BBC1 Spotlight: Are we racist? – Northern Ireland

BBCs Stephen Nolan asks viewers in Northern Ireland – ARE WE RACIST? Here’s what he found out. Racism: suits you, sir?In tonight’s Spotlight Stephen Nolan asks if we are racist in Northern Ireland. Here, through a series of observations, Stephen asks whether the real problem lurks among the middle class?24 October 2006I can’t stand London. I fly there every week now and as soon as I get into one of those awful underground tube carriages, squeezed against a pompous, smelly stockbroker type, I realise how lucky I am to live in Northern Ireland.We are ahead of the game here, we have a much better quality of life and I can’t think of anything that appeals to me about England … except one thing.London is a much more culturally diverse city than Belfast. People from all different backgrounds saunter down the streets of London without turning heads; they might not smile at each other, they might not acknowledge each other, but at least nobody takes any notice if they are Black, or Chinese, or Indian.Is that really the case in Northern Ireland? Well, you tell me. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks filming for BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme trying to ask if we really are racist in Northern Ireland. There have been plenty of headlines in news programmes like mine recently to suggest we are. From bricks thrown through the windows of migrant workers’ homes in Dungannon, to a home for two Latvian men attacked in Lisburn. There are numerous stories like these but, as usual, the cowards who do this skulk away, unchallenged.Where are the police? Surely this is too predictable for a question. Where the hell are the good, decent, local people? Nothing happens in these tight-knit communities without someone, somewhere noticing it.There is an intricate web of spotters in Northern Ireland … a social network comprising curtain twitchers, nosey neighbours and those who make it their business to spot everything that happens on their turf. Except, none of them has reported to the police the wasters who daub ‘Poles Out’ on wall murals, none of the locals report the identities of the ‘brave men’ who throw petrol bombs through windows of immigrants and then run off into the dark.On Spotlight tonight, you will hear from those who feel entitled to label all Eastern Europeans as dangerous people, one man in particular will even remind a Polish woman that she is only a visitor in his country. The fact that the woman has lived here for 10 years passed over his head. More importantly, though, this woman is more than capable of taking him on as you will see on tonight’s programme.We need to strike a balance in this discussion though. As usual the lunatics who chuck bricks have grabbed the racism headlines, but the vast majority of people I’ve met on the streets want Northern Ireland to be an inclusive society. They genuinely don’t care if someone is wearing a turban, or is Chinese.I know when people are performing for the cameras but, it was compelling for me when I spoke to many young people who passed off skin colour as a ‘non-story’. Their stories were powerful because they genuinely meant what they were saying.It is my responsibility and that of others in the media to reflect this. Yes, as a journalist I should be telling you about immigrants being burnt out of their homes but I should also be telling you about the young man I met while filming last week. It was wrong of me to stereotype. I talked to this 18-year-old, wearing a shell suit and a baseball cap. I assumed, arrogantly, that he would be a racist. He looked at me when I presented him with a set of photographs showing black and Chinese people and he said: “Sweet. They are all sweet mate.” I was embarrassed by my own stupidity. I live and breathe this place everyday, so why haven’t I realised before now where the racist problem really lies?Maybe it’s not with the young, inarticulate, hard man type.Maybe the really dangerous racists in Northern Ireland are those who do it in a suit … those with enough of an education that they can mask racist remarks in the flowery language contorted as immigration policy … the intelligent racists wouldn’t get their hands dirty by spraying “POLES OUT” onto a wall, but they are surely just as culpable.Are we racist in Northern Ireland? Ask the middle classes.But one thing is for sure. I’ve met a Chinese woman who tells me she is insulted on a daily basis. I’ve sat beside a grieving man who believes his brother’s killing was racial and who was barely audible because of tears which were choking him.To even ask these people if we are racist in Northern Ireland is an insult to them and scornful to what they have experienced.We shouldn’t ask the question in front of these people. We should tell them what we are going to do about it – not what the authorities are going to do about it – but what we, the ordinary people, are going to do about it.Because we like to think of ourselves as a really friendly nation in Northern Ireland, don’t we?Spotlight, Are We Racist, BBC ONE Northern Ireland, tonight Tuesday 24th October, 10.35pmArticle courtesy of:

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