Chapter 2 Summary
Reni Eddo-Lodge begins this chapter on “The System” with the case of Stephen Lawrence, an eighteen-year-old Black man who bled to death in April 1993 after being attacked and stabbed by a gang of young White men. Although two people were charged, these charges were dropped by July 1993 and again a year later, when both the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service stated that the evidence provided by Stephen’s friend Duwayne was insufficient. When Stephen’s family launched a private prosecution, a judge once again stated that there was insufficient evidence.
In 1997, in response to a complaint from the Lawrence family, police conduct related to Stephen’s case was investigated by Kent Police. The report found that the police handling of Stephen’s death was “seriously flawed.” The Metropolitan Police Commissioner acknowledged that they “had not done enough to combat racist crime” but refused to admit that the police service was “institutionally racist.”
In 1999, a judicial inquiry into Stephen’s death declared that the police investigation had been “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers.”
Finally, in January 2012, two of the five men suspected in the case were found guilty and received life sentences for Stephen’s murder. The Lawrence case “stretched out alongside the timeline of [the author’s] childhood.” Like many other people of color in Britain, watching the case unfold eroded Eddo-Lodge’s sense of trust in police and in the system.
The main obstacle in combating racism is that racism is often defined as “the easily condemnable activity of white extremists and white nationalism.” Racism is considered to be “about moral values.” This kind of thinking allows people to miss spotting racism where it exists and doesn’t answer the question of why racism flourishes in places that White nationalism doesn’t.
In reality, racism “isn’t about good and bad people.” Instead of being about morals, it is about “the survival strategy of systemic power.” Structural racism—a term that captures the “big picture” of racism beyond traditional institutions—is much more difficult to pinpoint than the racism of White extremists.
Research, Eddo-Lodge claims, demonstrates that “racism is weaved into the fabric of our world.” This reality demands “a collective redefinition of what it means to be racist, how racism manifests, and what we must do to end it.”
Eddo-Lodge demonstrates the reality of structural racism by following a fictional Black man from childhood to adulthood, marking each point of his life where he will, statistically, face obstacles because of his race. From his academic experience to his career to his physical and mental health, “our black man’s life chances are hindered and warped at every stage”—not necessarily by evil individuals, but by “a society that is structurally racist.”
Despite the “swathes of evidence to suggest that your life chances are obstructed or slowed down if you are born black in Britain,” there is resistance to any attempts to “level the playing ground.” Positive discrimination—attempts to balance out workplaces through quotas, for example—are denounced as unfair.
An example of positive discrimination is a guideline adopted by the American National Football League in 2002. Dubbed “the Rooney rule,” the guideline stipulated that when senior coaching or operation positions were available, teams must interview at least one visible minority. Unlike a quota, the rule did not force any team to hire a visible minority. Although the rule was “incredibly tame,” its implementation saw increasing numbers of Black and Latino coaches in the league.
Noting the success of the Rooney rule over a period of ten years, some began to propose the idea in British football. The very idea of it “sent the nation into a spin,” sparking debate...
(The entire section is 1,079 words.)