Alex Wheatle: A hope I feel in spite of so many wrongs

The recent intolerance displayed by the public towards racial abuse is encouraging

Share
Related Topics

Stephen Lawrence's family have had to wait almost 20 years for justice. With the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for his murder, I pray that they can find solace and closure for their deep-felt loss. I also hope that they can open their eyes once their tears are dry and dare to believe in a British judiciary and police force viewed at best with suspicion and at worst as outright racist by many ethnic minorities living here.

Those views are understandable. The fact that not one police officer has ever been convicted of a black death in police custody or supervision lays bare a raw mistrust that many black people have of the Metropolitan Police. Concrete ceilings still have to be pickaxed through to achieve racial equality in many areas of our society.

The Liberal Democrats, one half of our Coalition, have no black or Asian member of Parliament, yet they expect the electorate to take them seriously when they campaign for proportional representation. I fear that there are people in positions of real influence and power in this country who hold racist views but choose to remain silent.

A look at the history of post-war Britain shows the part racism has played in it. Fifty or so years ago, racists were not too shy in expressing their opinions. In 1958 there was an increase in violent attacks on black people in London. Unable to depend on the police for protection, black men armed themselves to defend themselves and their womenfolk. Racist attacks continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Black and Asian people still wondered when their lives and security would be viewed by those in power as just as important as white lives. In the mid-1980s we witnessed the black footballer John Barnes kicking a banana off a football field.

So we came to that fateful night of 22 April, 1993 in Eltham, south-east London. And in declaring the Met Police institutionally racist, Sir William Macpherson only confirmed what many of us had thought for decades. We still have some distance to travel to achieve racial equality, but I am encouraged by the recent intolerance displayed by the public towards racial abuse. I am also heartened by my children and other children willingly interacting with every other race and creed. Different shades of skin has no more significance to the vast majority of the new generation than the colours my daughter's friends paint their nails.

With the conviction of Dobson and Norris, we can at last begin to believe that we will one day be seen as equal by the institutions of this land. As Sam Cooke sang: "It's been a long, a long time coming. But I really believe a change is gonna come."

Alex Wheatle's novels include 'Brixton Rock', 'The Dirty South', and, most recently, 'Brenton Brown'

* Stephen Lawrence: How the case breakthrough came
* A shrunken family: The first journalist to interview the Lawrences recalls the scene
* The science that helped convict Gary Dobson

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone