The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Taboo of Racism So Subtle
Davy Carlin • 14.11.03

I have followed recently with increased interest from various media outlets the issue of the racist attacks on citizens within our society. The coverage of such is to be welcomed as is the condemnation from various editorials and from political and community representatives at times from ‘both sides’ of the community on such attacks. I have followed much on the statistics and the possible reasons of the racial attacks rise as I have also myself written much giving such statistics and also my own understanding of the rise of racism in recent times through such various media outlets.

A while back though I was pictured on the front page of the Irish News with the wording ‘Changing mindset to stamp out racism’ along with an interview with myself in relation to the rise in both racist attacks and attitudes. Yet I would like to pen a few paragraphs not on the well covered and indeed needy coverage provided by sections of the media on the overt racist attacks on ethnic minorities, but on the more subtle aspects of racism itself which can help fan the emergence of such attacks.

My understanding first and foremost on the issue of racism is that it comes from the top of society and is always attempted to be pushed through the rest of society for relevant ruling interests. In the Politics of Race (Blanket website), I opened up in part that article by stating, ‘Racism and its rise is to be understood between the historical development of recent society and its relationship with the conditions of that society within the interest of the ruling minority’. I finished in part by stating ‘So inevitably I it will be at that root cause (interest) that such a politic will not only be challenged but also broken’. This has and is my understanding as a socialist even from my earliest articles, but as like another early article entitled ‘Republicanism, the police, the state and Marxism’ I also believe in dealing with immediate practicalities. So for example while as a socialist my political belief is to see a society where there is not a need for a such a police force, the reality is though, presently we have got one. So while looking to achieve that, I will also presently support those changes that make them more accountable. Similarly on racism while I will seek to see a society without such I will also work presently to see gains to stop its rise.

So on that point I raise what I believe is the taboo of subtle racism, taboo to many in the media as they do not seem to wish to raise such, to many in society who do not wish to acknowledge such and to many on the left who see a new society and system as the answer to eradicate racism (with which I agree) so therefore many of them believe why worry about the present intense rise of subtle racism. This I disagree with, as every advance (however small against racism, sectarianism, sexism, homophobia etc) is an advance for the working class. Therefore while learning lessons of the past while looking to effect change for a better future I will work presently to achieve a society that can combat that politic from above but I do it with a practical mindset, theory and practical activity - and not solely theory on what should be done or said. I am one who would not attempt to adapt present reality to fit in with tactical and strategic aspects of one's theory but would adapt those tactical and strategic aspects of theory to attempt to relate to the present. So with that I raise but a few points.

I have read recently about groups such as the White Nationalist Party, the same group several months ago in which I learnt of their bluster and threats to both myself and a number of colleagues through various methods of communication as has been done by various other such organisations in the past few years. Yet all their methods are quite similar in relation to attempting to build a profile, to target usually a working class community suffering socio-economic deprivation, to firstly attempt a media profile through various avenues of activity, to saturate a chosen locality with graffiti and posters, leaflets of promises to change community conditions while in tandem laying the blame on ethnic minorities, asylum seekers etc. While targeting or (inflaming the targeting) of those whom they want targeted, they also attempt to threaten and intimidate some of those most obvious to speak out or mobilise against them. This done at most times while attempting to put on a cloak of respectability that they let drop occasionally.

Yet as one whom has spoken around Ireland at rallies and at meetings in the aftermath of such attacks in previous years, I have found also that the subtle racism although less overt than the racial attacks increasing to a large extent. This exists not only cross community but very much so crosses class boundaries. Close colleagues who deal in race relations have also acknowledged the ever-progressing increases in the more subtle racism in tandem with the increased violent attacks.

