For almost a fortnight we have argued, tweeted, messaged and emailed about racism. At last we acknowledge a problem, a severe problem at that, BUT we must also acknowledge that the time has come to move from talking and start doing. We need to see a racial equality strategy move to something that is actually being worked on. Yet what of the other issues? What about our education system, our social housing, the health system, our high unemployment rates, not to mention all symptoms that develop from these e.g… Drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, depression and suicide to name but a few. I propose that racism is another symptom of the illness that blights our society.
Who do we blame? It seems we all blame the government. Yet isn’t it time we took the onus of our government and looked at ourselves? Thomas Hardy famously said ‘character is fate.’ Is our Northern Irish character determining our fate? For too long we have been the first to criticise and the last to praise. How many times have you heard someone’s achievements being reduced to mud? Their good deeds undermined with comments about where that individual started or their personality traits. Perhaps if we changed how we viewed each other we could change how we view others?
Suppose Hardy was right and character is fate? Surely then to heap all the fault on our government’s door isn’t entirely fair. They are our government because the majority of people here voted for and continue to vote for them. So perhaps it is time to stop complaining and work with what we have got? No one forced anyone to vote for DUP (and Sinn Fein) in fact no one forced you to vote at all. If everyone had voted in 2011 (instead of only 54.5%) perhaps things would be different today. That we will never know. All we do know is that every action has consequences. Our character in Northern Ireland means we are reluctant to accept change, we fear whatever is new.
We can either spend days and weeks, maybe even months berating the Government or we can use what we have learned to change events in the future.
I am not defending nor do I support either of the two main parties. Whether or not a public apology was issued does not remove the fact that the Government is representative of the majority here. However just consider if it is possible that that majority are misunderstood? Can they all be racists and bigots? Or are we over reacting? Are we riding on a wave of blaming someone else rather than looking at our own part in all of this? You get what you pay for and in the same way you ultimately you get what you vote for.
Quite frankly we are now in a position where we are in danger of living in a nation where political correctness will be taken to the extreme. I saw a tweet last week saying ‘I don’t like Anna Lo but I’m afraid to say!’ Is this what we have become? For goodness sake, if you don’t like someone just say! If your reason for disliking someone is not based on their race then why would anyone be afraid? If we go further down this road we will lose any meritocracy that existed and become a nation of quota’s and closed mouths. Believe me if people keep quiet for long enough one day they will explode and an even bigger explosion of racism /hatred is not what we need. What we do need is respect for all and a realisation that diversity encompasses a lot more than racism.
Northern Ireland taking its stance on racism is something I am immensely proud of but we didn’t get to the stage of so many racist attacks overnight. In a perverse way Mr Robinson is to be thanked for his comments, they brought an issue out in the open that had for too long been hidden.
Tackling racism should not be to the detriment of other burning issues. In fact by addressing these I firmly believe we will be chipping away at racism, albeit indirectly.
Belfast should rally again today, yes we should express our outrage at the attacks on innocents BUT we need to demand action. A show of strength is not enough. We need to see issues such as housing, lack of education, unemployment, poverty and our failing health service addressed. If we focused on everything that is decaying in our society I believe we would see racism decline. If people were better educated the problem of a skills gap and of course ignorance is alleviated. With better skills comes more employment, with more employment comes more investment, with more investment comes more money, with more money the chance for social mobility increases. Don’t even start me on opportunities for our youth!
We will always have ‘haters’ in our society but if we had less to hate about our basic structure I imagine we would have less race hate attacks. This would apply to sectarian and homophobic attacks too.
Let’s focus on all our issues, by addressing them holistically then maybe just maybe we may strike the root of the problem of hate. History proves time and time again that in times of discontent people are attacked, one group turns on another. Address the discontent and we could cure our ills permanently instead of sitting back and watching and waiting for the next time society turns on an element of itself. Otherwise it will be racism today, but what will it be tomorrow? So Mr Robinson I challenge you, if you are truly sorry prove it. Make this place work and make this government work. Working together is a good place to start and the only way to address ALL societies’ ailments!