LAST Thursday, three men – two black immigrants and an Irishman who’s married to a black woman – who separately collaborate with me on different issues met at the Metro Eireann newspaper office in Dublin’s Dorset Street.
At this impromptu meeting, we discussed many issues, including Ireland soccer legend Paul McGrath, who recently agreed to give a day’s coaching to youngsters at Tullamore Town FC in order to avoid a jail sentence.
We also discussed the lack of opportunities for young immigrant soccer stars whose numbers are growing by the day, the heatwave and the opportunities that a diverse school curriculum offers.
But most of our time was spent taking a hard look at the growing number of racist incidents, especially those targeted at black people, including black taxi drivers all over Ireland – and the lack of action against racism and hate crime.
Racism against immigrant taxi drivers is nothing new to me. But it was absolutely sickening to listen to some of the racist remarks that one of my guests, Ken McCue, the international officer of Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari) said Irish taxi drivers continued to make against their black colleagues.
Just like McCue, I have heard some Irish taxi drivers call their black colleagues names such as n****r. I have also heard how some taxi drivers have tried to incite hatred against black cabbies by asking customers not to get in their cars because they always overcharge. Or that all black taxi drivers take the scenic route and passengers must pay more.
But it is important to note that there are some dubious, and indeed racist, black taxi drivers operating out there. And racism against immigrants in Ireland is obviously not restricted to taxi drivers.
Three weeks ago a black friend of mine told me about an incident he experienced while drinking in a bar in Sligo on a recent sunny Saturday evening. Paul (not his real name) ordered a glass of wine from a very nice bar woman. But while he was waiting to be served, he said an Irish guy he has known for some time came and pulled him from the bar. “When did n*****s start drinking wine?” he said the man shouted at him. “You are trying to be like us.”
My friend was obviously very shocked and embarrassed by the outburst in a packed bar. But what really pained him was that nobody intervened on his behalf. As my friend quickly made his way out of the bar, he decided to stop and narrate his experience to a bouncer. He said he asked the bouncer if someone can really come to that bar to enjoy himself. The bouncer’s reply, according to my friend, was almost as sickening. “If you don’t feel safe, go somewhere else.”