Doreen Lawrence has been a name in my consciousness for the best part of my life and is a woman i admire greatly. The first time I can say I re-call hearing a conversation about her son Stephen Lawrence was walking into McDonalds in Bexleyheath, Kent before school about 14 years ago and hearing two girls talking about his memorial plaque being vandalised. As the girl whose back to me said "no, the camera was a dummy" the girl opposite her, facing me kicked her under the table and nodded her head towards me. They both went quiet.
I was seven years old when Stephen was murdered in a racist attack in south east London. I lived about 20 minutes away from Eltham and 5 minutes from the BNP headquarters in Welling, Kent. Although thankfully I had never experienced racism Stephen's story always really hurt my soul and still does now. The fact is Stephen was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time because of his colour. This was and is a scary and sobering fact. It could have been me. Could have been anyone I know; a hard pill to swallow but a truth that we've all had to accept, but one thing that is very important in healing is acceptance. The main thing that I admire of Mrs Lawrence is that despite losing her beloved son, with dignity, she accepted the situation, with all the ugly and disturbing truths and failings that was brought to the surface about our great Britain and who governs us, and kept pushing on for justice in his case.
The only way we can really deal with any prejudice, be it racism, sexism or classism is to acknowledge it and call it as we see it. Not walk around it and avoid the topic but not dwell on where we were at one point and where we have been but look at where we are now with rationality and clarity. Accepting what a situation is right now means that we can avoid making decisions from an angry or emotional place that can often be irrational and regretful. Only God knows the pain Mrs Lawrence has felt throughout the past 20 years, and this recent article must barely touch the surface, but in the public forum she has been the example of strength. She has been subject to racial abuse, the Centre made in her son's name to raise aspirations of black youth in south London has had bricks thrown through the windows, his memorial plaque vandalised on a number of occasions, cases have collapsed - none of which has stopped this womans fight.
Racism is steeped in every element of our existence. We all secretly know the levels - from the existence and acknowledgement of white privelige, the racially insensitive comments we allow and often call funny as well as racial stereotyping and profiling that happens in every part of society. It's actually quite a normal and accepted part of everything and it's not right or fair. Rather than using the energy that we have as people to continue to be angry, which I find can often be a redundant use energy, we need to take a lesson from Mrs Lawrence.
Her son was killed and no mother should bury their child, fact. But by embodying dignity, strength and the ability to put her emotions aside (on the surface) she allowed a space to ensure justice for Stephen. The fact she can even stand, let alone as strong as she has done, is a lesson that with resolve, against any odds you can achieve whatever you know you deserve. She knows, as we do that Stephen Lawrence deserves justice and will get that. Partial justice, is not enough to pacify her or us.
Her son's name will always live on and so will hers, for turning her grief and devastation into the energy to ensure that anyone else who may fall victim to the fate of Stephen will too not be ignored, including supporting Trayvon Martin's parents in their grief.
Mrs Lawrence, we salute you and honour your determination. You are the example and without probably knowing it, you are teaching us many lessons on strength.