Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stephen Lawrence: Racism in Death

Increasingly we hear that black people in Britain should now basically shut up or put up, because "racism no longer exists in Britain". And the deniers (I have no hesitation calling them that) have embraced another fad: blaming any claims that racism is still alive (albeit on the retreat) on "political correctness gone mad". Racists, homophobes and other xenophobes of course much preferred a past Britain "where you could speak freely" and where their attitudes and hopeless stereotypes were still very much du jour. But despite a strong and favourable change in perception of ethnic minorities, racism and assorted hatreds will never die out completely and still occasionally rear their ugly heads.

Stephen Lawrence, the victim of a heinous race-hate crime, continues to be the victim of racist abuse, even in death: it's not the first time that Stephen's memorial has been vandalised, as happened only a week after an architectural centre was opened.

The Guardian.

Racists vandalise Stephen Lawrence memorial centre

Stephen_LawrenceA £10m architectural centre built as a memorial to Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack 15 years ago, has been vandalised just a week after it opened, can reveal.

Eight windows each worth £15,000 and designed by the Turner prizewinning artist Chris Ofili on the front of the new building in Deptford, south-east London, were destroyed overnight.

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman confirmed the attack was being treated as a racist incident.

"A number of windows had been broken and police were informed at 5.46am today. The hate crime unit at Lewisham CID are investigating the incident," she said.

No arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing.

Attackers threw bricks at the windows from behind a 2.5m high metal fence surrounding the complex, said Karin Woodley, the chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust.

"It is a very sad day for the trust as a whole, and for Stephen's family," said Woodley. "Stephen's mother is as distressed as all of us."

She said it was the fourth time the centre had been attacked, but this was by far the worst. She added that the centre had CCTV and 24-hour on-site security, and that security measures would be reviewed.

"I think this is awful and just shows there are still people out there who have a problem with racism and with those who value diversity," said Imran Khan, a lawyer for Stephen's mother, Doreen Lawrence.

The three-storey building, designed by the award-winning architect David Adjaye, aims to offer thousands of young people from deprived backgrounds the chance to begin careers in architecture, urban design and building.

Richard Stone, an advisor to Sir William Macpherson in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, said he was "horrified" by the attack.

"The killers of Stephen are still at large in south-east London. They hate black people getting on in life. I feel devastated for Doreen and Neville [Stephen's father] who put so much into the building which has become a target. It just suggests there are people out there who are filled with hate."

He called for a review of the 1999 Lawrence report, which concluded that institutional racism within the Metropolitan police had hampered attempts to catch the killers, to investigate whether racism in institutions and British society was being reduced.

Last night's incident indicated racism was still entrenched in parts of British life, he said. "Racism must not be allowed to drop down the agenda."

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, and Doreen Lawrence attended the building's opening ceremony last week.

"I am disgusted by this racist attack," the London mayor, Ken Livingstone, said today. "This latest outrageous act of racism follows several others over the past few months on the centre.

"It also comes on the anniversary of the inquest that confirmed Stephen's death to be an unprovoked racist murder, and will be even more distressing for his mother Doreen, who has fought to establish this cultural landmark for the whole community."

He said the London Development Agency, which helped fund the centre, would offer any assistance needed.

Before the opening ceremony, Doreen Lawrence said her son, who dreamed of being an architect from the age of seven, would have been "so excited" the centre was built in his name.

Stephen , 18, was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack by a gang at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993. Many of the suspects continue to live in the area.

The case was the subject of three separate investigations, an internal Scotland Yard review and a re-examination by Kent police, as well as the 1999 Macpherson inquiry.

Last November, police confirmed they were investigating new forensic evidence in the case.

The Lawrence centre offers courses, training and mentoring in engineering, architecture and building facilities for people between 14 and 25. It is linked to several leading firms and universities.

Woodley said last week the centre was a "laboratory for looking at new ways of working with young people to improve their attainment and skills".

"Stephen was tragically denied the chance to realise his dream of becoming an architect, but we hope to offer young people who are living in poverty the opportunity to realise their aspirations," she said.

In 1999 Stephen's memorial was defiled by paint. It was attacked again the following year, despite 24-hour camera surveillance.


At 2:55 AM, Blogger Avi said...

Racism is sickening. I pray that the day comes soon when nations will not life up sword against other nations, neither shall they learn war anymore.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Agreed. Unfortunately, when it comes to Nations, nationalism inevitably leads to conflict with other Nations.


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