Having gotten pretty cross and made video sketches to address what had made me cross, I recently had cause to address something close to home. This time, it’s personal. My new sketch is called The Racist B&B (once again directed by Diarmuid O’Brien of Danger Farm). You may be reading this because you’ve watched it. It was made in response to the fact that my husband, who’s African-American, received racist abuse on a recent visit to my hometown of Kinsale, Co. Cork, in the South West of Ireland.
Kinsale is beautiful. I grew up there. I love going back. My parents and several of my schoolfriends are still there. For a small Irish town, it’s always been relatively progressive: even in my teens, when Ireland was deeply conservative – backward, even – in Kinsale gay couples lived out & proud, religious people socialised with those who had no interest in church, and we had tourists rich and poor coming from all over the world. It was laid back, and the attitude in the main seemed to be “each to his own”. Unlike many places in the country at the time, even if people didn’t fully understand others, in general they tended to leave them at it.
As a port only 15 minutes from an international airport, Kinsale has thrived on tourism. And so it should. Local businesses work hard to make sure the services they provide are second to none and that the welcome you get in our town is memorable. When we were little, every single one of us at school was given plastic gloves and we went out in our various classes to pick up every scrap of rubbish we could find. This wasn’t the council using child labour as part of a bizarre money-saving initiative, it was a practical way of teaching us civic responsibility. This was our town. It could be clean if we kept it that way, or dirty if we turned a blind eye. The choice was ours. It’s a close-knit community and I’m very proud of it.
But on a recent trip home, I got a reminder that Ireland Of The Welcomes can be conditional. By now very familiar with Kinsale, my husband offered to take the dog out for his last walk of the night. I sat chatting with my mum. 20 minutes later, my husband returned. He looked angry. “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been called those names in a while.” A group of young people standing outside a bar in the centre of town had shouted racist epithets at him. Some of those epithets have made it into my clip but we’ve decided to cover them with sound effects. They’re just too vile. They are shocking in the abstract and absolutely horrifying when applied to someone I love. In my hometown. In 2013.
My husband is a tolerant person. He just stared the namecallers down and they – like most cowards – shut up when faced with this silent challenge. He tried to laugh it off in the re-telling, saying it wasn’t his first time and that he’d heard worse. But that’s not the point. I was mortified. Stunned. Fuming.
So I wrote a sketch about it. A sketch about how racism is lurking in even the most welcoming of places. About how we talk about it and minimise it with words because we don’t like to believe it’s there. “They’re only young fellas” or “they probably had drink taken” just won’t do.
Racism is unacceptable. Duh. We know. But we have to pick the rubbish up ourselves.
The video is available on my YouTube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J80q7Q3UIEM
You can report racism in Ireland here:http://enarireland.org/racist_incident_report/
Quote from ENAR Ireland:
“If you have experienced,witnessed or heard about a racist incident in Ireland there is something you can do about it.
By reporting the incident you will help ENAR Ireland:
1. Understand how often racist incidents occur in Ireland.
2. Understand in greater detail who is experiencing racism in Ireland.
3. Understand more about different kinds of racism in Ireland.
4. In some cases, if you are willing, take action against the people responsible.
5. Devise effective local strategies for combating racism.
6. Inform our arguments for stronger anti-racist policies at a national level.”
If it happens to you, or someone near you, please report it.