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Stephen Lawrence: still fighting racism, 25 years on

TODAY – 22nd April – is the 26th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. To mark the occasion, the day has been designated “Stephen Lawrence Day”, and schools are being asked to challenge racism.

Stephen was murdered in a racially motivated attack as he waited, with a friend, at a bus stop in Eltham in South London. The attack which ended his life and changed the lives of his family members and friends for ever has also changed the world – in two respects.

First, the police were very casual about investigating the murder. They acted slowly and suspects were allowed time in which they could destroy evidence. It was as if the police were treating the murder as just another killing of another black boy. As indeed they were: the report produced by the Macpherson inquiry many years later found that the police were “institutionally racist”. The term meant that it was not just a case of one or two officers being individually racist – the “bad apple” approach. It meant that an organisation could have practices and encourage collective behaviour which led it to deliver its services in a discriminatory manner.

That ruling was an achievement on which others have built – establishing a basis on which all public sector and private organisations could be examined to ensure that their work was based on equality and inclusivity, valuing diversity rather than ignoring it.

Second, the response of Stephen’s parents to his death has been inspirational. They have been calm but determined over 26 years as they mourned their son while also trying to obtain the justice Stephen deserved.

Last year, on the 25th anniversary of Stephen’s death, the Prime Minister announced that 22nd April would from this year on be marked as Stephen Lawrence day. This year his mother, now Baroness Lawrence, writing in The Guardian, has appealed to schools to “teach tolerence and inclusion from an early age”. She has asked for schools to “put the values of respect and fairness at the heart of the curriculum”.

Stephen’s father, Dr Neville Lawrence, is continuing to work on projects to reduce violence on the streets and to motivate young people to lead positive lives and realise their ambitions.

With Brexit fuelling racist sentiments that are too often left unchallenged and the effects of austerity further dividing society, this is a battle we should all join, in honour of Stephen’s sacrifice.

Read more about it:
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Tory Minister apologises for saying black people have “bad moral attitudes”

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