It is widely regarded that the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent family oriented campaign triggered a sea change in attitudes over race in the UK.
Sir William Macpherson’s Inquiry examined the circumstances of Stephen’s murder, on April 22 1993, as well as the litany of police failures, and took credit for overhauling Britain’s race relations legislation that created the strongest battery of anti-discrimination powers and policies in Western Europe. In fact, the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said that he hoped it would prove “a watershed in attitudes towards racism. I want it to act as a catalyst for permanent and irrevocable change, not just across our public services, but across the whole of society. We must make equality a reality. The pervasive, open racism of the fifties and sixties, the pernicious, sniggering racism of the seventies, eighties and nineties is gone”.
What remains worrying is that since Stephen’s murder we have continued to see racially motivated attacks on our streets, including the horrific murder of Labour politician Jo Cox. We need to campaign to improve policy to deal with such horrible acts and violence.
Official reports are showing increases in violent hate crimes, acts which remain within the highest categories reported to the police. Not only does this have an impact on the targeted communities it is also divisive as it defeats all work and efforts of engaging in community cohesion.
UNISON will continue to campaign against discrimination and inequality and support affiliated organisations in the fight against hate crimes. Challenging racism in the workplace is part of UNISON’s core work on race equality, using the collective power of our union to tackle discrimination. We take a collective regional approach by bringing together Black members in the region and empowering members through the South East Regional Black Members committee.
The UNISON South East Regional Black members committee will continue to fight against racism and we will also be working to plan and mark 22nd April each year in remembrance of Stephen Lawrence.