Have you ever heard this phrase? It’s a loaded one, to be sure, and the meaning generally depends on both the speaker and the listener. Some use it as a derogatory statement, others as a parallel between both the historical and current plights of “people of colour” and the Irish. (We have a colour as well.)
Personally, I take it as a compliment.
However the reader takes it, it couldn’t be more true.
I’m not planning on writing a book on this particular subject, but if you would like to read at least one, I would recommend “How The Irish Became White” by Noel Ignatiev.
What I would like to write abut are the parallels between what is going on with the African-American community in the United States and the state of affairs in Ireland, predominately in the northern six counties.
(Side note; in the States, some “people of colour” prefer to be referred to as “African-American”, while others find that term overly politically correct and prefer the word “black”. For the most part, everyone prefers, above all, to be referred to by their given names, as they are human beings.)
Cutting to the chase.
In the U.S., a state of emergency has been declared in Baltimore, Maryland, in the wake of widespread rioting following the death of Freddie Gray, aged 25. Mr. Gray, after being taken into police custody, suffered severe spinal cord injuries, lapsed into a coma, and died a week later, on 19 April. His death was one of many highly publicised incidents involving police officers and “minorities”. An estimated 5,000 National Guard troops are expected to be deployed to Baltimore and a curfew has been declared.
Martial law, essentially.
What does this have to do with Ireland?
If you take a gander at PSNI statistics, (and believe them), you will see that violent crime, particularly crimes of sectarian/racist nature, rose dramatically proceeding the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and then fell quite dramatically afterwards. But you’d never know it if you’ve watched the news lately,or been outside your house. Nearly every day there are reports of racist attacks on immigrants, rioting by young people in housing estates, and of course, multiple paramilitary-style attacks by both loyalists and nationalists, including bombings, attempted bombings, and knee-capping, which is now known by the more politically correct term “limb-wounding”. So, statistics be damned, things are getting a hell of a lot worse.
And it’s not even marching season yet.
What’s the problem? Besides the age-old and obvious, I can give you a couple of little hints;
Poverty plus police equals angry.
Anger can be a good thing, if you channel it in the right direction. You don’t need a map or a GPS. Just look up.
Which requires taking your head out of your ass.
Whether you are black, white, brown or purple, you are a “minority” unless you are wealthy and powerful, at least in the eyes of the powerful and wealthy. Some of these folks like to set you against one another so they can go about committing their own crimes unhindered while the rest of us battle it out with their underpaid, overworked minions who are in the end result not much better off than anyone else.
So you are becoming your own worst enemy and you don’t even know it.
It’s called “divide and conquer”.
We’ve all been falling for it since the Roman Empire. The British Empire and it’s colonial cousin, the United States, have perfected this model of control to an exquisite degree.
So what’s the answer?
Hell if I know.
I do know it doesn’t involve rioting in the streets, burning down your neighbour’s home, or setting off destructive devices.
I have an inkling that it may involve a paradigm shift of massive proportions that would lead to an even playing field. One which would require a change of leadership at all levels. People policing their own communities? Maybe. Ignoring the mainstream media and looking outside your window instead? Perhaps. Following your intellect rather than your instant instincts? Most likely.
As I said, and it’s quite obvious, I haven’t a solution. What I do know, however, is that the Irish are indeed the “blacks” of Europe.
Black Americans in Baltimore are facing an influx of 5,000 armed troops. They are angry and have every right to be, as do you.
You don’t want that in Derry. You don’t want that in Belfast. You don’t want it anywhere.