Hello! You may remember me from an article my wife and I wrote. It was about being an accomplice in the fight against racism!
Since we published our piece, I’ve been trying to take my own advice and that of my wife. So, if I see online friends sharing stuff that is a bit thoughtless or dodgy, I’m trying to have a patient and respectful conversation with them about why they felt the need to share this thing. I’ve also entered into some conversations with strangers. Mostly supporting my wife. Who has become a very honest and patient online discussioner. (Is ‘discussioner’ a word? It’s not.)
Everyone I’ve interacted with online (who are all white people), including me, are very defensive. We are all defensive about any insinuation that we might be racist. Or have said something in the past that could be perceived as racist (Especially under my own personal MASSIVE DESPERATE DESIRE TO BE SOUND). It’s so scary to think that someone thinks that of you. But, what’s scarier is that we white people are more afraid of being called racist than we are of actively trying to fight to end racism.
I’m trying to be calmer. To listen more. To accept any failings I have. Gaps in knowledge. Stupid awful things I’ve said or done, and move on. Be better. Be sounder. Be braver. Not be preachy. Just be kind. To everyone. Even people who are sharing dodgy things.
These difficult conversations are what we MUST start doing. This is how the marriage referendum was won. This is how we repealed the Eighth Amendment. We need to engage with people. We need to inform them of the actual facts. Black and brown Irish people NEED our support.
SO GUESS WHAT! I asked Ashley-wife to help me do another list for us. Think of it as Helpful Tips 2: The Sequel. Ashley doesn’t have to do this. But she wants to. Because she’s fucking tired of being treated differently for the colour of her skin.
In the last number of weeks, she’s been so absorbed by her phone. Staring at Instagram. Facebook. Spending time carefully thinking of a story she might share. I’m so haphazard, I share everything. It’s embarrassing. But she is careful. Researched. Private. Brave. Resilient. She has been forced to be, having to interact in this way for all of her life.
A guy in one of her friend groups shared a video recently. It was from a known far-right commentator. He was apparently ‘owning’ the Black Lives Matter movement (At least that’s what the words above the video said). She very reasonably tried to address his motivation for sharing this video. He was defensive. Said he would not enter into a discussion about this on Facebook. So, she offered to meet him in person. He told her to “jog on”. All she was asking was why he felt it necessary to share that kind of video at a time like this. And he couldn’t explain himself.
What shocked me most about the incident though? It was the total lack of anyone defending my wife in this thread. Five of his friends chimed in, giving him ‘kudos’ for ‘sharing an unpopular opinion’. Deflecting with strange arguments that made no sense. Five people. Five of them. Not one person defended her. Gave her any support. She was reasonable. She was measured. And I had to watch on because I’m not his Facebook friend. So I couldn’t engage. But I kept thinking of the other people that were reading that thread and saying nothing. Just letting her go it alone. What does it take for us to support our black and brown friends? When do we step in? If people are ‘owning’ them with no proper research and misinformation? Is that not a good time, to be like, “Eh, lads? Have ye actually looked into this?”
So THIS can be your GO TO cheat sheet to help fight racism! For any WhatsApps you get about Irish Slaves from your auntie. For any bro friends sharing dubious ‘facts’ about ‘owning’ things. You can just come here, check out this list of helpful links, phrases, facts, and backups. And most importantly, you can stand up for people who need you to. If we want to end racism, we have to be active in the fight for that. We have to BE THE CHANGE we want to see in the world. (OMG Oprah would be proud of that sentence. Hi Oprah! Thank you for reading. Call me! I hear you have a house in Santa Barbara. I was there once and had to pay $100 to sleep on an airbed because the woman told me you had a house there – let’s go for dins!)
But I digress, on to THE LIST, which has four teeny steps.
1. Racism is an IRISH ISSUE:
Have you met many WHATTABOUTERS? People who are asking why we’re participating in this when it’s an American issue? I understand issues are different here in Ireland. Fully aware. But if we want to fight it, we need to face up to the racism in our own lands. Here’s a great video which directly tackles Ireland’s massive failings when it comes to our mixed race kids. This is only a whisper of it too. There are also some brilliant online forums that discuss the experience of Irish Black and Brown people:
Black and Irish started recently enough on instagram, but is now on Facebook too. It shares inspirational and difficult stories directly from Irish people of colour. It’s also recently shared more historical context of black history in Ireland. Like the amazing story of Tony Small, a black man who fought as part of the United Irishmen against the British alongside Fitzgerald, Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet.
Tuesday chats on the ‘I Am Irish’ Facebook page. Lorraine who runs this, always has incredible speakers on the issue of being black and Irish and what that is like. They’re inspirational, engaging, hopeful, honest and so informative. One of my favourites was with 79 year-old activist, Jude Hughes, a Dub, a tailor and an incredible man. Race and racism is not new in Ireland. Jude is living proof of this.
Watch this beautiful video of Emma Dabiri talking about being black, Irish and a Dub.
Watch This Land by the Tenth Man – a short and extremely well made documentary about cultural identity in Ireland.
2. The Irish slaves’ myth:
Need facts on how the Irish slaves myth took hold? Well, there’s a full bleedin’ wikipedia page about it! There’s also an incredible researcher from Limerick who I discovered. He has dedicated years to debunking this myth. It is often used by the alt-right to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. His name is Liam Hogan, and you can find a comprehensive backlog of his research here. The New York Times has also written about it. You copy one of those links and paste that to your auntie there now quick, she’ll be delighted with you and you can have extra biscuits next time you see her when you chat about the fight against racism.
3. Some tips on engaging with people in these difficult conversations:
If someone is sharing a fact you’re questioning, ask them where they got the info. Very quick, very easy. If they’re not going to back up their facts, BOOM, you have won in human brain chess. If they send you a weird link from iswearimnotaracist.net, maybe look up something from a better source that could possibly contradict what they’re saying.
Much as you may want to delete anyone sharing casually racist content, may I suggest that you perhaps engage with them first? Ask them a few simple questions. One of my faves is; “What do you have against ending racism?” Another one if they’re giving out about their favourite episode of something being removed for a minute; “What’s wrong with wanting to be kinder or more thoughtful to people?”
Even if they’re being defensive, you could say; “Are you worried someone is going to call you a racist? Why is that?”
We should be doing this work so brown and black people do not have to. They’ve enough on their bleedin’ plate right now. They shouldn’t have to read misinformation on their timelines. And they really shouldn’t have to see a bunch of people agreeing with that misinformation, with no one correcting anything. Visibility of accomplices is more crucial now than ever.
See someone online struggling with having to engage with someone saying racist things? Here’s an idea – give them a little support! Like or love their comment if you’re frightened of saying anything yourself. Or better yet, do some research so you can support them even further! With an actual comment…with actual facts!
Try not to get defensive if someone is questioning you. The best way to do this is knowing your facts and your sources. If someone is slinging abuse at you, They are not classy, babes, but you are, cause you know your shit. Shine on with that classy knowledge, looks so good on you!
4. Want broader knowledge? Here are some easy gentle links!
To be involved in the fight against it, it is important to have a knowledge of the long history of racism and where it stems from in its many forms. Not that into reading big long articles? Here’s some essential watches that are entertaining, current AND informative, without being too long:
Trevor Noah is brilliant, funny and throws facts at you like delicious snacks for you to consume and keep FOREVER in your heart.
Here Trevor goes over the protests and how racial injustice has reached a boiling point in the US.
Here he is on reparations and white privilege.
This is a guide for white people on supporting Black Lives Matter.
John Oliver is also superb.
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