We all know from our Irish history lessons that we haven’t had an easy time as a ‘race’. The ‘Paddy’ race that is. The scumbag who attacked Una Kavanagh (they called me a Chink and spat at me…) in broad daylight isn’t just a ‘racist’, he’s a hypocrite too. Those signs in London pubs saying ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ actually existed in my lifetime and I’m not that old. We don’t like to hear about how our ancestors, uncles, fathers and mothers were discriminated against as recently as the early 80′s do we? No. So let’s not be hypocrites.
Unfortunately Una’s story is not unique. There are many like it. It might not be current (that particular incident occurred back in May), but I reference the story here because I know this type of thing will not simply disappear until we address it as a society. I also mentioned this story because someone close to me quite recently suffered similar abuse and, the sad part is, she’s used to it.
I happen to be married to a very beautiful woman. A woman who lived in Ireland almost her entire life. This woman was born in Scotland but, if you ask me, she’s “more Irish, than the Irish themselves”. You only need to hear her scream at the TV, deriding the performance of the national soccer team and cheering on the rugby team, to realise that. Anyway, my wife’s parents are both from Hong Kong, so, in most people’s minds, she is Chinese. She has a British passport and an Irish marriage license (we’re working on the Irish Citizenship but it’s actually very tricky and expensive!) but none of that matters. The scumbags who passed her in the street in Dublin city a couple of months back, intimidating her and asking her if she could rustle up a curry, saw her as Chinese.
As I said, she’s used to it. It wasn’t the first time it happened, nor,sadly, will it be the last. It’s not fair to say it’s an inner city problem or even a Dublin problem. Scummers (a jolly colloquialism for scumbags) nationwide share this racist attribute. The scumbags in my wife’s home town of Lucan who threw Big-Macs at her and her sisters about 3 years ago were equally as intimidating and misguidedly angry. My wife and her sisters were merely entering their local ‘Golden Arches’ and they were publicly humiliated. Further back still, as kids (I won’t say how much further lest I reveal her age) they were abused in a similar manner in SuperMacs in Tullamore.
Consider this, however, if you will: when my beautiful wife and my beautiful (ridiculously good looking) self have beautiful children, will they be Chinese or Irish? I can tell you now, my kids will be Irish until the day I die (after which they can choose whatever they prefer – who knows? Maybe there will be mutants by then). They won’t be ‘half casts’ that’s for damn sure. What does that even mean? Half a race? I don’t get that one at all.
Every kid who is bullied in school or online (or in the workplace for us big kids) will know that bullies will search for anything that is different about their victim, to fuel their taunts and to garnish support from the other, more passive bullies. With that in mind, I propose that there is no such thing as racism. There, I said it, and I’ll say it again: there is no such thing as racism! There are just people who are cowardly, bigoted, sexist, size-ist, ageist, xenophobic, homophobic, assholes… you get the picture. People assume that most of the hatred in the world today is based on differences in race, culture or religious dogma. In fact, economic inequality has caused a lot more conflict than racial or religious differences.
There is only one human race. It may be a pretty flawed one, but it’s all we’ve got, so, let’s run with it. We are not divided into different sub-races. That notion is outdated and no longer relevant in this modern world where most people are free to roam across borders and continents to seek good fortune and eventually settle down with a good man/woman (whose family may have made a similar journey themselves at some stage in history). Sure, there are different ethnicities, cultures, class systems and religious beliefs – in other words, we’re all different. Big deal, get over it. We humans are still just animals but we can’t continue to classify ourselves in neat little ‘pigeon holes’ in the same way we do with the rest of the animal kingdom. There are 339 breeds of dog (depending on how strictly you interpret the word breed) for example, but it would get very confusing if we tried to classify humans in as detailed a manner.
While all dogs are genetically very similar, natural selection and selective breeding have reinforced certain characteristics in certain populations of dogs, giving rise to dog types and dog breeds. Dog types are broad categories based on function, genetics, or characteristics.
Race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, or social affiliation. First used to denote national affiliations, the term began to be used to relate to physical traits in the 17th century and promoted hierarchies favorable to differing ethnic groups.
My notion that racism doesn’t exist and that there is only misguided hatred and fear of those different to us might sound naive. However, there is a stigma attached to the term ‘racist’ and there is a huge stigma attached to the various words deemed to be horribly racist. If we removed the term from our vocabulary we could address the real issues, and I’m sure we would learn that the anger/hatred most ‘racists’ display has little to do with race. We would also disarm the media of the weapon they’ve used to prod society for decades now. Racism sells. That’s the truth of the matter and the media know it (case in point: Zimmerman and the Media).
Another case in point is the Luis Suarez incident in the FA, Premier League. Suarez was disciplined by the FA for using language related to race or ethnicity (or something to that effect). The papers didn’t care about the actual charge the FA made, as far as they were concerned they could print the word ‘racist’ along with the word ‘ban’ and whatever they printed below the headlines wouldn’t matter because they’d sell a shit load of papers. Now, I’m a Liverpool FC fan (and next season is our season) so clearly I’m biased here, but, as far as I see it, what Suarez did was wrong but not necessarily racist. He definitely did everything he could to get under his opponents skin and he sank to a really low level to do so. He was certainly lacking in sportsmanship (to put it mildly) but one mustn’t deduce that he hates all black people. His grandfather was black after all.
What I really don’t get, however, is the fact that some people appear to be immune to racism. For instance, Black people can drop the ‘N-Bomb’ any time they want because it’s “their word”. How does that make sense? If a word is taboo, it’s taboo for everyone. It can’t be taboo for me and not for you. If that were the case, then it would be perfectly acceptable for ladies to say the word ‘cu*t’ – but it’s not is it (Irish Ladybits)? I know a lot of Chinese people who freely refer to themselves and other Chinese as ‘Chink’ but I guess that particular racial term isn’t taboo, but should it be? Isn’t the fact that it isn’t taboo a little bit racist in itself?
White people are particularly over cautious when it comes to racism, which has smothered open and honest discussion on the matter. My guess is that this caution is due to to the historical abuse of a number of ‘races’ by the predominantly white colonists of yore. This notion has got to stop though, particularly in Ireland. Firstly, because its ancient history; secondly, because those of Asian and African descent are equally as racist as us; and thirdly (and here is where I try to reign my rambling in and return to the specific topic I started with) because we were colonised ourselves, by white people just like us. If ever there was an example to prove that oppression has more to do with economics than race or religion then we are it.
Things were different when I was growing up back in the 80′s but not necessarily better. The first time I actually spoke with a ‘black’ person, I was repeating my Leaving Certificate. Does that make me a racist? No, I hope not. There just weren’t any black guys around when and where I grew up. It may be time to stop reminiscing about the Celtic Tiger but it happened and people other than the Irish noticed. Some of the people who noticed were from different cultures or of different ethnicity. They looked at Ireland and they thought, ‘there’s a great place to go and make a better life for me and my family’. People used to say that about America. We should be proud of that. We should be welcoming these people in with open arms and teaching them to River Dance over a few pints of Guinness. The days when we considered Phill Lynott or Paul McGrath to be the only black guys in Ireland are dead and gone. They’re “with O’Leary in the grave”. So get over it and get over yourselves. Ireland is a multi cultural society now and if we get it right (where many before have failed) it could be a wonderful utopia. The Republic was founded on a very progressive and inclusive set of ideals, where all men (and women) were to be treated equally. Because of this, our history of emigration and discrimination, and our fondness for describing ourselves as being friendly and welcoming, if you’re Irish you owe it to yourself, and to others, to not be a hypocrite and to not stand idly by when those around you tarnish our good reputation.