Has anything really changed? 20 years after the death of Stephen Lawrence

22 Apr 2013

The death of Stephen Lawrence is and continues to be monumental for British society for many reasons. The case attacked the normalisation of racism and shook the institutions that accepted and encouraged it. Black British communities have always experienced institutional racism but it was the death of an innocent man that made it known to the whole world. I was not born when this vile incident took place, however I understand the impact it had not only on my life but to the many people around me. When I met Doreen Lawrence and Imran Khan (lawyer of the Lawrence family) they were able to inspire me to go into the world of politics and strive against the stereotypical image of Black Britons. Criminologist Dr Ben Bradford of Oxford University found that the rate of stop and searches of black people doubled in a decade after 1999[1]. Thus the question remains, 20 years on has anything really changed?

 

Yesterday John Cherry a Tory councillor stated that Pakistani children would fail to rise to the top in education and that some nationalities were uncertain about the concept of hard work. Yes, comments such as these are still being made and it is horrific that it is coming out of a political figure representing the Conservative Party. As the recession and austerity continues to be an issue, racism is rearing its ugly head up by allowing ethnic minorities to be used as scapegoats. This is through the argument that ethnic minorities are stealing jobs, stealing housing and stealing British culture. Robert Beckford argues “The reality is that for most black people everyday forms of racism are not about people trying to attack you in the street, but instead are in the workplace, in the criminal justice system, in housing and in the micro forms of aggression you can experience when you go shopping.”

The Conservative government have not challenged or addressed this problem. Because of this, many Black Britons still feel uneasy about supporting or joining a party that fails to support them or their communities. The Conservative Party still has the stereotypical image of white middle class men who only care about the wealthy. The comment made by John Cherry does not disprove this argument.  Black and minority ethnic groups remain highly supportive of the Labour Party, with 68% (two-thirds) voting Labour. The Labour Party have been able to win the trust of the Black Britons as they are not scared to address issues of racism and inequality. Labour politicians such as Jack Straw and Dianne Abbott were able to address racism by encouraging the MacPherson inquiry. I feel that the Labour Party genuinely care about the wellbeing of Black Britons, while the Conservatives just want votes. Ed Miliband is not ashamed to mention that he is the son of immigrant parents and he is not ashamed to say that they worked hard to become successful.

In my opinion there is still a long way to go. Representation and racism still are issues that need to be addressed and tackled. Representation in the House of Commons is horrific, the lack of representation in senior business positions is awful and the over representation of Black Britons in prisons is disgraceful. The only way things can get better is if we continue to fight racism head on without any hesitation. 

By Mems Ayinla 

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