The Confessions Of A Reformed Racist
As a kid and a young adult, I’d never identify as Irish. Why? Well, I hated them in the same way most people hate drivers who cut them off. Really, it was only upon recent reflection that I realized I’m essentially a reformed racist. Apparently, it is all too easy to be a bigot.
I was born in England and have very few bad memories of it. That is part of the problem in these cases I think. When someone always treats you well, of course, you have a biased perception of them, especially if you are a kid. Honestly, most of my bad experiences in relation to England involve leaving it. Looking back at my fantastic friends and alternative education at a Steiner school, it was heaven.
I knew about racism in the sense that I had always been taught not to judge someone by their skin tone. I was a self-righteous kid who always fought tooth and nail for the equal treatment of everyone and fairness in general. Yet, I hadn’t really been exposed to any genuine racists at that point in my life. Therefore nothing could have prepared me for the hell I was about to enter when I moved to County Kerry in Ireland. In my head racism was related to skin colour, it never occurred to me that you could be hated for your blood as well…
The English Bitch
It may sound silly, but I was just too young to know about English history. I became familiar with it mighty fast though. Irish history class was always something that made me want to sink into the floor and die. Whenever we read about something an English person had done all eyes would turn towards me. It is hard for me to think of an Irish History class as anything other than a workshop in self-hatred. In recent years I have come to sympathise with other ‘Privileged’ people facing a similar fate. In a way, I can understand why people think we deserve it, but I can never consent to license such cruelty. In the end, I know that racism only breeds more racism even if you call it ‘reverse’.
My heritage prevented me from making friends with anyone but ‘my kind’. This included English kids and any other foreigners that were hated at the time, mainly Polish and Lithuanian people. I was known as the ‘English Bitch’ by the age 11 and was the verbal punching bag for the school. I bet they told me to kill myself at least a hundred times a week.
This wasn’t the sort of experience that cast the Irish people in a good light. It was a slow process, but as the depression sank its claws deeper and deeper into my skin the cynicism set in. Fantasies about publically taking my life filled my classroom hours. I used to think if I lept off the balcony onto the spire in the middle that everyone would have to look at my grizzly display and feel something like regret. In the end, the only reason I didn’t follow through came down to not wanting to inconvenience my family with the funeral.
Above everything, I was resentful of my situation and hopeless. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change my heritage. My blood was the problem and at the end of the day even if I drained myself dry to please them they would always hate me for my very biology. Racism is insidious like that. In reality, I was English only by birthright but Irish in every other regard. As a result, even while clinging to an English identity I had nothing because deep down I knew I wasn’t English either. I knew no one would accept me because I fell between.
Despite everything, I still wanted to believe that it was just this area or just kids. Yet, what happened next not only made me hate the Irish but destroyed my faith in God.
I was in my thoughtful spot; a gallery down in Waterville dedicated to Amergin. It was usually quiet, but today there was a girl there a little older than me and we immediately hit it off. It was amazing, she seemed into all the things I enjoyed and we ended up exchanging numbers and organising to meet up. I remember how happy I felt, the thought that I could have a friend. The idea that someone could look past my blood. My body was filled with motivation on the days running up to what ended up being a crippling disaster.
I don’t know how long I waited for her. More than 4 hours I’m sure until I thought that she had been killed. I went to the supermarket and found a woman I knew was related this girl. I begged her to call her and make sure she was okay since I thought the worst. She picked up on the first ring and was fine, just hanging out with her friends. I could have forgiven her if she had just forgotten, but I soon learned it wasn’t so simple. Monday came along and my blood turned to ice as I found out the whole thing had been a plan to get my phone number.
I locked myself in the bathroom and cried helplessly as they rang my phone over and over. There had been signs, but I had been too happy to spot them. A girl had asked me what I was doing at the weekend and I had mentioned the meeting. I didn’t think anything of her odd response “Would you be sad if she didn’t come?”. I decided right there that I hated the Irish. I no longer even viewed them as human. Just savage subhumans devoid of decency.
Reaping What I Sowed
I don’t regret what I became after that. It was the only way I could have survived the torture and in the end, I gained more from realizing my mistakes. After that incident, I was simply numb, unshakable. When they told me to kill myself I just shrugged, because they were Irish and a subhumans opinion didn’t matter in my head. It got to the point where when they brought up history and oppression I would point out we could crush them again. Irish History was no longer something I feared. In fact, I started doing extra studies to find the Irish cowards and thieves. So when the teacher wanted to talk about the murderous English I could talk about the cowardly backstabbing Irish. I could always have the come back of “at least I’m not Irish” because in my mind there was nothing worse.
