We watched in horror and disgust as George Floyd pleaded for his life gasping for breath, saying “I can’t breathe” while a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and back.
We watch the injustices carried out in another country and think, thankfully, that couldn’t happen here?
The scenes we see in America are the result of a history of justice denied to black people and other ethnic minorities, a history of inequalities ignored, a history of state oppression and institutional racism.
We go on social media and comfort ourselves by retweeting #BlackLives-Matter posts and then, as in all previous times where we have been confronted with the appalling impact of racism, we recoil and turn away.
That is white privilege, we turn away because we can, we do not have to endure the relentless judgements and fear, that members of black and ethnic groups experience.
We do not have to explain to our children why so many of the population treats them with suspicion and does not want to live next door to them or views their culture as inferior (ESRI/IHREC, 2018, Attitudes to Diversity).
However, Ireland is not immune to the injustices we see on our TV screens.
The direct provision system is nothing more than the forced incarceration of adults and children, who fled trauma or persecution only to be greeted, not by care and kindness, but by a system which treats them like criminals and denies their human dignity on a daily basis.
Irish Travellers have been marginalised and neglected for decades, many still forced to live in inadequate accommodation or overcrowded halting sites, some still with no access to water or sanitation, while migrant workers are abused and blamed for our government’s failures in housing and workers’ rights.
We cannot continue to turn away. If we want to live in a safe and fair society, we must stand together against racism and inequality in all its forms.
We need to challenge those who stir up hate and division, including right-wing populist figures such as Donald Trump and those politicians closer to home here in Ireland who espouse a similar reactionary philosophy.
We also need to challenge the stereotypes, the policies and practices of state agencies and elements of the mass media that continue to ignore people’s fundamental human rights.
Now is the time to be united against racism.