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 →

Jayne Cortez: one last word

February 9, 2013 in Blog, Speeches

On February 6th, professor Gus John joined Jayne Cortez’s friends and fellow poets, writers and performers in New York to celebrate her life and work. Here’s Gus John’s tribute, which was read out during the ceremonyRead the rest of this entry →

‘The university professor is always white’

February 2, 2013 in Blog

"Empty Seats" by Benson Kua (Flickr - BY-SA 2.0)

“Empty Seats” by Benson Kua (Flickr – BY-SA 2.0)

Rachel Williams’ disturbing feature (‘The university professor is always white’) comes at a time when this government is hell bent on removing the public sector equality duty from the compliance requirements of the Equality Act 2010. Already, the Coalition Government has effectively neutered the Equality and Human Rights Commission and rendered it a hollow shell that could easily be made to disappear without anyone missing it.

Williams’ piece rightly pointed to the bold initiative the chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies took 18 months ago in pursuit of gender equality by requiring medical schools seeking biomedical research grants to demonstrate evidence of supporting women’s career progression.

One of the dangers some of us foresaw in joining up the various equality strands into a single equality act was that public bodies that had shown so little evidence of engagement with anti-discrimination legislation and of promoting gender, race and disability equality would be even less focused on improving their performance in respect of those three strands, let alone promoting equality for the additional number of groups (6) with protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010. Read the rest of this entry →