Remembering Stephen Lawrence
The murder of Stephen Lawrence at a bus stop in April 1993 led to a powerful fight for justice by his family, and to the 1998 Macpherson inquiry into institutional racism. On the 30th anniversary of Stephen’s death, Reform asks what has changed in our society and Church
There have been a lot of significant changes that have taken place following the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence in south-east London on 22 April 1993. But the reality on the ground is that we are still very far from the place that people from the black and ethnic minoritised groups – and their white comrades who stand alongside them in the battle for justice and equality for all – would dream of in our society. Equality in law may be there on paper, but we are still continuing to dream of equal opportunities for some black and ethnic minoritised communities in workplaces and communities.
The backlash some of us who were born outside the United Kingdom get when we raise the issue of racism is, ‘If it is that bad, why not go back to your country if it’s better there?’ Those born here who have black and ethnic minoritised backgrounds continue to suffer from the prejudice that they are not from here because of their skin colour, and therefore not entitled to be treated equally. Should they decide to stand up for themselves, they are advised not to be aggressive…
Andrew Mudharara is a United Reformed Church minister in Hinckley and Daventry
For me, all through these 30 long years since Stephen was murdered, it’s been a real encouragement to witness the persistence and courage of his parents and their associates in their struggle for justice for Stephen. Their dignity in the face of repudiation and determination in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles has been inspirational. They fought back against layer upon layer of police and criminal justice failure, year after year. They won from Lord McPherson’s Enquiry an acknowledgement that racism is baked into the structures of British Society and is not just the bad behaviour of a few. And, still, they are openly sharing the tragic loss of their son as a beacon story on our joint journey towards racial justice. Thanks for that. Respect.
All of my 40 years of service as a URC minister has been in multicultural settings in English cities. This has brought me deep delight. However, it also means that my whole world of experience has been enveloped in the persistence of racism in countless diverse forms and the need to find strategies of resistance. Always, I have had to watch the challenges and costs of the struggle against racism shaping the lives of close friends and colleagues. Have I tried to be an ally for justice? I hope so. Have I done enough? I doubt it…
John Campbell is a URC minister, hymnwriter and former Principal of Northern College
After the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence 30 years ago, Britain observed the televised racism of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police that allowed the perpetrators to go unpunished until 2012. Stephen Lawrence’s case has had a fundamental role in highlighting the failures, intentional or not, of the system through the Macpherson Report. This report highlighted how entwined racism was with our social institutions and brought the conversation to the forefront.
Many years have passed but some recommendations of the Macpherson report have gone ignored and treatment of black people by the police and the justice system has, largely, not seen the radical overhaul that we were promised. In the words of Baroness Lawrence, ‘things have become stagnant and nothing seems to have moved’. Today, the United Kingdom has the largest prison population in western Europe and, thanks to a shift towards privatised prisons, there is no incentive for these companies to reduce the prison population. There are large swathes of impoverished, black students who end up being funnelled into the carceral system through school exclusions and behavioural units…
Philippa Osei is Moderator of the United Reformed Church Youth Assembly for 2023-4
This is an extract from an article published in the April 2023 edition of Reform