The Legacy of the Life and Death of Stephen Lawrence

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The Legacy of the Life and Death of Stephen Lawrence
Michael Osiyale reflects on Stephen Lawrence's enduring significance for British politics

2018 marked the 25 years since Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham, South East London. In what would seem surprising later generations, the murder initially received little to no public attention outside of local London news. However, thanks to the tireless dedication and fearlessness of his parents, particularly that of his mother Doreen Lawrence, the tragedy eventually became a true watershed moment for race relations in Britain and the nation more generally. 

Stephen Lawrence’s death and the subsequent botched investigation into it shook Britain because it highlighted the ugliness of racism in Britain. Not only did it show that Britain was a country where a teenager could be stabbed to death on the streets for nothing other than the colour of his skin, but also that the criminal justice system was ill equipped to bring the perpetrators to justice, perpetuating the racism that led to Stephen’s death.  

A quarter of a century on from Stephens death, we are left with a unique opportunity to assess the contemporary states of race relations in Britain and to ponder whether such a thing can happen again. While many would suggest such a shock to the nation’s psyche could no longer occur in 2018, the current social political climate of increased hate crime in the wake of the Brexit referendum and a ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy which has seen several British citizens of West Indian heritage forcibly detained and deported one wouldn’t be amiss for thinking that we need to continue to be as vigilant now as ever.