Remembering Stephen Lawrence is keeping alive the Lawrence agenda for change

I WAS TEN years old when Stephen Lawrence was brutally set upon by a gang of white supremacist thugs and murdered for the crime of being black, in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a familiar story.

At the time, beyond hearing my parents and others talk about the case and hearing Stephen’s name, as a small child I didn’t understand the significance of it all.

For many in my generation we grew up with the warm image of Stephen in his striped T-shirt seared into our minds, a teenager on the cusp of manhood full of promise and dreams, and loved so dearly by his family. He could have been any one of our brothers or cousins.

His life was ripped away by racist thugs emboldened from growing up in a society in which justice for Black people remains elusive and in which anti-black racism is normalized.

Stephen became a symbol of the deep rooted racism and fight for justice that so many families have experienced and continue to experience.

The relentless fight and uphill battle to see some of his killers brought to justice demonstrated strength of bravery and tenacity from his parents and family which is unparalleled.

In 2022 though, we have to be honest; the conditions that led to Stephen’s murder have not changed, and are arguably worse.

Normalized cultural racism and anti-Black racism, whether people like it or not has been a staple and endemic part of British society since the days of slavery and colonialism.

Yes, we can point to the avalanche of racist attacks and spike in racism during the Brexit period as evidenced by Home Office and police statistics (with the real numbers higher probably) but we see indicators of the real reality constantly.

Our black MPs receive death threats and abuse constantly. Black Lives Matter protests are harassed and treated as ‘woke’ nonsense. Our Black footballers are attacked online and called monkeys.

Grenfell Tower victims, predominantly non-whites were cruelly mocked by individuals who have now been found guilty for their vile behavior in the courts-they were the ones who got caught, but they were not the only ones who mocked the deaths of Grenfell victims.

The system also let the Grenfell families down. We know that those victims had been white, the entire reaction would have been different.

But of course, as we mark Stephen Lawrence day, the major issue which still needs tackling once and for all is utter corruption, racism and incompetence which plagues the Metropolitan Police.

The investigation into Stephen’s murder was shameful beyond belief. His family of him were spied on and treated like suspects with suspicion. Those guilty of his murder of him evaded justice for years because of a completely shambolic and corrupted police force, not fit for purpose.

All of this was meant to usher in an era of reform and change following the Macpherson Inquiry which found the police to be institutionally racist. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Surely now, that what we had all known for so long had been backed up by a high profile inquiry, action would be taken to root out racism from the Met once and for all. Not the case.

It simply hasn’t happened. We know that stop and search disproportionately and massively impacts Black communities, as does brutal and often deadly violence experienced by Black people in police custody. I’ve reported on the cases of Mouayed Bashir and Mohamud Hassan, who both died following injuries sustained while in police custody, in Wales. I’ve spoken several times to both families. The pain they feel is not something which I can put into words.

We’ve seen the horrendous reports of racism, as well as sexism which emerged following the probe into allegations of corruption at Charing Cross police station in London. We know that the racist ‘canteen culture’ in which the police back each other all the way, is still very much a problem as it was during the disgraceful investigation into Stephen’s murder.

The outright abuse of Child Q, has enraged our communities, reopened wounds, and reminded us that even Black children in school, which should be the safest place for them, are not safe from the tentacles of racist corruption and the abuse of power. We want the police out of schools. Period.

And let’s not forget that recently, it came to light that Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson who has been fighting for her life having sustained life threatening and life changing injuries during an attack, was mocked on a WhatsApp group which included Met Police officers.

The stench racism and corruption which has clearly been firmly rooted in the Met Police since the time of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, is so bad, that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was forced to express a lack of confidence in the Met’s commissioner leading to Cressida Dick’s resignation.

As we remember Stephen Lawrence, the best way to honor his memory and the commitment of his parents in their pursuit of justice for their son, is to keep up the pressure and momentum in demanding real reform within the Metropolitan Police.

The Met Police have suffered a public relations disaster, due to recent whistleblowing on the corruption among its ranks. This needs to remain in the spotlight. A new commissioner, offering flowery words and promises about reform, is not enough. Those days are gone. New generations will not stand for it any longer.

Something has to give. Police reform should be one of the top priorities of our communities (and of all decent people in the wider public).

Until that happens, an institutionally racist police force will continue to pave the way for racist murderers like those who took the life of Stephen. They’ll know that they can do as they please, confident that the odds are stacked in their favor because of a two tier police and criminal justice system which treats black people as second class citizens.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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