Black people suffer most racism, much of it below radar

‘Everyday’ abuse may not warrant criminal investigation but causes damage, conference told

Black children had bananas thrown at them as they walked with their father, and a black woman was singled out by gardaí to produce her ID on a cross-border bus, a conference has been told.

These were among examples of the “everyday racism” black Africans experience,said Dr Lucy Michael of the University of Ulster. She said black Africans suffered the most sustained racism here and the impact on children was the most worrying aspect because, perhaps unlike their parents, they would be less able to rationalise the abuse.

The conference, hosted by European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland, was held to mark Africa Day on Tuesday.

Dr Michael said such acts of “everyday racism” may not warrant criminal investigation, but could “be just as damaging to the individual as a violent attack”.


“Everyday racism is the racism other than that which ‘bad’ people do, the everyday things we see and tolerate and start to normalise and start to ignore. But when we start t look for it, it is everywhere.”

Dr Michael has analysed the reports of Afrophobic racism made to ENAR and included in its most recent quarterly reports, which found black and black African people experience the most racism.

In other incidents a black woman was threatened in a pub and had a drink thrown over her, while in another a black man was assaulted by six people while walking alone in Dublin city centre on mid-week evening.

“We need to understand that many of these incidents pass under the radar but the drip-drip-drip in a person’s life accumulates and damages their ability to participate, to contribute and damages their mental health.”

She said there was a tendency to see only the “black body” and not the person, as could be seen in references to dirt, disease, pollution, laziness , and making animalistic sounds or gestures.

Salome Mbuga, founder of migrant women’s network Akidwa, said as a black woman living in Ireland for 21 years, she had “on many occasions had to challenge racism and discrimination”.

“Many people of African descent have very bad experiences fighting to be respected, fighting for services for their children.”

She called for a new National Action Plan Against Racism, the last one having expired in 2008, and for a body to replace the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, which also closed in 2008 as a result of cutbacks.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times