Why Doreen Lawrence’s peerage could harm the Stephen Lawrence cause

August 7, 2013 in Gus in the Media, Print

Print screen from The Guardian's website (http://bit.ly/158a5tr)

Print screen from The Guardian’s website (http://bit.ly/158a5tr)

Now that Doreen Lawrence has been made a life peer, her canonisation by the British establishment is pretty much complete. But while her undoubted achievements are lauded by the entire British political class, other campaigns related to racist murders and unlawful killings continue to be systematically obstructed and obfuscated by the state and its institutions: campaigns for justice for Sean RiggsAzelle RodneyChristopher AlderRoger SylvesterJimmy Mubenga and more; campaigns which the state would no doubt prefer us not to know about, much less to join.

Over the past 20 years, we have become used to hearing newsreaders say: “Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence…” And it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly who this woman is, and why she was thrust into the limelight: Doreen was a mother seeking justice for the murder of her innocent son, cut down in his prime while going about his lawful business; a mother who, assisted by the wider African and Asian community, was able to place her son’s murder by white racists in context; a mother who was able to gain strength from the active and prolonged support of activists and campaigners within this wider black community, many of whom kick-started the campaign that supported the Lawrence family in holding the Metropolitan police and the home secretary to account for the investigation of Stephen’s murder. Read the rest of this entry →

Racism, tokenism and totemism: the disturbing case of Doreen Lawrence

August 4, 2013 in Blog

Print screen from the BBC's website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

Print screen from the BBC’s website (URL: http://bbc.in/19LxEAn)

In April this year I wrote a blog which I titled ‘To Iconize and Canonize – the State We’re In 20 Years after the Murder of Stephen Lawrence‘. In that article, I examined the process of iconizing Stephen as the victim of a racist murder and canonizing his mother, Doreen. That canonization is now pretty much complete with Doreen being made a Life Peer of the realm in the last week.

In one sense, if one is disposed to be especially generous, this mother of all gongs could be seen as the expression of a ‘Big Ben’ of a ‘mea culpa’ on the part of the British establishment. I fear, however, that is much more sinister than that.

In the last few days, I have had many people from the Global African Diaspora, women especially, express their delight that ‘Doreen is now the Right Honourable Baroness Lawrence’ and that ‘there is one more of us in the Lords’. They all thought I was being churlish and as one put it ‘typically anti-establishment’ when I made the same arguments I was prompted to write in April, not least the following: Read the rest of this entry →

A tribute to Prince Joseph Lincoln Burke-Monerville

May 3, 2013 in Blog, Gus talks, Speeches

The following address was delivered at Joseph Burke-Monerville‘s funeral. 

Condolences to John and Linda, Joseph’s parents and Jonathan and David, his brothers and all of the Burke-Monerville extended family. If I were to name you all, we’d be here till 6.00 o’clock… tomorrow morning.

Joseph Burke-Monerville (Credits: http://on.fb.me/Yk31Ii)

Joseph Burke-Monerville (Credits: http://on.fb.me/Yk31Ii)

I have witnessed close at hand your pain, your hurt and your grief these last weeks, and have had cause to applaud your faith, your resilience and generosity, even in your grief, and your togetherness as a family.

Let me express my special admiration for Jonathan, who in the last 11 weeks has borne the loss of his twin brother and best friend with immense courage and dignity, sustained by what I sense is an inner peace and deep faith, and above all, the knowledge that his beloved brother, though no longer with him in the mortal body, is as inseparable from him in spirit as they both were in life; sustained by the knowledge that the Creator and the Ascended Ancestors have welcomed him in glory to his eternal home.

We have gathered here to celebrate Joseph’s life and all that he was, and all that he gave because of who he was and how he lived.

But, even as we celebrate, we mourn.

We celebrate the fact that he was all he could be; but we mourn the fact that he was cut down in his prime and prevented from being all he aspired to be: an even more loving twin brother; a son of whom his parents could be justly proud; proud because of who he was as a person, his self-belief and how he lived his values; proud because of his achievements and his example to others. All he aspired to be: a loving sibling; a loving, funny and caring uncle and guardian; a role model to his siblings and his peers; a committed and active citizen; a successful and innovative forensic scientist.

As they mourn, one of the many things Jonathan, his parents and the entire family struggle with, – even as they give thanks for the fact that they did not lose three sons -, is the cruel irony that Joseph who so abhorred violence and loved peacefulness, who was always the one to make peace, was made the innocent victim of such gratuitous violence.

I deplore utterly the statement that is made too often in relation to incidents such as that which claimed his life and in which so many others like Joseph have lost their lives…, the statement that: ‘it was a tragic case of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Read the rest of this entry →

To iconize and canonize: Stephen Lawrence 20 years later

April 23, 2013 in Blog, Essays

From: The Guardian's website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

From: The Guardian’s website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

On 22 April 2013, senior representatives of the British state joined the Lawrence family in marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence by white racists. Leaders of the three main political parties and the Mayor of London attended a memorial service at St Martin in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, to pay tribute to Stephen and to acknowledge ‘the debt the country owes to the Lawrence family for  refusing to give up, ensuring those who were guilty of Stephen’s murder were brought to justice’. 

Beguiling as some might have found it, there is something both fascinating and deeply disturbing about that memorial, the presence at it of those leaders of state and above all, about the statements they made.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally convicted of Stephen’s murder after repeated failures by the Metropolitan Police that arose from corruption, incompetence and what the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry led by retired judge, Sir William Macpherson called ‘institutional racism’. Indeed, the convictions were possible only because in 2005 the ‘double jeopardy’ law that had existed for 800 years was changed to allow a suspect to be tried again for the same offence if there was “new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence”, which had not been previously available. Three suspects Gary Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, had been acquitted following a private prosecution brought by Stephen’s parents in 1996. David Norris had not been prosecuted before. The Lawrence family is still hopeful that sooner rather than later they will see all of Stephen’s murderers behind bars. Read the rest of this entry →

Paris Brown: sending up a gimmick?

April 10, 2013 in Blog, Gus in the Media, Print

On 8 April 2013 the Evening standard carried a story about Paris Brown who having been appointed as a youth police commissioner by Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes, one week earlier at a cost to the taxpayer of £15,000 a year was found have posted homophobic and racist tweets prior to her appointment. The Evening Standard asked me for a comment. This is what I wrote on April 8.

Print screen from Evening Standard (http://bit.ly/XJaIwH)

Print screen from Evening Standard (http://bit.ly/XJaIwH)

If Paris Brown had wilfully set out to send up the peculiar notion of a paid ‘youth crime commissioner’, she could not have done it better. Her mother protests that Paris has 14 GCSEs and should be allowed to get on with her life having apologised for her abusive language on Twitter, language which itself borders on hate crime. The fact that she published those deeply offensive remarks before she was appointed to this dubious post is all the more reason why she should be stripped of it.

With 14 GCSEs, she is surely bright enough to know that those former boasts about her loutish and bigoted behaviour constitutes skeletons in her cupboard that give off a stench in which the police ought to have a forensic interest. Even if those appointing her did not probe her Twitter account, she should therefore have revealed her homophobic and racist conduct to them. If she did and was appointed nevertheless, then those who appointed her must have wanted to demonstrate that it is precisely young people with her tendencies they want as ‘advisers’ on youth crime. Proof indeed that her ill-conceived post begs too many questions that have not even been posed. Read the rest of this entry →