“It’s only a bit of banter”

Last month saw the anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, who was killed in a racially motivated attack in Eltham by a group of white males when he was aged 18 on the evening of 22 April 1993. Whilst his death will forever go down in history, as a miscarriage of justice, his death has still been symbolic. His death reminds the nation of the horrors of racism and of a past we must not turn back to, using the lessons of such injustices and inequalities, especially where some of the five or six people who killed Stephen, have not been brought to justice, to build on the present and to a future that embraces race relations. As Stephen’s father, Neville Lawrence said in his recent article, to mark Stephen Lawrence Day, which is the annual celebration of Stephen’s life and legacy:

“Stephen’s image has come to symbolise so much. For me, too, he is the face for change. But he was also my little boy. I will always remember him as both.” (1)

In the same breadth then, we are reminded that things have not necessarily changed and that as well as good intentioned anti-racism movements have galvanised around these times, just as they did during the murder of George Floyd in 2020, they have also faltered somewhat (2).

According to a UK Government publication, that has re-visited the Macpherson report, a 389-page review document written in 1999 by Judge Sir William Macpherson of Cluny, to look into the murder of Stephen, 23 years later there has been:

“significant improvements in the policing of racist crimes, in the commitments made to promoting equality and diversity and in good examples of local community policing. But our inquiry has also identified persistent, deep rooted and unjustified racial disparities in key areas including a confidence gap for BME communities, lack of progress on BME recruitment, problems in misconduct proceedings and unjustified racial disparities in stop and search.” (3) 

Whilst there has been some movement then, we are still currently witnessing the same issues arising within the Metropolitan Police today, where one is reminded of the saying by Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general, that “the Wheels of Justice turn slowly but exceedingly fine”. These feelings towards seeking justice, in what can be described as a slowly changing long process, are further echoed in the words of Baroness Lawrence, Stephen’s mother, when she said that “things have become stagnant and nothing seems to have moved.” (4)

To read the full article, “It’s only a bit of banter”, you must be a PILAA Member.