Twenty years ago, while waiting for a bus in London, 19-year-old Stephen Lawrence was attacked and murdered by a gang of white youths chanting racist slogans.
His death led to the arrest of five suspects, but they were not convicted. A subsequent public enquiry, led by Sir William Macpherson, concluded that the Metropolitan Police’s investigation had been fundamentally flawed and that the Metropolitan Police Service itself was “institutionally racist” (defined as “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic corruption”) The publication of the Macpherson Report in 1999 has been described as “one of the most important moments in the modern history of criminal justice in Britain”, leading to extensive policing reforms.
On 3rd January, 2012, nearly 19 years after Stephen Lawrence’s murder, two of his attackers, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were found guilty and given life sentences.
See Lottie Kent's article, Racism: With Privilege Comes Responsibility: "Once we start to notice, however, this unspoken privilege from which we unjustifiably profit, we become accountable for a sin of omission: we are allowing our own privilege to continue and not speaking out for the people of colour that suffer because of our systemic negligence. We begin to notice how our society discreetly perpetuates racial stereotypes, how it allows the dichotomy of superior/inferior between white and minority races to continue, how unjust this culture is. As in law, so in ethics, ignorance is no defence. This initial realisation of culpability usually manifests itself in outward denial."
How Stephen Lawrence's Murder Changed the Legal Landscape
Interview with Stephen Lawrence's family, twenty years on