Benjamin Zephaniah

(15 April 1958 / Birmingham)

What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us


We know who the killers are,
We have watched them strut before us
As proud as sick Mussolinis',
We have watched them strut before us
Compassionless and arrogant,
They paraded before us,
Like angels of death
Protected by the law.

It is now an open secret
Black people do not have
Chips on their shoulders,
They just have injustice on their backs
And justice on their minds,
And now we know that the road to liberty
Is as long as the road from slavery.

The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us to love each other
And never to take the tedious task
Of waiting for a bus for granted.
Watching his parents watching the cover-up
Begs the question
What are the trading standards here?
Why are we paying for a police force
That will not work for us?

The death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us
That we cannot let the illusion of freedom
Endow us with a false sense of security as we walk the streets,
The whole world can now watch
The academics and the super cops
Struggling to define institutionalised racism
As we continue to die in custody
As we continue emptying our pockets on the pavements,
And we continue to ask ourselves
Why is it so official
That black people are so often killed
Without killers?

We are not talking about war or revenge
We are not talking about hypothetics or possibilities,
We are talking about where we are now
We are talking about how we live now
In dis state
Under dis flag, (God Save the Queen),
And God save all those black children who want to grow up
And God save all the brothers and sisters
Who like raving,
Because the death of Stephen Lawrence
Has taught us that racism is easy when
You have friends in high places.
And friends in high places
Have no use whatsoever
When they are not your friends.

Dear Mr Condon,
Pop out of Teletubby land,
And visit reality,
Come to an honest place
And get some advice from your neighbours,
Be enlightened by our community,
Neglect your well-paid ignorance
Because
We know who the killers are.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Irene Henning (5/15/2013 9:31:00 AM)

    Just found out about this poem when we discussed Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts in my writing group last night. That describes how evil happens while ordinary life goes on all round us. Zephaniah makes the same point very strongly when he says not to take for granted the tedious task of waiting for a bus. Good piece and like the previous person commenting on this, there are times when I am embarrassed to be white. (Report) Reply

  • Jetty J Newnham (11/13/2012 5:40:00 PM)

    At last 2 racist have been convicted for this racist crime. Evidence that the police are full of racism appears daily, as Frank Zappa said on trouble every day I know I'm not black, but some days I wish I wasn't white. I'm english working-class, I hear racist comments every day, I have scars for standing up to racism! I wont stop. (Report) Reply

  • Sam Jack (1/17/2012 3:37:00 PM)

    Here's a recent video of Benjamin Zephaniah reciting this piece

    http: //www.youtube.com/watch? v=Awns1EIUweA (Report) Reply

  • Loclann O'grady (1/9/2012 12:43:00 PM)

    Professor Benjamin Zephaniah is professor of Poetry at Brunel University and was a candidate for the same position at Oxford.

    I've never heard of Andrew James.

    I don't think I will pay any attention to the views of illiterate dunderheads... (Report) Reply

  • Andrew James (9/29/2008 2:51:00 AM)

    drivel... evidence that english culture is falling into a cesspool of illiterate dunderheads... zephaniah's ouvre is empty headed drivel... he has little to say other than preachy diatribes imparted with trivial insights slapped together for mass consumption and appeal... most children write better poetry than this garbage..

    sadly i agree with his politics... but that only makes everything he has to say that much more insipid, unoriginal and quite ordinary... (Report) Reply

  • Apple Tango (2/15/2005 2:41:00 PM)

    yes racism is still alive but hopefully poems like this will help stamp it out. (Report) Reply

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