The racist murder of the black London teenager Stephen Lawrence, the judge-led official Inquiry which has looked at the police investigation and other circumstances surrounding the case, the publication of the Macpherson Inquiry Report, and the reaction of media and politicians to these matters concerned with institutional racism in British society, have their own absolute importance. In addition, many other issues - including about related murders, about other forms of racism, about the political response to and understanding of racism, about what kind of society the United Kingdom now is ethnically speaking - are also raised by these events.
Electronic publishing media, and particularly the existence of Sociological Research Online with its capacity for the rapid publication of peer-reviewed sociological discussions of key events, facilitates a sociological response being in the forefr ont, rather than the more typical following in the wake, of social investigation and commentary on contemporary public issues. As the journal's Editor, not only can I invite you to read these 'rapid response' sociological discussions of the Stephen Lawrence case and the Macpherson Report, but I can also invite you to use the facilities provided by a 'sociology online' journal to contribute to these discussions as well.
With the publication of this issue of the journal, Sociological Research Online is pioneering the development of 'rapid response/sociology online' discussions of key events and contemporary public issues. Its Stephen Lawrence/Macpherson Report contributions have been written by leading sociologists working in the field, who are able to use the existence of Sociological Research Online to publish much more quickly and responsively that they would otherwise have been able to do. This rapid response section of the journal also provides readers with the opportunity to join the debate: email contributions can be made using the Pinboard. In addition, readers can access a range of relevant web-sites which have been hyper-linked, including the web version of the Macpherson Inquiry Report, and also use the Pinboard to publicise additional relevant web sites which are of interest.
In addition, I also invite you to visit the home page of Sociological Research Online, to look at the other material it publishes.
Ordinarily, Sociological Research Online is accessible by organisational and individual subscription, and in addition it is accessible at no cost to readers through Internet Service Provider sites such as Compuserve, AOL and MSNetwork. However, for one month full access to the 'Rapid Response/Sociology Online: The Stephen Lawrence Murder And The Macpherson Inquiry Report' section of the journal is entirely free. Please visit it, make use of its facilities, and contribute to the sociological discussion. We also hope that readers will find this material useful for teaching purposes - and if there are ways in which it could be made even more useful in this regard, please use the Pinboard facility to provide this information, which we will endeavour to use as quickly as possible.