On the evening of 22 April 1993, 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence left his uncle’s house in Plumstead, south-east London, with his friend Duwayne Brooks. As the two friends waited at a bus stop, Lawrence started crossing the road to see if the bus was coming. He didn’t make it to the other side. He was confronted by a gang of young white men around his age, who surrounded him as they approached. Lawrence was set upon, and stabbed repeatedly. Brooks fled, and Lawrence followed, running more than 100 metres before collapsing. He bled to death on the road.
A day after Lawrence’s death, a letter listing the names of the people who turned out to be the top suspects in the case was left in a telephone box near the bus stop. In the following months, that letter led to surveillance and arrests.
Two people were charged. But by the end of July 1993, all the charges against them had been dropped. The Metropolitan police had concluded that evidence from Brooks, the only witness to the crime, was not reliable.
Four years later, an inquest delivered a verdict of unlawful killing in an “unprovoked racist attack”. After an official representation to the Police Complaints Authority from Lawrence’s parents, the Kent police force was tasked with launching an investigation into the Met’s conduct, in March 1997. The result, nine months later, would find “significant weaknesses, omissions and lost opportunities” in the way the Met dealt with the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s death.
There is much evidence to show that your life chances are impeded if you are black in Britain. Between 2010-11, the Department for Education found that a black schoolboy in England was three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school, compared to the whole school population. Black school leavers were less likely to be accepted into a high-ranking Russell Group university than their white counterparts. In 2009, a study by the Department for Work and Pensions found that applications for jobs to a number of prospective employers were not treated equally: applicants with white-sounding names were called to interview far more often than those with African- or Asian-sounding names. Despite this, many insist that any attempt to level the playing field is special treatment. – The Guardian
When I was a child, growing up on a council estate in the northeast of England, I imbibed enough of the background racial tensions of the late 1970s and 1980s to feel profoundly unwelcome in Britain. My right, not just to regard myself as a British citizen, but even to be in Britain, seemed contested. Despite our mother’s careful protection, the tenor of our times seeped through the concrete walls into our home and into my mind and into my siblings’ minds. Secretly, I harboured fears that as part of the group identified by chanting neo-Nazis, hostile neighbours and even television comedians as “them” we might be sent “back”. This, in our case, presumably meant “back” to Nigeria, a country of which I had only infant memories and a land upon which my youngest siblings had never set foot. To thousands of younger black and mixed-race Britons who, thankfully, cannot remember those decades, the racism of the 1970s and 1980s and the insecurities it bred in the minds of black are difficult to imagine or relate to.
But they are powerful memories for my generation. I was eight years old when the BBC finally cancelled The Black and White Minstrel Show. I have memories of my mother rushing across our living room to change television channels (in the days before remote controls) to avoid her mixed-race children being confronted by grotesque caricatures of themselves on prime-time television. I was 17 when the last of the touring blackface minstrel shows finally disappeared, having clung on for a decade performing in fading ballrooms on the decaying piers of Britain’s seaside towns. – David Olusoga
The Brexit referendum has put a spotlight on racial divides in Britain, and has led to a marked rise in racism that is making many black Britons feel like they are no longer welcome at home. The news of this impending election has added more intensity to the Brexit fallout black Britons have been dealing with since the referendum last June. But, Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote (OBV), an organization that campaigns for racial justice in Britain, said the prime minister’s decision “was probably motivated more by Brexit EU politics more than any immediate domestic political considerations.” He added that over the next several weeks OBV would “fight for race equality and fight against xenophobia. We’ll engage in a late voter registration drive, hold hustings meetings in marginal seats, write a black political manifesto and hold a national meeting with major party leaders.”
Brexit has made many black people question their place in British society, and this pending vote may yet heighten this experience. Rikette, a popular jazz singer from Brixton, says that, “as a black Briton, Brexit has made me question just how British I am. This is something I have not had to think about before, and, due to the rise in racist abuse, this has made me feel a little more vulnerable in public spaces, especially on public transport.” Indeed, since Brexit was enacted the number of hate crimes recorded on public transit has increased. Zara Tewolde-Berhan, 24, a writer in London born to Eritrean parents, says “the message of Brexit is clear, it does not make me feel welcome.” And now with an election looming she says, “I feel like this was a rushed decision to call an election, I am so confused and uncertain about my future now, and I am worried what this will mean for black people in Britain.” As a young person who, like her age group, voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the EU, she says she fears that the economic effects of Brexit will have a disproportionate impact on black Britons.
“I feel that opportunities are now much slimmer as a Black Brit,” she says. Black and Asian graduates are twice as likely as white graduates to be unemployed. This is something Tewolde-Berhan experienced when she graduated from university and struggled to find a job. Black male graduates in London are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts; there was an unemployment rate 16 percent for black male graduates in London last year.
This is shocking considering that 44 percent of London’s 8.6 million people come from an ethnic minority. Nor is it just young black graduates that face such grim unemployment prospects. Across the board, black workers in Britain earn far less than their white counterparts with the same qualifications — at every educational level. According to research from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a confederation of unions in Britain, there is a 23 percent pay gap between black and white workers. Their research also shows that black graduates earn £14.33 an hour while white graduates earn £18.63. – National Public Radio