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

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager-Alcohol-OTE £90,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum + £50,000 OTE + Car, Mobile, Benefits: h2 Recruit Lt...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£23200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Consultant - Helpdesk

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continuing expansion, a ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Hughes in Durban in 2009, celebrating the first of his two centuries in the second Test against South Africa  

Sport will always be risky – we must accept that, even in the wake of the tragic death of Phillip Hughes

Rosie Millard
Rents in five regions of England and Wales are higher than 12 months ago  

Today was a bad day for renters, landlords, and democracy

Hannah Williams
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game