Other than being a furry Scot, I can say that I am pretty much in the racial majority in Dublin, and as such it is all too easy to forget that racism is still alive and kicking in Dublin. Other than the continual abuse that I get for being a furry Scot, I can go months without witnessing acts of racism. My lazy conclusion might be that racism is something that only happens once a month or so, when the truth is that for many people it is a daily reality on the streets of Dublin – only I don’t witness it. On my way into the city today, sitting on a crowded LUAS tram, I listened as a man went off on a rant about “them Arabs.” It just so happened that one of them Arabs – a young woman in hijab – was sitting a little further down the carriage, beside the door. Thankfully she was far enough away that she couldn’t hear this man’s verbal rubbish. So I continued to keep my face in my book (Homer’s Iliad incidentally), but no longer reading. I wanted to hear what this character had to say. Perhaps he would present some eloquent and well-argued reason why we should all hate Arabs. Maybe he might persuade me from my tolerant ways. We’re all meant to be into freedom of speech right now anyway.
After listening to him I came to a strange conclusion. What he was saying was awful and offensive. What he was saying was racist and ignorant, but there is more to listening than simply hearing the words that someone uses. He wasn’t a racist. His words were racist. He was a small and weak man. He was a man who had not been given an entirely fair deal, and may have likely squandered many of the opportunities that did come his way. He was a bitter and frustrated man. He was a character who had found himself at the bottom of the heap, and who looked afraid to kick back against those more powerful than him who had kept him in his place. He cut a pathetic image altogether. Rather than venting his legitimate frustrations at those who might hurt him, he aimed his bile at those weaker than himself – a young woman, a child, an elderly couple. This is why I think that I may never be converted to the racist viewpoint; while it may often present itself as noble and patriotic, it is neither. It is a low and humiliating form of moral spinelessness; spawned out of cowardice, and bred in ignorance.