Two men accused of murdering the black teenager Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago have finally been found guilty and given life sentences for their crimes.
As someone who drives past the infamous bus-stop on a regular basis (I live less than 2 miles from the murder scene and have done for over 12 years) I have to wonder what the consequences will be.
These men should have been caught 18 years ago, locals knew who they were and what they were alleged to have done but, I can only imagine that fear kept most people silent. That, and the fact that racism was widespread in Eltham during that time. I'm sure that a number of people also kept quiet because they shared similar views to the murderers. Whilst this level of racism has subsided considerably over the years I know, from first-hand experience, that it has by no means gone completely. Unfortunately disparaging remarks about the local 'wogs' and 'coloureds' - yes, believe it or not, I have heard people use that term and it still startles me - are still forthcoming and generally they are from chaps 'of a certain age'. A long time ago, I worked behind a bar in the local area and I would often try to argue against the people using these words and remarks but for a young girl in a lowly position, often I was forced to hold my tongue. I'm embarrassed for not standing my ground harder.
Soon after the memorial near the bus-stop was put in place, a security camera had to be installed to help prevent the plaque being vandalised. Eltham was very different in the 90's. It was quite a violent, racist place with much racist graffiti everywhere. I'd like to think that, whilst it's not perfect, it is a much nicer place to live now. There are a mix of ethnicities in the area and a much more integrated society. True, I still wouldn't walk around late at night on my own, but to be honest, I can't think of an area where I would do that. You could live in Richmond, Kensington or out in the countryside and you'll still find someone who wants to pick a fight with you or do you harm given the opportunity. Perhaps familiarity does cause you to see your own locality through rose-tinted specs but it also makes you notice things you don't like too.
I hope that this high-profile case doesn't have the opposite effect and actually start the racism up again. Or even cause black youths to take 'revenge' on local white youths? Is that idea so hard to believe? After the widespread riots in the summer of 2011 then nothing would surprise me anymore.
My main wish though, is that some comfort can finally be felt by Stephen's parents and friends who have battled tirelessly to receive some justice. Nothing can bring him back, but at least the thought of two of his attackers being behind bars must help ease the pain a little. But let's not forget that these men are only 2 of the attackers. Several more are still out there and, up until now, were probably feeling a teensy bit smug that they had got away with murder. Let's hope that smugness has now been wiped off their faces and they are feeling just a fraction of the fear Stephen Lawrence felt all those years ago.
- A first time mum at 39, trying not to let my son kill me off too soon. Busy juggling a new family, a new house and a tricky recording schedule I figured blogging would be less expensive than therapy and less embarrassing than shouting at rude and stupid people in the street/on trains/at the supermarket.