Why did the Stephen Lawrence story catch the public imagination so dramatically? There are countless miscarriages of justice every year, some of them just as serious, which most people have never heard of. Lawrence stuck mainly of course because it was a racial morality tale. Indeed from that day in 1993 when the original racially motivated attack took place, right up to yesterday’s verdict, the Stephen Lawrence story has provided a kind of running commentary on the politics of race in Britain. And I would venture to say that there is something both to celebrate and to regret in that unfolding story.
One obvious thing to celebrate is how long ago 1993 now seems in attitudes to race. Already by the early 1990s Britain was becoming more relaxed about racial difference and overt racism was becoming rarer, though not as rare as it is today. But there were certain places,