“Just be realistic here, because this actually does happen, I’m seen as a nigger... seen as a monkey... We get called these names. That even if it’s not on a daily basis, at least once a week. I’m just saying this actually does go on and you’re not taking it seriously.”
That is the view of a black woman living in Ulster and interviewed for a report which shows many young people consulted now believe racism has become a ‘normal’ feature of their lives.
The report, based on interviews with 50 young people from 20 different ethnic backgrounds around the country, was compiled by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI). Entitled ‘Make Minority a Priority’, it will be launched today in Dublin.
Latest Census data shows that almost one in seven people aged 15 to 24 are from an ethnic minority, including Poles, Romanians, Irish-Americans, and Brazilians.
According to the report: “A key issue to emerge was the degree to which racism had become a ‘normal’ feature of young people’s lives. Remarkably, the young people presented stories which spoke of considerable resilience. In deflecting the impact of racism, they diminished it largely by shrugging it off. Nevertheless, the young people also expressed eagerness to find ways to challenge the endemic societal nature and tolerance of racism.”
One key finding in the report was that “young people felt the need to have safe and supported places in which they could discuss ... issues”.
One Asian teenager told the interviewers she was afraid to show people who she was as she was afraid they would judge her based on where she came from.
“So you’re just, like, scared of really being yourself,” she said.
The report found that some teenagers faced an internal conflict between the identity of their parents and their Irish identity.
“Young people have to negotiate being accepted by both their minority ethnic peers and their majority ethnic peers who all make differing demands or judgements,” said the report
Another finding among those interviewed was that integration was needed to build cultural understanding within the wider Irish community.
“Critical was the call for an environment in which young people could be themselves and not be expected to assimilate,” said the report.
It also found that some young people may also feel uncomfortable being singled out on the basis of their migrant or ethnic status or any requirement that they be a ‘representative’ of a particular country or culture.
Since the focus of the report is how the youth work sector can respond to the needs of those from ethnic minorities, it makes a range of recommendations, including the availability of anti-racism and intercultural training and religious literacy training with the aim of reducing Islamophobia.
It also suggests creating a minority ethnic-led youth work forum as a special interest group, and that more work should be carried out to find gaps within current youth work provision.
The NYCI said resources needed to be allocated at all levels to provide dedicated youth workers to support intercultural youth work, and it also calls for youth work funding to be opened up to ethnic-led youth work organisations “that aligns them with current youth work services”.
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