Suzanne Harrington: Ireland has its own problems with racism

Suzanne Harrington: Ireland has its own problems with racism

Let’s talk about racism. As a white person - even as the mother of two brown people - I am not and never will be qualified to talk about racism, so let’s hear from those who are. Let’s try to guess which country this young law graduate is talking about, and apologies in advance for the language used, but these are her tweets, verbatim:

“I moved to ________ as a six-year-old girl and I can hand on heart say I’ve experienced horrible racism in this country. I consider it my home but others don’t…because of the colour of my skin, and I’m sure many other black men and women can say the same.

“I’ve been called a nigger by grown men. Been told I’m pretty ‘for a black girl’, told to go back to my country at an International Night in [my university], been told I don’t belong here, called a dirty black cunt. Those experiences broke me at times.”

Here's another young black woman: “___________ was a scary place to grow up in. My parents bought a house in 2006 – we were the only black family on the street. Eggs would be thrown at our house regularly, neighbours would spew abuse daily….we moved after one year.”

And here’s a young black man: “Growing up in ___________ was mad, especially when you were the only black family in a crazy estate….waking up in the middle of the night because your windows had all been smashed up or your car was on fire, we really went through it, and the police did fuck all to help.”

Where are they – Trump’s America? Brexit Britain? A LePen stronghold in France? A Salvini corner of Italy? Orban’s Hungary? Nope. These are black Irish citizens. They spoke out on Twitter as we witnessed the 8 minutes 46 seconds it took a white American cop to murder George Floyd in broad daylight on camera. Our horror was visceral. That could never, ever happen here. We’re not like that.

Yes, we are. Racism is a spectrum that ranges from othering to murdering, but it’s all racism. The UN published a report last December, unambiguously titled Ireland Needs To Do More To Tackle Racism. It specifically mentioned the “cumulative discrimination and racism experienced by people of African descent, and particularly women of African descent”.

Irish racism is overt (see above), insidious (“a bit of craic”), institutional (the state racism of Direct Provision, leaving people to rot on €38.80 a week) and baked into our speech patterns (“non-nationals” is merely a politer way of saying “illegal aliens”).

There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’. There is only white privilege. “George Floyd and I were both arrested for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill,” tweeted a white Texan academic the day after the murder. “For George Floyd, a man my age with two kids, it was a death sentence. For me, it’s a story I sometimes tell at parties. That, my friends, is white privilege.”

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