The Reaction to “Racist B&B” – Updated

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

18 responses to “The Reaction to “Racist B&B” – Updated

  1. Internet comments, as well as Twitter, are brilliant for making us aware of the darkness and stupidity that constantly surrounds us in our daily lives like a really apposite simile. Unfortunately, the really nasty and stupid ones get to hide behind anonymity. I’ve often wondered over the years, when I’ve come across negativity that I couldn’t otherwise explain, whether it was down to an unspoken racism. People don’t usually shout racism at me, I reckon because I’m told I look intimidating unless I’m smiling. But I think I would rather have racists shout at me in the street than passive-aggressively give me poor service in shops or block me at work.

    Still, I know your husband experiences many unpleasant things and I empathise. Your response is educated, elegant and measured. I probably would have ended up spending a night in the cells.

  2. A friend linked to this article with a one word description: “hero.”

    I would have to agree. Thank you for speaking out. We all should.

  3. I’d just like to offer a small note of support. Well done, a courageous and very effective act. Agree every word. I’ve always considered myself fortunate to have grown up in a multi-cultural city (Manchester) where racial disharmony raised its ugly head only occasionally. I was shocked by the amount of racial prejudice I found when I can to Ireland in 1987 and sometimes still am.

  4. Thanks for doing the video, it a brave thing to do. There’s nastiness everywhere but thankfully only from a few but those few can ruin people’s enjoyment of life. Best of luck to you and your husband and hope you have a lovely time in Ireland.

  5. Hi Tara, just want to say well done! I’m Irish, my wife is Filipino, we’ve not experienced anything so bad, but I’m delighted you highlighted this issue in such an articulate way. I know you’re not publishing comments, but I hope this message reaches you. best of luck! Steve

  6. Hi tara really enjoyed ur piece on u tube. I laughed my way through it but in a way I was upset cause I know how true it is. There is so much racism in Ireland and I presume other countries but I cant speak for them. I find some people who actually think they re not racist actually are. Its something I just cant get my head around that white people seem to think they are actually superior to people of other race god love them really. Its very important to highlight it where ever possible. No one i know would ever make a racist comment to me cause they know better and that s the only way I can help>

  7. I saw the comment on the Irish Times website and viewed the YouTube clip.
    It was absolutely hilarious and my only concern is that some of the many neanderthals we seem to have allowed out of their cage in the last few years will not see it as a send-up, but then one is always preaching to the converted.
    WELL DONE; I shall be on the lookout for more of your everyday work.

  8. Congratulations on a brilliant satirical sketch which did a deadly job of demolition on a contemptible cast of mind still too common in Ireland. Congrats also to your courageous husband for giving these gurriers the Gran Torino gaze. Best wishes to you both for a long and happy life.

  9. Hi Tara,
    I think the sketch is a brilliant (and funny) response to an utterly indefensible event. I’ve lived outside Ireland for the past 27 years but generally return a couple of times each year. I always enjoy my visits but am often struck by how some people trivialise or even ignore serious issues in society. Well done!

  10. Hi Tara, I agree 110% with all you have said above. Well done! You have done more by speaking out for the marginalised people than any other person/ organisation has done in past 10 years. God Bless!
    I work with migrants in Westmeath and know the realities of racism in this Eire of DeValera!
    Some months back, I wrote to a local newspaper’s Editor on similar issue and got a lengthy reply: “Sadly, it has happened occasionally that some drunken ‘thugs’ have at times attacked someone from England, Poland, or an oriental country, or indeed from Ireland itself, but, as far as I know it has been because of their drink or the backgrounds of these ‘thugs’ that they would have attacked anyone, and those attacked would have just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    And finally, I would like to meet you or at least keep in touch with you via email or phone if possible.

  11. Hi tara really enjoyed ur piece on u tube. I laughed my way through it but in a way I was upset cause I know how true it is. There is so much racism in Ireland and i presume other countries. I find some people who actually think they not racist actually are. Its just something I cant get my head aroung that the colour of someones skin has anything to do with anything. No one would ever get away with passing a racist comment in my company and I always speak out about racism . I have reared four children to adults and none of them would ever condone a racist remark. Kind regards.

  12. Good for you. The video is very funny and it’s a point well made. You should hear the amount of racism, casual and otherwise, that goes on amongst the ex-pat community here in Dubai because people think they can get away with it because they are out of their normal environment. Horrific. Well done you again.

  13. ‘…no one takes the train anymore what with all the internet…’ almost made me spit out my muesli I laughed so hard.
    Thank you for creating this sketch!
    -a fan in Switzerland

  14. A marvellous, funnt and well-needed, wee sketch, Tara

    The fact that it stirs up contoversy proves just how aposite and on-the-money your sketch is

    Good onya … well done

    Stu Who?

  15. You are to be commended! If people are uncomfortable with the identification of a personal ‘elephant’ then good! Nobody should be comfortable with racism. Well done guys, feck the begrudgers.

  16. Tara, thanks so much for your hilarious and revealing video.

    I have witnessed the casual racism you refer to amongst the Irish, which was profoundly disappointing given that I deem you all to be the most socially sophisticated of all Caucasians, (only the white Irish, of course). Yours is a country of music, humour and beauty, and I applaud your contribution to what’s great about Ireland.

    I’m perplexed that we have the same problem to a similar degree here in Scotland, having worked as a night-shift private hire driver in Edinburgh’s more Welshian regions, I often had to make the threat of ejecting my clients for hate speech, and sometimes hated myself for not being consistent when the prevaricator was just too menacing to threaten with ejection.

    Well, thanks for your effort and intelligence in knowing where to hit the most ignorant where it hurts, I trust that in Ireland, your message will be well understood.

    All the best to you and your husband,

    Andrew Cowan

  17. Hey Tara

    Thanks for both this post and the related video. I thought you were entirely right and brave to highlight embedded racisim in this way – my country (the UK) is terrible in the way these small-scale attitudes pervade our world view, and it’s something I’m perpetually embarrassed by. It’s both unsettling and reassuring that we aren’t the only country plagued by it, and I salute your attempts to force it into the open. Best of luck in your endeavours. Danny

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