Advertising | Metro Eireann | Top News | Contact Us
Governor Uduaghan awarded the 2013 International Outstanding Leadership Award  •   South African Ambassador to leave  •   Roddy's back with his new exclusive "Brown-Eyed Boy"  •  
Print E-mail

Race thinking is critical

Last update - Thursday, August 1, 2013, 13:25 By Ronit Lentin

Back in 2005, British sociologist Paul Gilroy spoke of the “refusal to think about racism as something that structures the life of the post-imperial policy”. 

Of course, the insistence on anti-racialism – as opposed to anti-racism – in academia owes a lot to Gilroy’s own seminal essay ‘Race Ends Here’. David Theo Goldberg argues with Gilroy, writing that “race… cannot be given up before and without addressing the legacy, the roots, the scars of racisms’ histories, the weight of race. We are being asked to give up on the word, the concept, the category, at most the categorisation. But not, pointedly not, the conditions for which those terms stand.”

Anti-racism in Ireland was mostly governmental and municipal. The racialised have no real voice in determining policies, despite the vast experience of Irish Travellers and migrant activists in combating racism. Their voices were appropriated and they often self-silence in return for funding and a minor place at the consultation table.

In post-recession Ireland, all pretences to interculturalism and anti-racism have disappeared. The recession and austerity have seen the withdrawal of Government funds but also philanthropic funding, which means that migrant support (and particularly migrant-led) organisations are struggling to exist. But official Ireland does speak about racism. The Minister for Justice and Equality recently spoke of racism as “attitudes based on hatred and ignorance that have no place in our society”. And Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, for the first time in her long career, criticised the direct provision system, predicting this would be the “scandal of the future”. Of course, neither addressed the real issue, that racism is also perpetrated by the State rather than just ignorant individuals.

Recently I was in London for a conference to discuss the role of the race-critical scholar and address the silence about race and racism. Paraphrasing scholar Stuart Hall, speaking about racism in polite society is like crapping on the dinner table. However, most scholars who write about racism in Ireland actually write about immigration. When I theorised Ireland as a racial state, I was criticised by colleagues who speak of immigrants as ‘the new guests of the Irish nation’. These colleagues often advise Government on managing diversity, regulating immigration, and mainstreaming services to the so-called ‘new Irish’.

I believe that the most urgent task for scholars of racism is to continue crapping on the dinner table, even though there may be a price: those of us who do so, at least in Ireland, are no longer invited on radio or television shows, and are often penalised in academic circles, as some colleagues in London testified.

The role of a race-critical public scholar entails, firstly, education. The MPhil in Race, Ethnicity, Conflict, which I ran for 15 years, provides research-led critical teaching and, we are constantly told, changes students’ lives, sending them into the field as intellectual insurgents. Another way is making room for the racialised in our universities; I have enabled many migrant and Traveller groups to hold meetings in Trinity, a university committed to “engagement with society”.

Race-critical scholars also serve on boards and advisory groups of migrant-led organisations, though we must remember that their members are more knowledgeable than us, and our role is one of support. Similarly, we should go on producing research for users when funding is not available, even if self-published and receiving no academic recognition. Writing in popular media – like this column – is another way of contributing to the debate.

One other idea that came out of the conference is establishing an online format for people who experience racism to speak publicly of their experiences. I will look into creating a Facebook page for this purpose. I know of a similar page in which women record their experience of sexual abuse, one which people read and take seriously.


Ronit Lentin is associate professor of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Her column appears fortnightly in Metro Éireann.



Latest News:
Latest Video News:
Photo News:
Kerry drinking and driving
How do you feel about the Kerry County Councillor\'s recent passing of legislation to allow a limited amount of drinking and driving?
I agree with the passing, it is acceptable
I disagree with the passing, it is too dangerous
I don\'t have a strong opinion either way
Quick Links