10 things you can do about racism in Ireland

Understanding racism bookletRACISM: Main issues

Be an ally – combat racism

The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, sparked protests across the US which echoed across the world. In Ireland, we have seen unprecedented levels of interest in the problem of racism, and urgent calls for justice by those directly affected. We have never seen such a vibrant and passionate ‘awaking’ of public awareness and realisation that racism is nothing new in Ireland and has existed here for a long time. While standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and Black people in the US, we must also have a long and honest look at our own country’s racist legacies – from the deeply rooted systemic racism against Travellers, the prevalence of anti-Black racism, the stigmatisation of Muslims and refugees, and the inhumane treatment of people living in Direct Provision. These legacies put into context the high toll of interpersonal racism and the overt acts of racism that Asian people are experiencing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic recorded by iReport.ie. This only shows us how much work we, both as individuals and as a society, still must do to address racism in Ireland.

Realising the scope of racism in our own country may feel upsetting and overwhelming, especially for affected communities, but also for those from the majority community who are coming to grips with the breadth and scope of the problem. However, rather than feeling hopeless about that racism is still being ever-present and seemingly insurmountable, we would like instead to help inspire you to channel that frustration and take positive action. In recent years, for example with the popular movements which won marriage equality and repeal of the 8th Amendment, we have seen that the change is possible and that every person has a role to play to make Ireland a more just and equal country.

We hope that this list will help you in your quest to focus your frustration in a constructive way and help you ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

To give you an idea what you can do, we compiled in one place practical ways you can combat racism in Ireland. 

We will be updating this page on an ongoing basis, so stay tuned and email aga@inar.ie if you wish to add or update any information.

1. Recognise your privilege and its meaning

Start your anti-racism work from the perspective of recognising your own circumstances and privilege, this is key to understanding any role you could inadvertently play in reinforcing systemic racism. It may be an unpleasant and uncomfortable exercise to many. White privilege may be hard to see for those of us born with access to power and resources. On the other hand, it is very visible for those to whom privilege was not granted. This words by Harry Brod can help you understand it better:

We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be ‘outside’ the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way that challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and equalitarian my intentions.”

Understanding white privilege by F.E. Kendall and Teaching Tolerance article which explores the term and its true meaning, are both excellent resources which will help you explore and understand your privilege further.

2. Explore and address your prejudices

Be open to examining your unconscious prejudices, attitudes and stereotypes you may have in relation to People of Colour and/or other racialised groups. Be open to being challenged about the stereotypes and prejudices we harbour. We all absorb these from our social, media and cultural contexts, which still reproduce them.  Being conscious of our own biases and those of the society we live in can help us explore alternative ways of thinking, deconstruct and overcome our stereotypes, and as a result positively affect our actions and behaviour towards people from minorities.

 Examine your own unconscious bias

How do you perceive other people with different skin colour, from other ethnic groups (including Travellers), religions or cultures?

Why do you think about these people the way you do?

What subconscious, generalised presumptions might you be making about minority people?

How might your beliefs affect the decisions you make and the way you behave towards others?

How can you change the way you think and act?

  • Broaden your horizons. Learn about other cultures and religions, visit places of worship different than yours, attend intercultural events and make an effort to reach out to people from different backgrounds to participate in an activity that helps you to shift your awareness. The best way to overcome your hidden bias is by spending time with people from minority ethnic or religious backgrounds, try to diversify your circle of friends to learn about different perspectives and deepen your understanding of diversity.
  • Find out more about how to overcome unconscious bias and explore this comprehensive compilation of resources on the subject. 

3. Educate yourself

  • Learn about the history of racism, how it manifests, who it affects and how it impacts our society to be able to effectively respond to racism in Ireland. Educate yourself about the scope of racial inequities and disparities in our country and beyond as well why people fight for racial justice.

NOTE: We will be publishing a list of intercultural & anti-racism training available from our Network in coming weeks so watch this space for updates.

4. Educate others

We all have power to influence others

  • Recognise that you have the power to influence others around you by talking to your friends, family and colleagues about racism and discussing what you have learnt yourself. Commit to disrupting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace and in faith communities. Challenge racism when you see it. Speak up. Confront racism and inappropriate behaviour and language when you see, hear, read, or experience it.

