THE BROTHER of murdered teenager, Stephen Lawrence has branded the racial abuse directed at Raheem Sterling while on England duty 'absolutely disgusting'.
Stuart Lawrence, whose brother was killed in an unprovoked, racially motivated attack in south London in 1993, believes racism remains a social problem and isn't restricted to football.
Sterling and his England teammate, Danny Rose were subjected to monkey chants from Montenegro fans during England's 5-1 win in the Euro 2020 qualifier in Podgorica last week which prompted calls from the Man City star and England boss Gareth Southgate for UEFA to take a proper stance on racism.
And Lawrence, who is an Academy coach and talent ID scout for Premiership club, Brighton & Hove Albion, believes racial discrimination remains a significant problem in the UK and must be tackled at home first where, he feels, Brexit has stoked up racial tensions.
"What happened in Montenegro is absolutely disgusting but what Raheem Sterling said and what John Barnes said is right, we have to look at ourselves first." said Lawrence.
"We've got to try and educate these people. It's not just a football problem, it's a society problem," added the Londoner who was in Derry at the weekend as guest of local junior club, Foyle Harps.
"We really need to try as a society to accept people as people and not focus on the most obvious things like gender, sexual orientation or colour - those things aren't important. People are just people and we need to let everyone be the people they want to be."
England legend, John Barnes has spoken publicly about how racism in football is reflective of wider society and Lawrence believes the ex-Liverpool man has hit the nail on the head.
"I think John Barnes is more on the right page about it all. You can't just say, 'oh it's all football and it doesn't happen anywhere else'. It happens in society, in everyday life. If we tackle that problem then it will feed into football.
"Football can be a platform to fight against it but we have to make sure as a society we treat everyone fairly and everyone is welcome and there's no tension between people because of their race or gender, People are people, just treat everyone the same.
"Brexit has definitely ramped it all up a bit. This place we live in, we don't own it. No-one owns the world. Everyone is quite protective, it's England, don't let 'them' in. You stay over there, we'll stay over here. It's just such a divisive way to think about life, I really do think that."
In their search for justice after Stephen Lawrence's murder, the Lawrence family were forced to fight against institutional racism in the police. Two of the group of up to six men who attacked the teenager have been convicted of murder, but the rest have evaded arrest. However, Lawrence insists his family have given up the search for justice for his brother.
"After my brother died, my mum and my dad and the family, we fought for justice and that course has now finished. We're not going to keep trying to fight for justice because there isn't anymore evidence.
"You can have the mantra that everyone is the same or say that it's an isolated incident and say people are people and we've got to try and move on from these things. I try to move on from and be as forward thinking as I possibly can and try to think about how we can make a meaningful legacy for Stephen going forward and for everyone to be the best they can possibly be."