Lawrence family shows us all how to behave

When the history books are written the names of Doreen Lawrence OBE, Neville Lawrence OBE and Stephen Lawrence will be writ large, along with the rest of this ordinary but amazing family, including Stephen’s brother, Stuart. It is almost unbearable to read the unbelievable way in which the Lawrence family has been treated since the tragic death of their son. The police, the politicians and the local people who knew the identities of the killers – Gary Dobson and David Norris – all worked against this grieving family. Few people can be hard enough not have a tear in their eye when they see the TV coverage of the case. Neither can most people feel anything less than revulsion for the police “spy video” exposing the killers as extreme racists, which was shown for the first time on BBC Panorama last night.

The way in which the Lawrence family has behaved against all the odds, and against hatred which the rest of us cannot even bear to imagine, has been remarkable and a lesson to all of us. The Lawrences could have been angry, they could have hit back, they could have given in. Their solid determination, their humility and their focus is something which should serve as an education to the rest of us.

Their behaviour is all the more remarkable because they live in a community where they are surrounded by people who know who the other killers are. In spite of today’s sentencing, there are at least three other men at liberty who were involved in the killing of Stephen Lawrence. And their families and friends know who they are. Those family members and friends are clearly happy to see racist thugs walk free, rather than see justice done. Yet every one of those people who should “fess up” to the police knows they are actually doing the wrong thing by staying silent.

These people are caught in the conflict between “gut feel” and logic. They know in their gut that they should report their knowledge  to the police and provide the evidence. But their logic kicks in and says “if I do that I’ll get kneecapped” (or whatever the favourite technique of South London thugs is these days).

It is a conflict which was highlighted in recent psychological research, showing we all have such thinking problems to deal with. Yet it is clearly a conflict which the Lawrence family overcame. Their gut feeling was obviously that someone should be brought to justice for killing their son; yet the logic surely must have been that with institutional racism endemic in the Metropolitan Police, there was no chance. In spite of this, the Lawrence family ignored the logic and stuck with their gut feelings – thankfully.

It is such a shame that several people who know who the other killers are do not do the same.

If online we can learn anything from this tragic and historic case, it is that if we can only be half as determined, focused and polite as the Lawrence family we can succeed in whatever our gut tells us is the right thing to do.

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