On Saturday 22 April, we will mark the 30th anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. Each anniversary marks a year of life denied to Stephen, who was only 18 when he died.
Our hearts go out to his parents, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Neville Lawrence for whom this day, thirty years ago, was the start of their courageous battle for justice. They took on not only Stephen’s murderers, but the police force that failed Stephen at every turn.
UNISON was proud to stand with Stephen’s parents from the very start, offering whatever support we could. Our commitment remains to this day.
This year, UNISON will be giving Doreen and Neville Lawrence honorary life membership as a mark of respect for their enormous contributions to fight racism across UK society. The honour will be ours.
By challenging the racism that led to Stephen’s death, Doreen and Neville Lawrence challenged an entire society to change and transform itself. We have all benefited from their work. But we still see, across the world, that the lives of Black people are not valued.
UNISON pays tribute to the work of the Lawrence family through our commitment to fighting racism in workplaces and institutional barriers in the workplace, in society and in the trade union movement. In doing so, I am well aware that this fight is not over.
Only a few years ago the government announced that ‘institutional racism’ didn’t exist, only for us all to witness the stark reality of racism laid bare in the pandemic.
We saw its impact on Black workers on the pandemic frontline and we saw its effect on communities already ravaged by deprivation and inequality. And now, the public and politicians are becoming more aware of how much work still remains to be done to tackle institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia in our police forces.
In Stephen’s terrible death, and the justice and help denied to him, we saw the deadliest form that racism can take. But racism can worsen lives by a thousand small cuts, impoverishing lives and life chances.
As UNISON general secretary, I will always ensure that tackling racism in all its forms remains at the core of our work.