Twenty-five years ago on this day Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in London. Many of the laws and regulations which we currently have are because of campaigning and determination by Stephen Lawrence’s parents which led to the Macpherson report.
We have had the creation of the Police Complaints Commission, hate crime legislation, recognition of institutional racism (“collective failure of an organisation to provide a professional service … through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”), extension of responsibility for race relations to all public sector organisations and greater scrutiny of recruitment/promotion practices. However, since 1993 the number of stop and searches of BME (black minority ethnic) people has risen and hate crimes towards BME people are also on the rise. This is something public leaders and public sectors organisations need to be mindful of in relation to vigilance and implementing policies and regulations which remove discriminatory practices and confront prejudice and racism. In additon, the work that has come through since the Macpherson report has affected all areas of equality law – including the responsibility of public sector organisations to demonstrate due regard and a commitment to the Public Sector Equality Duty.
The unimaginable loss of the Lawrence family and their strength, determination and compassion must not be trivialised. It remains the case that there is reluctance to speak honestly about race relations in the UK, there is considerable push-back from the media and the issue is often side-stepped or ignored and this has contributed to stalled progress in driving forward race equality in all areas of society. It has also made the struggle of the Lawrence family to get justice for their son all the more difficult and painful.
A documentary called ‘Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation’ is available from the BBC. Additional information can be found on the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust website. The government announced an annual Stephen Lawrence Day to be held on the anniversary of the teenager’s murder. The first will be held on the 22nd of April 2019.