“Do we still need to talk about colonialism in this day and age? Hasn’t it become a relic of the past, something to leave behind as we focus on the present?” These questions often come up as a response to anti-colonial sentiments, urging us, migrants from colonies, to leave the past behind and focus on the present. Personally, I’ve found myself navigating through layers of history, my identity, and the lingering effects of colonialism, the latter of which became clear to me later in life. Despite the passing of time, the echoes of colonial legacies remain with our present reality.

Born in Malawi over 30 years after it gained independence from British colonists in 1964, I did not experience colonial rule firsthand or witness the immediate impacts of colonialism wielded as a weapon by an oppressive one-party regime.  However, my journey has been an eye-opener, revealing the lasting influence of colonial structures on societal expectations, economic disparities, and contemporary racial hierarchies.  It is undeniably true that we live in capitalist economies, and capitalism is tightly bound up with the imperialist project. 

To understand colonialism, we cannot ignore its profound connection with capitalism. The dominance over economic, political, and cultural spheres, characterised by the imposition of the coloniser’s values, institutions, and practices, remains relevant today. The idea that colonialism is merely a thing of the past is seriously misguided. 

Colonial domination extends beyond shaping the power dynamics of and ideas about race; it significantly influences perceptions of class, culture, gender, and sexuality. Unpacking these realisations demands a conscious effort to defy societal expectations of the “good migrant”. This is because colonialism plays a central role in the contemporary immigration landscape and the Hostile Environment.

The Windrush scandal serves as a stark illustration of the enduring impact of colonialism on the treatment of migrants, including refugees, and betrays a deeply ingrained ignorance within the UK Government with respect to its own colonial history. Windrush immigrants found themselves deported, harassed, and detained—an egregious display of historical injustices echoing through the chapters of time.

Colonialism has left a massive imprint on various facets of society, influencing structures of governance, social hierarchies, and the pervasiveness of cultural erasure. Astonishingly, 36 former British colonies still uphold anti-LGBTQ+ laws introduced by the British Empire. The impact of British imperialism on the lives of LGBTQ+ people in these colonies continues to be immeasurable, with devastating effects persisting to this day. 

Furthermore, the genocides in Congo, Sudan, and Palestine underscore how colonialism and imperialism remain deeply embedded in the geopolitical landscape. The echoes of imperialistic actions from the past reverberate through capitalism, and its associated “conflicts”, revealing the lasting scars left by colonial powers.

The conversations surrounding colonialism are not mere reflections on history; they are crucial discussions that shape our understanding of the present and future. Let’s be honest, we’re still a long way from achieving justice. To unravel the complexities, we need to decolonise migration, and look beyond borders. Only by understanding the current forms of oppression around the world can we pave the way for a future that breaks free from the chains of historical injustices, and forges a path towards equality, justice and liberation.

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