I started to think of myself as superior. When people scattered out of my way and made a point of avoiding me it was because they were immature children. When people spat at me or hid my bag, it was because they were racist. A lot of them stopped bullying me when they realized I wasn’t going to kill myself. In fact, only 3 remained persistent to the bitter end. They were living stereotypes of negative Irish traits. One was a piggy faced girl who played the role of the local bike in our community. In my head, she was conclusive proof that semen must be fattening. There was another boy who was stuck in that awkward stage of puberty. The last was a girl who just hated all foreigners because her father did and didn’t actually have an opinion.
Steadily I was able to accumulate some friends, other English kids, or Polish, which is another hated minority in Ireland. Secondary school was a little better for me because my main bully could no longer use the fact she was related to the principal to get out of trouble. It was still hell though, especially since a few of the teachers would get in on the action, and do things such as have me translate “I hate the English” into French.
It was a painful time when the adults joined in but further cemented the idea that the Irish were evil into my head. There were a few teachers who were genuinely kind to me. They recognised that I was being bullied and offered me support. I thought of them as exceptions to a rule. That all Irish were evil except X and Y. Looking back I can see the real problem. I had created a self-fulfilling prophecy, I believed the Irish were racist so I was antagonistic towards them. I wasn’t seeing them as individuals I was just seeing them as one big disease. Anything good they did I viewed as admirable because I felt they were working against their naturally evil nature.
I couldn’t see my hypocrisy. It’s really difficult to change your way of thinking and I doubt that I would have been able to change at all if I had stayed in Ireland.
I didn’t see them as individuals. People who didn’t conform to my racist beliefs were exceptions that I simply wrote off because they didn’t suit my narrative.
At the time, I only got along with adults, which I had put down to me being mature. It wasn’t anything to do with that, it was that I respected authority. Children were the ones who had bullied me mainly, they were the ones I was writing off as immature. I didn’t have the backbone to call an adult inbred anyway, so I listened, and because I was listening I wasn’t judging. All of my Irish friends have a good 20 years on me and it took me an age to see the real reason why. It wasn’t until after I moved to China that I found it easier to identify as Irish. In my head, I had romanticized England and English people and I was pretty devastated when I met some racist ones who didn’t live up to my expectations. It shattered my perception in a way, It couldn’t be us (The English) vs them (The Irish) if I wasn’t part of the Us, I didn’t like these people or agree with them.
Slowly I began to loosen my grip on my English identity and think about Ireland. Every experience I had had there had been marred by my expectation to be discriminated against. Whenever anyone was an arsehole it was because they were racist in my head. It had developed into a kind of paranoia, I’d sign my name as McGowan when entering competitions, fearing that Smith would stick out as too English to win. Any injustice or perceived injustice was taken as evidence that the Irish were racist. It wasn’t so simple though, there are without a doubt racist Irish, but not all Irish are racist.
How Feminist Bigotry Made Me See My Own
This moment of clarity wouldn’t have occurred if it hadn’t been for a fateful encounter with some hateful radical feminists. The group was having a pity party on Twitter about how society hated women. They all gave personal examples that just didn’t hold up under scrutiny even if you assumed they were telling the whole truth. I tried to explain the real reasons why these things might have occurred and told them it wasn’t as simple as everyone hating women. Needless to say. I was promptly blocked by all of them. This was well before I was versed in how radicals worked so I took it fairly personally.
Among all that rage I realized that their behaviour was familiar to me. It was my racism manifested into a different prejudice. It took me a while to swallow my pride and go through the #KillAllMen tag and replace ‘man’ with Irish. Once I caught the thread of my own bigotry and gave it a good pull, the curtain fell away from the mirror. Was I really like these hateful women?
Planting Something New
My English teacher once told me that the reason we don’t like people is that we see things we don’t like about ourselves in them. In a way, it was my hatred of bigotry that caused me to realise I was a bigot. It was in witnessing the generalisation of other people that I recognised that I was guilty of it too. I don’t know if I will ever be able to completely dismiss my biases, but I’m willing to work around them.
I don’t regret my racism because being able to look back at this lesson is far more valuable. It was a bad situation that I wouldn’t have lived through without my bigotry. But the war will never end if we keep fighting. Someone has to stop and say no more. Otherwise, the circle will continue and more innocent people will be held accountable for the actions of their ancestors. The abuse never stopped, but I no longer hate the Irish. Now I can enjoy the culture… my culture, my home, my people. My blood does not define me and neither does history.
I’m done overlooking the individuals because the devil is in the details.