Last Monday we entered into Phase Two of the easing of lockdown restrictions in Ireland. Everyone was thrilled to see the government’s plan has been accelerated since the number of new Covid19 cases has reached nearly zero. As of June 8th, we are permitted to travel wherever we like as long as we stay within the county of residence. Previously we could only travel 5 km. With all of this in mind, my daughter and I made the decision to travel 50 km to the city so we could attend a BLM protest.
At this stage we are only supposed to gather in groups of 6 people or less. My family has strictly followed the lockdown rules so I was hesitant to break this one. I’ve even expressed concern about the lack of social distancing at our local weekly market since it reopened. It’s been very busy the last 3 Fridays and no one wears masks to it. With this in mind, I couldn’t see how the protest would be much different. Rather than shopping, we’d be highlighting injustice in Ireland, as well as standing in solidarity with those protesting in America about George Floyd’s murder. Everyone at the protest had their faces covered and tried not to stand close to each other. Some people will still criticize protesters for being irresponsible, but I couldn’t stay home in good conscience for this occasion.
It was very emotional. From where we were standing at the back, it was hard to hear all of the speeches, but what we could understand was powerful. We chanted and listened to testimonials for 2 hours. At one stage we took a knee in silence for 8 minutes 46 seconds. Most of the people in the crowd were college students. I was inspired by their youthful idealism and hope their generation will bring about lasting change. There was a real sense of unity and a commitment to creating a more equal and just society.
There were only 2 negative experiences. First a man walked past us and loudly commented, “What about all of the Irish homeless people? The forgotten generation…” Later a blonde woman glared at us while passing. “ALL LIVES MATTER!” she shouted. Then she snapped at the man walking beside her, “I won’t be quiet. I have a right to speak!” The press also reported a few random disrupters, including a man wearing a shirt saying that abortion is wrong. I do wonder how some people can confuse all of these issues. Can we not tackle homelessness as well as racism in this country?
I’ve seen many comments on social media recently claiming that Ireland doesn’t have a problem with racism, which simply isn’t true. Some people are objecting to protests here because they think the problem exists thousands of miles away. Police brutality may not be a problem, but Ireland ranks as one of the highest countries in Europe for hate crimes. For further reading check out Facing Facts.
My daughter and I were also protesting Direct Provision and would like to see it abolished. Holly Cairns, TD has put together a list of resources and information for anyone wishing to learn more about DP. Click here to hear from some of the people directly affected by living in this system for asylum seekers.
Unfortunately some individuals used an incident which happened in Carrigaline, Cork last weekend to undermine the BLM movement and associated Irish protests. Last Saturday a gang of teenagers attacked a 17 year old and stabbed him with a broken bottle. The whole thing was filmed and posted on social media, much to the public’s outrage. Thankfully the young man will recover from his serious injuries. The attack was not racially motivated, although the main perpetrator was biracial. Other boys in his gang were both black and white.
The far right (in Ireland and overseas) have tried to exploit this assault to further their white supremacist views. Over 16,ooo tweets made the hashtag #Carrigaline trend on Twitter as the video of the stabbing went viral. The majority of the tweets were posted abroad. According to the Far Right Observatory’s recent article, only 38.87% of the tweets originated in Ireland. People in the United States contributed 18.38% of the racially motivated tweets and England posted 13.52% of them.
Almost immediately after the video was posted online, it was taken up by online far right networks of white nationalists, fascists and neo-Nazis that exist purely for the purpose of converting people to their world view. They themselves describe this process of radicalisation into hate as ‘red-pilling’, which is the idea of slowly convincing people that white people cannot live in societies where large numbers of non-whites live. They seize upon any incident, particularly those where video recordings exist, that can potentially be framed as having racial motivations and push out narratives of race war.How White Nationalists tried and failed to exploit #Carrigaline
I was disgusted by the Carrigaline assault and hope that justice will be served on the minors who attacked that innocent young man. I was also disgusted last January when the decision was made not to charge teens involved in the Waterford acid attack. On that occasion several teenage boys had acid thrown on them and one happened to be Nigerian. Tega Agberhiere (then 17) sustained serious injuries which will affect the rest of his life. His mother said she didn’t believe the assault was racially motivated. I cannot remember there being the same level of outrage as what we’re currently seeing regarding the Carrigaline case. When white Irish teenagers commit a crime, the entire race doesn’t suffer as a result. In other words, not everyone is tarred with the same brush.
I find it really upsetting that the conversation changed so quickly. One moment we were trying to combat racism and highlight that black lives are in danger worldwide. Once the video went viral of 2 black youths attacking a white Irish kid, all black people were reduced to being “thugs” and worse in the eyes of some.
The politics of respectability defines the whole by the singular, where the violent or sexually rapacious actions of one black person becomes the societal Rosetta Stone to decode and explain all African Americans. In short, the vaunted individualism that conservative ideology defines as quintessential Americanism dissipates in the face of blackness.Carol Anderson- author of Respectability Will Not Save Us
It’s been a disheartening week for many reasons. Seeing thinly veiled racism on my Facebook feed has shown people’s true colors; I’ve actually started deleting contacts as a result. I’ve seen white American and British people engaging in respectability politics without realizing the harm they are doing. Reducing George Floyd’s humanity to his criminal actions decades ago… as if his past arrests and incarceration somehow made what happened to him less of a tragedy.
“The politics of respectability assumes that blacks were responsible, because of their purported criminal actions, for being lynched and disfranchised.” Carol Anderson
Ibram X. Kendi defines the concept of respectability politics as the idea that “white people could be persuaded away from their racist ideas if they saw black people improving their behavior, uplifting themselves from their low station in American society.” See Racists Don’t Care About Your Resume for further reading.
“Abolitionists urged free blacks to attend church regularly, acquire English literacy, learn math, adopt trades, avoid vice, legally marry and maintain marriages, evade lawsuits, avoid expensive delights, abstain from noisy and disorderly conduct, always act in a civil and respectable manner, and develop habits of industry, sobriety, and frugality,” Kendi writes. “If black people behaved admirably, abolitionists reasoned, they would be undermining justifications for slavery and proving that notions of their inferiority were wrong.”
In other words, be perfect to be treated half as good as white people.
Of course, the very idea itself is racist — that objectionable behavior by certain groups is the cause of racism, and that to eliminate that scourge, it’s people of color who must change.Renée Graham
One of the phrases that stuck with me at the protest on Monday was “We must remain hopeful.” I believe the young man speaking was quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. The actual quote was taken from the “I Have A Dream” speech, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963.
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Feel free to leave feedback in the comments section. Have you attended any local protests? How are you responding to the recent events? Whether taking action by donating to organisations like ACLU, reading or educating yourself about racism with books such as White Fragility or So You Want to Talk About Race, having conversations with family and friends, supporting black content creators and authors, or writing to local politicians to demand police reform, remember that what you do matters. To remain silent helps no one. We can each make a difference by examining our hearts, our biases, our privilege.
We owe it to our children to do better. We’ve simply got to do better.