If you are a parent

Racism and children: Tips for parents

    • Examine children’s textbooks and the curricula at their schools and media they consume (from internet sites to the commercials during their favourite TV shows) to determine whether they are equitable and intercultural. Discuss openly situations where racist stereotypes and examples of intolerance are present, as you would the dangers of cigarette smoking.
    • Introduce your child to other cultures and people from minorities by intentionally expanding your circle of friends and exposing them to intercultural experiences (i.e. movies, festivals, interfaith events etc). Make sure they see Black people and other minorities also as heroes in a wide range of their own stories, and not just as victims of oppression.
    • Encourage your children to become activists. They can form harmony clubs, participate in the Yellow Flag programme Diversity Committee in their school, participate with your family in the #TogetherAgainstRacism social media action, sponsor “walk in my shoes” activities, and create ways to interact with children of other cultures.
    • Model inclusive language and behaviour. Children learn from the language you use and the attitudes you model. If you demonstrate a deep respect for other cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life, they most likely will, too.
    • If your child is experiencing racist bullying at school, refer to ‘Responding to Racism Gide’ for information on your options and resources on dealing with bullying. Be an advocate for including anti-racism in school’s policies.

If you are an educator

If you are a youth worker

5. Be an active anti-racist ally

 

  • Support anti-racist and minority organisations and activist groups and amplify their messages. Become a member, donate, participate in their events, protests and campaigns, sign petitions and promote anti-racism and inclusive messages via your social media.See the list of INAR’s 100+ Members organisations across Ireland to find your local group or organisation to support and/or get involved with grassroots activist groups such as MASI, Places of Sanctuary, MERJ, RAMSI, find and get involved with your local intercultural or refugee suppoort groups or start one yourself.
  • Give space to minority voices. Invite, encourage and listen to underrepresented voices and perspectives. Build your links with various minorities, figure out how to get them involved when hosting an event, a protest, training or while talking to the media. Make sure that you provide a safe space for people from ethnic and religious minorities to have their voices and experiences heard and their perspective represented. Involve ethnic minority-led groups and organisations in your events. If you are from the majority community, know when to hold back.
  • Create alternatives:
    Hold alternative events
     at the same hour, some distance away, emphasising strength in community and diversity to draw media attention away from hate. These events give people a safe outlet for the frustration and anger they want to vent.
    Develop counternarratives to reduce support for extremist and racist groups and ideologies and decrease the impact of hate speech. See here for ideas.

6. Respond to racism in your community

  • When you witness racism, do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public, and the victims. Community members must act, because if we do not, hate persists.
  • Take seriously even the smallest hint of hate because racist slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence.
  • Reach out to allies from community organisations, local authorities, places of worship, schools, clubs, and other civic groups. Create or join a diverse coalition such as intercultural or anti-racism group. Gather ideas from everyone and get everyone involved. Asking for help and organising a group reduces personal fear and vulnerability, spreads the workload, and increases creativity and impact.

Every single act of anti-racism resistance can have a positive ripple effect on victims, our communities and the society. You can explore more tips and ideas in our resource page on how to proactively respond to racism in your community.

Build an anti-racist community

  • Bring together people of different nationalities, religions, and ethnic groups. Hold candlelight vigils, interfaith services, and other activities. Gather people around issues important to everyone, such as health, family, community safety, welfare or sport to create opportunities for various members of the community to meet and interact. Provide them with a safe space to share thoughts and get to know each other.
  • Mark anniversaries, intercultural celebrations and important dates such as Anti-Racism Day, World Refugee Day, Diwali, Pesach or Eid.
  • Begin a community conversation on ethnicity, identity, diversity and/or racism. Discussion groups, book clubs, youth clubs, library gatherings can bring people together. Effective community conversations allow individuals to tell their stories, their immigration history, their daily encounters with discrimination, their fear about revealing sexual orientation, and so on.
  • Consider building something the community needs, and use it as an organising tool, from a community garden to a new playground. Make sure residents from different backgrounds are included in the process.
  • Create or join your local Facebook page or an online community celebrating diversity and challenging racism. Create counter-narrative against racist discourse.

