[Source: Equality Designs Inc]
When asked, my thirteen year old nephew told me he was not familiar with Stephen Lawrence. Having taken place almost two decades ago the racially motivated murder of the nineteen year old at a bus stop in Eltham is not part of his cultural reference. Today the metropolitan police announced that Gary Dobson, 35 and David Norris, 34 will face trial for Lawrence’s murder later this year. Picking up the news on Twitter I was moved with compassion for the Lawrence family who have tirelessly campaigned against the institutional racism evident in obvious police misconduct; a fact that has meant, until this point, no one has been held responsible for their son’s death. It is hard to talk about justice in this circumstance. Justice would refer to a society where the sanctity of Lawrence’s life was regarded. Still, seventeen years later, we can hope for lawfulness at least.
This news is delivered within the framework of renewed Black British political and social activism. Just two months ago popular reggae artist Smiley Culture (formally known as David Emmanuel) died of a stab wound whilst in police custody. The Black community and its allies responded with a collective outcry and hundreds marched to the Houses of Parliament and New Scotland Yard to demand justice. The repeated calls ‘No Justice, No Peace!’ Results of the enquiry are pending.
If we are desiring to learn anything from these two cases we should acknowledge in their death that racism does not exist passively and neither should our responses to it. The activism of Lawrence’s family supported by the wider Black community contributed to the 1999 independent enquiry that concluded that the metropolitan police force was institutionally racist. Eventually it would alter the principle of ‘double jeopardy’ in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allowing for a suspect to be tried more than once. In the recent days my article holding LSE, Psychology Today and Dr Satoshi Kanazawa accountable for his pathetic eugenics has been met with suggestions that we simply ignore it. That is not good enough. Just as we contend with the culture of racism present in institutions, we must be as fervent about challenging the culture of apathy and refusal to confront the realities of racism that feed the hostility in these very same institutions.
My condolences and vow of support to the Lawrence and Emmanuel families. No justice, no peace.