On Monday June 10, Danger Farm and I released my satirical short film, Racist B&B, into the world. You can watch it here. I thought it would get 5000 views and give my husband and I a sense of closure about something that happened to him, but with over 100,000 views in its first week and extensive media coverage nationwide and overseas (Hugh Muir’s Guardian article here), it seems it’s an issue people have needed to discuss.
The reaction has been an eye-opener. I now realise that the problem I was trying to highlight – that of the presence of casual racism, even where you least expect it – is a lot worse than I’d naively thought. (If you haven’t read the mighty Una Kavanagh’s blog about her own experience, please check it out here.) The often aggressive reaction to the video has also brought to light, in my own home, how little of the racism he encounters my husband actually lets me know about. He didn’t want to upset me. So I’m even more glad I made the film than when I first heard he’d had horrible, racist slurs hurled at him in my hometown (original blog here). I’ve had much support for the sketch, with many people telling me their own stories of intimidation and even physical assault. I appreciate every single message. Thank you. It does seem that the video’s got people talking about an issue which many would rather ignore. I never read YouTube comments and I won’t be feeding any trolls, but there has been an inevitable backlash – some of it pretty vile – which I’d like to address.
Let me start with those who say “it was just lads saying stuff, what’s your problem?” It was lads saying words that we all recognise as offensive. It was a group, targeting a lone individual. It was people, who’ve never met him, insulting my husband. What they said was disgusting. It shook him. It was racist. You’d respond if it were someone in your family.
To those who don’t like that I name where it happened in my blog: tough luck. I’m not going to make stuff up to make you feel comfortable. The whole point of talking about this was to let people know that if this is happening in a beautiful, safe, cosmopolitan place, then it’s happening everywhere. And the messages I’ve received since the video went up have confirmed that.
To those who’ve said I’m anti-Ireland and am saying that “Ireland is a haven for racists”: your generalisation, not mine. There does seem to be a strange resistance here to admitting there’s a problem, but in general Ireland is a brilliant place to live in or visit, with a small but vocal minority of idiots we shouldn’t tolerate. That’s what I particularly wanted to target in the video: casual racism. “I’m not racist but” racism. Complacency. If we talk about it, we can make some progress. If we pretend it’s not happening, we won’t. As someone said to me recently, “it’s in silence that it spreads”.
To those who’ve said I’m racist myself or that I’m suggesting all people with a surname in Irish are racists or other such nonsense, I just don’t know how to react.
To those who’ve thought it was a real B&B, in a particular place, and that I’m rubbishing the Irish hospitality industry: I guess satire isn’t your thing. The clip starts with a man making bread out of a brick. Come on, now.
In fact, if you listen to the intro, the B&B is “down the country” i.e. could be anywhere. Máire Uí Bannantee is a makey uppy name to suggest that this woman lives for fluffing pillows and frying eggs. This is the last time I hope to ever have to say this: they’re not real. In fact, the reason a B&B works so well as a metaphor in this case is precisely because they are incredibly welcoming places and in Ireland we do them so very well. I hope this helps.
To those who’ve said “it’s just not funny”, you’re entitled to your opinion. Comedy’s subjective. Most people get the point, but just in case, here it is:
I wanted to take my anger at racist morons and grab some power back by pillorying their attitude. I wanted to mock the belief that anyone is entitled to say awful things to someone they don’t know based on the colour of their skin. I wanted to use laughter to get my message across, because it beats hate every time.
I won’t ever be reading the comments on YouTube or other sites – they’re where madness goes to die and I value my sanity. Believe me, I’m getting plenty of that directly, without ever having to read comments sections. People taking the time to write me direct messages and emails to my own site to scream about how bad I am at comedy, how disgusting interracial marriage is, and insults ranging from the size of my vagina (best they could do, I guess), to my own colour, to the murderous assertion that I’m more likely to end up in a shallow grave and that that was my own choice. Some, which calmly condone genocide and the like, I’ve chosen not to publish. But you get the idea.
However, I will not be disabling comments on YT or on my original blog and I’ve decided to enable them on this one, too. Initially, I just couldn’t handle one more place for people to fling bile at me, so I kept this post free of it. But I think it’s useful for people to see some of the disordered and even violent thinking that’s out there on this subject. If nothing else, such comments prove the point I’m trying to make in the video in the first place.
Lastly, I hadn’t realised there were so many interesting cowardly pseudonyms and different ways to spell “Anonymous.” Now I know.
I really have learned a lot.
Comments on this blog are now enabled