By Harmit Athwal (open Democracy)
The convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris will be bitter-sweet vindication for the family of Stephen Lawrence who have fought an 18-year campaign for justice.
Stephen Lawrence was a young black student stabbed to death in an unprovoked racist attack by five or six white youths in south London in April 1993. That his murderers have gone unpunished for so long, and that three or four still remain free, was not for lack of evidence but due to a police investigation hobbled by institutional racism and corruption.
What makes the Lawrence case extraordinary is not that these things happened, but that his family fought such a skilful, effective and courageous campaign with such stamina that some kind of justice had to be done.
No family has campaigned as this one – taking their own evidence to the police, bringing a private prosecution against the alleged killers, demanding and getting a public inquiry which culminated in landmark changes to the law and the redefining of racial incidents.
And yet, despite all their efforts, the hideous fact is that since Stephen Lawrence’s death, at least ninety-six people have lost their lives to racial violence — an average of five per year.
For politicians the issue has been dealt with in the Macpherson Report of 1999, which accused the police of “pernicious and persistent institutionalised racism” in its handling of the case.
Our research shows that the main political parties are in denial about the extent and severity of racial violence, and interested in rightwing extremism only when it challenges them electorally. And yet it is the policies and pronouncements of mainstream politicians, on a range of issues from terrorism and foreign wars to cohesion, criminality and immigration, which create the insidious popular racism in which such violence foments.
The sad fact is that such murders hardly make news. The names of victims will barely be known to any but their immediate families.
The IRR, which records all deaths with a (known or suspected) racial element has found that since Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993 at least ninety-six people have died in such attacks.
At least forty of the deaths were as a result of random acts of violence, many being the result of unprovoked attacks which took place on the street.
The victims were overwhelmingly young men under the age of 30; there were twenty-one deaths of young people aged 20 and under. Of these, five deaths took place in unprovoked attacks similar to that on Stephen: Zardasht Draey, Anthony Walker, Christopher Alaneme, Ahmed Hassan, Mohammed al-Majed. There were thirty deaths of those aged 21 to 30.
There were fourteen deaths of those aged 31-40, eighteen deaths of those aged 41-50; seven deaths of those aged 51-60 and six deaths of those aged 61+.
At least ten of those who died were refugees or asylum seekers.
Five migrant workers have been killed and all between 2005 and 2012.
Those working in the night-time and service economies are particularly at risk with five taxi drivers killed in recent years; six restaurant workers or owners killed at work and four shop workers or owners killed at work.
There have been nine deaths in Scotland, six in Wales, two in Northern Ireland and the remainder in England.
Four deaths were of white British citizens and all the others were from BME communities or migrant workers.
We remember all those that have died since Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and list their names here:
1993: Saied Ahmed and Ali Ibrahim. 1994: Shamsuddin Mahmood, Donna O’Dwyer and Mohan Singh Kullar. 1995: Mushtaq Hussain. 1996: Daniel Blake and John Reid, 1997: Michael Menson and Lahkvinder ‘Ricky’ Reel. 1998: James Tossell, Akofa Hodasi, Remi Surage, Surjit Singh Chhokar and Farhan Mire. 1999: Jay Abatan, Stelios Economou, Harold (aka Errol) McGowan, Liaquat (aka Bobby) Ali, Joseph Alcendor, Ben Kamanalagi, Hassan Musa, Zardasht Draey and Jason McGowan. 2000: Zahid Mubarek, Santokh ‘Peter’ Singh Sandhu, Komra Divakaren, Jan Marthin Pasalbessi, Glynne Agard, Mohammed Asghar, Abdi Dorre, Tariq Javed, Khaliur Rahman and Sarfraz Khan. 2001: Gian Singh Nagra, Fetah Marku, Shiblu Rahman, Sharon Bubb, Firsat Dag and Ross Parker. 2002: Frankie Kyriacou, Peiman Bahmani, Shah Wahab, Derrick Shaw and Israr Hussain. 2003: Mohammed Isa Hasan Ali, Unnamed Asian man, Paul Rosenberg, Johnny Delaney, Awais Alam and Quadir Ahmed. 2004: Kriss Donald, Shahid Aziz, Akberali Tayabali Mohamedally, Brij Brushan Sharma, Bapishankar Kathirgamanathan and Kalan Kawa Karim. 2005: Deraye Lewis, Mi Gao Huang Chen, Mugilan Sutherman, Kamal Raza Butt, Anthony Walker, Rushi Kamdar and Isiah Young-Sam. 2006: Lee Phipps, Christopher Alaneme, Khizar Hyat, Hamidullah Hamidi, Mohammed Pervaiz, Changez Arif, Shezan Umarji, Wei Wang, Syed Sorafot Ali and Meshack Brown. 2007: Enayit Khalili, Tarsen Nahar, Marion Moran, Adam Michalski, Gregory Fernandes, Ahmed Hassan and Asaf Mahmood Ahmed. 2008: Hamida Begum, Alana Mian, Nilanthan Moorthy and Mohammed al-Majed. 2009: Syden Pearson, Kunal Mohanty, Marek Muszynski and Ekram Haque.2010: Papa Mbaye Mody (aka Alioune Cisse), Mohammed Idris Mirza, Marcin Bilaszewski, Nachhattar Singh Bola and Simon San. 2011: Mahesh Wickramasingha and Anuj Bidve.
Recent reports from the IRR’s long-running examination of racially motivated violence include: Racial violence: the buried issue (June 2010); The new geographies of racism: Plymouth (June 2011); The new geographies of racism: Stoke (November 2011). You can read the IRR’s research on Deaths with a (known or suspected) racial element from 2000 onwards and Deaths with a (known or suspected) racial element from 1991-1999.
The IRR considers that the identification of racially motivated murders and attacks must depend on an objective evaluation of the whole context in which the murder or attack takes place and not just on the skin colour or ethnicity of the alleged perpetrator(s) or victim. In particular, the IRR would regard a murder or attack as racially motivated if the evidence indicates that someone of a different ethnicity, in the same place and similar circumstances, would not have been attacked in the same way. Subject to the above, a formal legal finding or allegation of racial motivation would be taken as prima facie (but not definitive) evidence that a murder or attack was racially motivated.
Harmit Athwal Researcher at Institute of Race Relations