'Complacency' over racism growing

Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 01:00

Complacency about racism is increasing and victims of racist attacks are less willing to report them to gardaí, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has warned.

Speaking at a conference on increasing young people’s participation in combating racism, Denise Charlton, chief executive of the council, said there was a “growing gap...between the authorities, be it local councils or the gardaí and the victims of racism.

“The people who speak to us are showing a reluctance to come forward to the representatives of 'official Ireland',” she said.

Increasingly, Ms Charlton said, victims felt their complaints would be filed away and ignored or that a complaint put them in the spotlight and a likely target for future attacks.

“Witnesses too are turning a blind eye - not wanting to get involved when they see incidents in public places,” she said, adding that it was an unacceptable scenario.

“There is no doubt that complacency by some of those in authority is feeding the lack of security, lack of support and fear being felt by victims. Unfortunately this silent tolerance of racist graffiti, jokes and public jibes and abuse only encourages more activity.”

Prof Mairtín Mac an Ghaill, of Newman University College, Birmingham, has carried out extensive research on racism, social class, ethnicity and cultural belonging.

He said that if racism was to be radically addressed, the sense of exclusion felt by the poorest members of the ethnic majority must be deal with.

“We need to start with the white, dispossessed working class,” Prof Mac an Ghaill said.

He said he undertook research in a mixed-race, working class school in Birmingham. When he asked the white children if there was racism, they said: “Yes, this school is racist. It only cares about the blacks and Asians.”

Prof Mac an Ghaill said the politics of distribution had in many ways been supplanted across Europe by the politics of recognition and that this applied to the ethnic majority as well as the minorities.

“The question, ’What about us?’ is an important one,” he said.