Such subtle racism takes many forms, the laughter at overtly racists jokes, the casual use of racist language: ‘do you know your man, you know the big, small, Nigger, Paki, Chink who lives, works in such a such a place?' The pointing of fingers, the nudges or the head nods or sniggers or ‘fly’ remarks to mates as ethnic minorities walk past. The shouting of racist names from a crowd or the loud voices in bars who believe they cannot be heard but feel as on the street corners as being ‘a big or hard man’ as they attempt to draw laughs at a racist remark. The hidden voices around a canteen, work or college table whose language holds stereotypes and helps perpetuate the myths put out by such racist organisations towards asylum seekers or ethnic minorities. The obvious staring and whispering of some at a mixed race couple, or the hidden talk and racist commentary of such around their peers or workmates. This type of racism and much more is rarely reported, is not wished at times by many to be acknowledged, and much of it is so subtle, yet it does exist and such is its regularity that I could believe at times that people don’t even realise they are doing it. But it all helps to build a perception of someone who is different, inferior, that they should be feared or shunned. Thus it provides with other factors ripe ground for those wishing to build a more overt form of racism, with the added impetus of course of the attacks on asylum seekers and ethnic minorities being spouted from above, both verbally and via legislation.

For me fortunately now I find very little personal overt racism apart from those organisations that feel the need to attempt to target myself or my colleagues, for speaking out against such. Yet I feel when persons from ethnic minorities move into an area the subtle racism can help express a more sinister element if such organisations look to target those areas with their myths and propaganda in an attempt to direct the ills of the community onto such persons and to attempt in the process to dehumanise them, thus making it easier to carry out attacks. (Look at the recent growing attacks in South Belfast for instance). It was not that long ago of the days of ‘ No Irish, Blacks or dogs allowed’, a commonality of attempted dehumanisation, exploitation, discrimination and bigotry that many should learn from along with the most obvious period of Irish forced economic immigration (survival) due to starvation at the hands of the British Empire as it looked on feeling no guilt or remorse, as it has done on many other occasions.

Yet it is not only on the issue of race but on sexuality or with those with special needs etc were there is a perception of a difference that does not fit the ‘norm’, for some, therefore for those some they think that such can be ridiculed, shunned, isolated or even attacked. Yet when one looks through those ‘perceived differences’ may they be features, race or a sexuality one, one will find but a human being from amongst a ‘race’ of human beings.

Such ‘differences’ are developed and nurtured by those whom want to create divisions for a given interest. Such is the diversity of the human race in its many aspects that initially, historically ‘differences’ were created to breed division for the benefit of exploitation. Today is no different for those organisations that wish to still exploit vulnerable persons and the situation for their own ends. The blunt reality for many of those whom have lived in a community for many years is that racism has still an impact on their lives and can be witnessed in some quarters, but within all aspects of society, yet much of it hidden from their faces. For those who have come here recently or are seeking asylum, it for many is much more overt and they are far more vulnerable than those of us whom have lived here for some time and have much extended family and friends around.

What is also a worrying factor that I have noticed by some of those whom expressed it to myself, is that racist language is increasingly being used at all age levels. Although of course everything needs to be kept in proportion one still needs to acknowledge that this is on the rise and in doing so such will benefit those willing to move to more overt forms of racism. Therefore while one can hold an understanding of how to effect real change on such, we need also to have an understanding that however small a gain in present society to combat this, it nevertheless is a gain. Of course it is but a very small part, but a part nevertheless, and should not be dismissed for the benefit of historical theory. If such is on the rise then one should support all actions however small against it while always working to effect the real change that will eventually combat it.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

14 November 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Belfast Agreement Postpones Cure for British Problem
Liam O Comain


Further Problems at Maghaberry Gaol
Martin Mulholland


Luis Eduardo Garcia Interviewed

Anthony McIntyre


Choosing Sides in Iraq
Mick Hall


The Taboo of Racism So Subtle
Davy Carlin


Left Unity Meeting


Thessaloniki Prisoners On Hunger Strike
Anarchist Prisoner Support


Death Fast in 4th Year
DHKP-C Prisoners’ Organisation


10 November 2003


Address to Ard-Fheis 2003
Ruairí Ó Bradaigh


British Anti-Insurgency

Liam O Comain


From A Belfast Granny
Kathleen O Halloran


Planes, Trains and Big Wains!
Eamon Sweeney


The Most Important Election Ever, Again
Anthony McIntyre


What Went Wrong in the New South Africa?
Andrew Nowicki




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