Lady Lawrence, who has become a key figure in the fight for racial equality and cohesion since her son’s death in 1993, said the 258-page report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (Cred), which found that the UK “no longer” had a system rigged against minorities, had set back the battle against racism by 20 years.
The Cred findings, which follow an investigation launched in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, has attracted widespread criticism for its core conclusions, including the suggestion that factors such as social class and family structure are more significant than racial discrimination in affecting the life chances of minority ethnic communities.
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Speaking at an event at Leicester’s De Montfort University shortly after report was released on Wednesday, Lady Lawrence described her incredulity at its depiction of the state of racial prejudice in Britain and warned it would undermine progress made since her son’s killing. Two members of a white gang who attacked the A-level student and a friend, in Eltham, south London, were jailed in 2012 for Stephen’s murder.
A 1998 public inquiry, headed by Sir William Macpherson, examined the original Metropolitan Police Service investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder and concluded that the force was institutionally racist.
In comments first reported by The Guardian, Lady Lawrence said: “My son was murdered because of racism and you cannot forget that. Once you start covering it up it is giving the green light to racists.
“When I first heard about the report my first thought was it has pushed [the battle against] racism back 20 years or more.”
She added: “They are denying that the likes of my son were murdered through racism and the fact that it took 18 years to get justice for him. The report is denying all those issues.”
The unequivocal criticism of the commission from such a high-profile figure represents a fresh blow to the credibility of the report. The commission’s chairman Tony Sewell was forced to deny claims on Thursday that it had glorified slavery by claiming there was a “new story” to be told about the slave trade in which Britain participated before slavery was abolished.
Lady Lawrence said the authors of the report had failed to grasp the realities of life lived by young people from ethnic minorities.
Warning that the report denied the concerns raised by the Black Lives Matter protests, she said: “So those who sit behind this report [claiming] that racism doesn’t exist or it no longer exists need to speak to the young boys who are stopped and searched constantly on the street. They need to speak to those young people. They [the report authors] are not in touch with reality basically.”