An inclusive philosophy is vital if we are to beat racism
by ALEXANDRA KOSJAKOVA -
This article was published in the Irish Times after it was entered into the Show Racism the Red Card Creative Competition.
The Creative Competition was funded by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration at the Department of Justice and Equality. www.integration.ie
OPINION : THE TOPIC of racism has been talked about, written about and described to us more than a million times already – and we all know racism is bad and that it should not be perpetrated, and you are probably thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know?”
So before you decide to move on and read something more interesting, let me tell you that racism is far from gone. The most frightening thing about it is that it has increased even more. You would think major changes such as Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president of the United States would signify an end to racism among our own, well-educated, young people.
It has not.
Racism is now like a virus that has mutated, and it can lie undetected unless you look closely. Is there ever going to be a cure? All I know for sure is that whatever is being done now to stop racism is not working, and a change is needed.
I’m a 15-year-old who goes to a multicultural State school and I can say my knowledge of racism has been honed, whether I wanted it to be or not. There are issues in my school, but there are issues in other schools too – as any teenager reading this will most likely agree.
One month ago, during a free class, a very heated discussion took place as some of those present remarked that all the “black people” and other foreign students sat at one side of the room, while all the Irish or “white people” sat on the other.
This resulted in a row between an African boy and an Irish boy, with a few strong remarks coming from both sides. Racist comments were made on both sides of the discussion, but afterwards the boys apologised.
I began to notice a disconnect between groups of students in the social areas at school, and then I noticed most groups of friends were either exclusively Polish or other eastern European students, exclusively African or Irish. They were rarely mixed groups, so I began to observe what was happening in more detail.
A few people once told me they don’t talk to certain others any more because they feel they always put them down by constantly asking them that annoying question: “Where are you from?”
It doesn’t seem racist at first, but if a person always asks a particular person the same question on purpose to annoy them, it turns into racism – it can make you feel as small as a bug from a different species that has been classified and pinned down. It does not make you feel equal.
People need to understand racism comes from all races anywhere. There are no exclusions and nobody is immune to it. Racism these days is not about “white and black” or “natives and immigrants”, as some might think. I have witnessed that immigrants can perpetrate it against immigrants.
I feel that, if racism is to be stopped to a greater extent, countries and nations should not boast about, for example, “Irish pride” or “being proud to be African”, because it creates moral confusion in people who might take it the wrong way, thinking there is nobody better than Irish or African. As a result all sides clash, and this is where the origins of racism occur in our society.
Honestly, I don’t think there ever will be a total end to it. Some people might think otherwise and of course some of us prefer to wear pink glasses.
In reality there will always be problems and issues because we live in an imperfect world, and none of us are perfect either. I will always remind myself that no matter where we come from or what our skin colour, we are all human and there is a lot more to us than just our race or physical appearance. Beyond visual differences there is a unique personality.
We should try for a change – a different philosophy. “Live and let live” – it’s not that hard if we try.
Alexandra Kosjakova attends Balbriggan Community College in Co Dublin. Today in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, President Michael D Higgins will present awards to children from schools and youth groups around the country who, like Alexandra, participated in the Show Racism The Red Card annual campaign by writing prose, poetry and songs, making posters and films and reaching into their communities in varying ways to help combat racism and increase tolerance and understanding of racial and ethnic differences.