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Doreen Lawrence as Baroness: Backhand Compliments and Disingenuous Hoodwinking

01/08/2013 11:39 BST | Updated 30/09/2013 10:12 BST
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So Doreen Lawrence is to be made a Baroness? As I write this I notice that the news hasn't been covered in the broadsheets so I am stating a caveat now, that I am still going to discuss this even though it may turn out to be a spurious sound bite. After all there has been no official announcement either by the Labour party among whom she would sit.

Is Doreen Lawrence really to be made a Baroness? And if so, is this the recompense the government gives her for the murder of her son, the break-down of her marriage, and the emotional devastation of her surviving children? Of course these are the traumas that we know of, there are likely countless we can't know.

One of the duties of the second chamber is to help to make law, and in this capacity Doreen Lawrence may well be able to bring a perspective that is more realistic than the predominantly male, white, public-school educated peers that currently sit in the upper House. The cynic in me doesn't want to ask whether as a woman, and a Black woman, her voice will be heard. In situations like these, the argument is often that it is better to change things from within. So I sincerely hope that this isn't a token appointment, but a role that will allow her to legitimately voice her position as she has continued to do for two decades.

My core gripe however is with this, admittedly, unattributed quote from the ES' article:

Doreen Lawrence is a quietly spoken and humble woman, but one who never gives up. For her to grace the benches of the House of Lords will be wonderful. It really shows how we have moved on and progressed as a nation. It also sends a message to every mother and campaigner, never give up.

I object to this paragraph for several reasons. The first is the tacit agreement that only with mild manners and humility can anyone be taken seriously in Britain particularly when seeking legal redress. Having your son murdered; living with the knowledge that the executive branch of the government is complicit in his racist murder; it taking nineteen years for any form of justice to be served - why must any of this demand humility?

The sentence that most rankles though is the one that suggests that her acceptance into the House of Lords will show how "we have moved on and progressed as a nation." Who is this we to which this anonymous speaker refers? I can't imagine it's the Lawrences, or the many men in the Black community who are randomly stopped and searched each year, Stephen's brother Stuart included. What progress has the UK made when only a month ago there were allegations of a smear campaign against this very family the police neglected to protect?

This is what I want to say in response to this faceless spokesman: Don't you dare speak, from the comfort of concealment, about what I may feel as a mother. It isn't because Doreen Lawrence is a mother that she has sought justice. It is because Doreen Lawrence is a human being with a strong sense of her rights as a citizen. Don't make this a gender issue as if mothers are unusual or unheard of, or as if campaigners are somehow unaware of the often thankless and long endurance battles they have to wage to be heard. Don't devalue her contribution into a "campaign" so that Stephen's humanity disappears.

I congratulate Mrs Lawrence her dogged determination, I applaud her courage, and I am sad for her loss. As for her nomination, I can't say that I feel better for it. I suspect that this is the establishment co-opting her into their folds, to silence her from exposing any more of their crimes. Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist or anything...