7. Support those affected by racism

  • Don’t be a bystander, react! Lack of reaction can be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and the victims. It can encourage a climate of violence as hateful behaviour can become normalised and accepted. In order not to contribute to this normalising of hostility, bystanders need to be aware of how to stand up to racism and intervene at a time when people need it most, both on an individual and a community level. Intervening not only means reacting in the moment to a potentially violent situation but also challenging and changing the cultural norms that make racism acceptable and make victims feel alone and isolated. Supporting someone who is being harassed can help demonstrate to others that they also have the power to make our communities safer. A range of bystander intervention techniques is listed in Part III of the Responding to Racism Guide.

  • Offer support. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community show support. Victims of racist attacks are especially vulnerable and need a strong, timely message that they are valued, welcome members of the community. You can provide practical support such as clearing a graffiti from their wall, help secure damaged property, offer to assist with making a report to the police or iReport.ie.

  • Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection. Research shows that even small acts of kindness such as a phone call, a positive comment on social media, a letter or providing a listening ear, can make a big difference.

  • Help with reporting what happened to the iReport.ie and authorities such as the police, or the Workplace Relations Commission. Link them with one of iReport Reporting Centres.

  • Provide information on organisations offering practical assistance to victims of racism, including specialised NGOs, lawyers, free legal support, victim support services, INAR Members or local support groups.

  • Accompany him/her while reporting, to court, if appropriate or refer to a specialist victim support service.

    See Responding to Racism Guide for details of victim support services available in our country.

8. Report racism

  • ALWAYS report racism. Whether you yourself have experienced racism, witnessed it, heard about it or come across it online, it is important to take action, keep a record of it, report it and make a formal complaint. If for whatever reason you don’t want to go through a formal complaint procedure, report the incident(s) anonymously to iReport.ie. Don’t presume that the victim of racism will do so – only 1 in 6 incidents are actually reported.
  • Recognise what happened and decide where to report. This article will help you recognise what form of racism actually happened (crime or discrimination), what steps to take next, where to report it, and what are your rights as a victim. Refer to the Responding to Racism Guide to find out more about available reporting routes depending on what happened to you. 
  • Before reporting, get prepared. Make sure to read this checklist on what to keep in mind while making a complaint. Many bodies require you to follow a certain complaint procedure and may require you to observe deadlines for issuing your complaint or returning certain forms etc. Make sure you are familiar with these procedures to make your complaint in time.
  • Help with documenting incidenta and collecting data. Racist incidents and crimes that are not reported cannot be addressed. Collecting data on racism in our country is crucial to understand its scope in Ireland, devise effective strategies to support those affected, combat it and lobby for change.

 

Responding to Racism Guide

9. Be an anti-racism advocate in your organisation, work, school

  • Get your organisation or group to join your local anti-racism/intercultural group and/or national anti-racism network such as INAR.
  • Make sure to eliminate institutionalized practices that are discriminatory towards minorities.
  • Make sure your workplace, organisation, school or university has policies in place that reflect the diversity and promotes the inclusion of minorities.

Questions for your organisation

  • Does your organization reflect the diversity of your community, at all levels of the organisation?
  • Is your organisation’s culture inclusive to all people?
  • Do you, as an individual, have a personal and professional network that is diverse?
  • Do you invite diverse speakers to your events?
  • Do you have an anti-bullying or diversity, anti-racism policy? Is racism named within those documents?

10. Pressure leaders

  • Tell elected officials and leaders who make decisions for our communities that you are watching them and won’t tolerate racial injustice, by signing petitions, calling or emailing them, calling out racist political speech, or finding other ways to make your presence felt.
  • Seek allies among leaders. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies, but it is important to demonstrate popular support for anti racism. The support of TDs and MEPs, mayors, police chiefs, college presidents, school principals, religious or business leaders can help address the root causes of hate and turn bias incidents into experiences from which your community can learn and heal. When leaders step forward and act swiftly in the wake of a hate incident, victims feel supported, community members feel safe, and space for action and dialogue can grow.
  • Encourage election candidates to sign up to INAR’s Anti-Racism Election Protocol. Organise your local or online event before elections and make it public. See examples of local events and check if your local representatives have signed it.
 If you wish to add or update any information provided here email aga@inar.ie.