The George Floyd video crashed through any delusion that racism doesn’t exists. A subdued and incapacitated suspect; a knee pushed down on his neck as he pleaded for breath; passersby screaming for his life as it ebbed away; officer Derek Chauvin blithely ignoring it all, sure that he’d face no consequences for his actions; a fellow officer standing guard to prevent anyone coming to Floyd’s rescue.
Not many people can believe this could happen to them. That an officer of the law could be so callous, so unconcerned about a life. That’s why, this time, there have been unprecedented numbers of white people declaring their allegiance to the antiracism cause.
Here in Ireland we have seen marches in support of Black Lives Matter which has been encouraging but we cannot be complacent about racism. It is not just present in the USA or elsewhere in the world . It is right here too in Ireland.
The March in Dublin saw placards held in the air with messages such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘White Silence is Violence.’Lucky Khambule, co-ordination of MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland said racism was very much present in Ireland in the form of many kinds of discrimination and abuse. He claimed the Direct Provision system in Ireland “put the knee on the necks” of the people who were forced to share cramped accommodation with people from different countries which violated their rights to privacy.
The Irish press reported a 16-year-old girl who was born in Ireland to West African parents telling the crowd she lives in fear of being teased, taunted and verbally abused on the streets of Dublin because she is black. Reeta Wilson, who grew up in an African American family in Chicago, told the crowd several stories of day-to-day racism she and her family experienced, including how her mother was terrified when the family were stopped by the police in a white neighbourhood while driving home from shopping. Their car was searched and they were told burglars in the area matched their description.
Diversity & Inclusion is on the agenda in many organisations now in Ireland, but this is where leadership really counts: the day-to-day decisions, at the most senior levels, that affect black lives. To make lasting change, we ultimately have to get off the streets and into the rooms where these decisions are made. The Irish Centre for Diversity is here to support you in understanding all diversity strands- let us not forget racism.
By Pam Brown