As two men are jailed for Stephen Lawrence's murder, his mother says government must do more to stamp out prejudice
Doreen Lawrence, whose 18-year campaign for justice finally saw two men jailed for the murder of her son Stephen on Tuesday, has warned that Britain is still blighted by racism.
Lawrence said in an interview with the Guardian that "thousands of families" were being denied justice by the police, 18 years after they failed to catch the killers of her son, because of "the colour of my skin".
In the interview she gave an insight into the struggle of almost two decades and said she had no choice but to pursue it because she was "just fighting" for her son. She said: "If we do see justice how many others are not? We are just one family among hundreds of thousands still suffering."
She said the plaque in south London placed in memory of her son was still subject to attack. "It is very worrying. When my name or Stephen's name is mentioned in the press the plaque gets attacked ? it is incredibly painful; what have we done?"
The interview was conducted shortly before the trial that resulted in the conviction of Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, for murdering her son in April 1993. It could not be published until now because of laws banning the publication of potentially prejudicial material. Lawrence said that when she was most in need of help from the police after her son's murder, they failed her because of her race: "All I have kept on saying is that I don't want any special treatment, just to be treated as you would want to be treated. When police dealt with me the colour of my skin made a difference."
Reflecting on her 18-year fight for justice, she said: "My only regret is that I have lost the ability to walk the streets and just be me ? I never set out to do that, I just wanted justice. Would I have done anything differently? Not really, I was just fighting for my son."
The struggle by the Lawrence family led to the Macpherson inquiry, which in 1999 blamed "institutional racism" for police errors that allowed the killers to walk free. The inquiry led to promises from the Labour government to tackle racism in Britain, not just in the police, but across all parts of society.
Lawrence said the government needed to play its part to meet a promise to tackle prejudice and discrimination: "I do feel occasionally that things are rolling back. After the inquiry there was a sense that all the institutions wanted to do the right thing, they wanted to change. But I don't hear people talking like that anymore.
"I don't know whether they believe that it's been accomplished, that racism has been eradicated, but the reality is that it hasn't. What's happened is that racism still exists but it is not so overt, that doesn't mean it is not still there and in some ways it is worse having it underground."
Lawrence added: "I've been talking about this for so long, trying to get different organisations to do something, and the government has the gift to do that.
"The inquiry gave an opportunity; there was a chance to change and things have changed but it's not gone far enough."
She added that people feel they lack the ability to do anything to fight the attitudes that blight the lives of minority ethnic Britons: "People worry that it is out of their power to do something, but it is in all of our realms to change things."
Lawrence said education was especially important: "Not enough has been done in the education system; they did not roll out proposals of the inquiry, saying that it was up to individual schools and teachers. But it shouldn't be, some things need to be imposed, nobody is holding them to account.
"After 18 years we are still struggling and we shouldn't have to."