You can’t change other people.
No matter how horribly they are behaving, you have ZERO control over that.
The above picture — that’s how I feel: between two walls, both standing merciless. Alone to fend for myself, and perhaps even getting blamed for ending up where I am. “Oh, but you chose to move here. Don’t like it, go back home”, some will say. Sorry, my bad. I didn’t realise I had a place to go “back home”. I thought it was a situation of domestic abuse I grew up into, but ANYWAY, thanks for reminding me of it, mister… Who are you, again? But that’s beyond the point now, isn’t it? Because the fact is, even if I did have a happy family to go back to, that does not invalidate IN THE SLIGHTEST the fact that I have a point, and I’m not just exaggerating things, and people simply don’t wanna have to admit they’re anything other than flawless. Apparently it hurts to set that huge ego and that huge pride of theirs aside, and fucking apologise. Who would have known that getting compassion out of some of the locals here would be like milking a stone…
Aye. That’s what I feel like replying, every single time. People don’t even know me, haven’t a clue what is MY NAME, and already feel entitled to label me as an eternal outsider because my SKIN COLOUR happens to not “fit in” with the stereotype of Irish. And ya know what? I never claimed to be Irish. I don’t even want the label. I just want to be left the fuck alone.
I’m sorry. No, really, I’m truly sorry for inconveniencing some people here that much. I must be such a huge, unsurmountable, annoying EYESORE… Indeed, people can’t possibly summon the will to just keep their opinions of my looks to themselves. That’s how much I stick out. I’m like a neon sign, apparently.
Yes, I said what I said. I’m referring to racial profiling. In Ireland, of all places. From a population whose ancestors were literally enslaved, but ya know, it’s not only the privileged who are capable of oppression. If it were, George Orwell wouldn’t have written Animal Farm.
And don’t come at me with “cultural background” bullshit. No. The prejudiced aren’t looking at clothing, habits, or accent (or, ya know, ability to speak English). The problem has to do with perceived skintone — nothing more than that. The evidence is abundant: ask any German, Polish, or more recently, Ukrainian here if they were EVER stopped on the street or at work or literally anywhere and asked “hey, where are you from”. I know a bunch of German and Ukrainian people, as it happens. They don’t get that question. They’re fair-skinned, blue-eyed. Some are even ginger, well, there ya go. That’s all that matters in some people’s minds. You could as well be an illegal immigrant from some random country here — as long as you’re white enough, you’re left alone.
Conversely, ask any Irish, born-and-raised in Dublin, who happen to have black skin or an Asian complexion, how often they get that question. “Daily”, is the usual answer. Some even get the “but where are you REALLY from”, regardless of their undeniable Irish accent and educational background.
“Oh no, dear, we don’t mean any harm, we’re just a bit too nosy/curious and can’t help it”, some will joke in response. That’s bullshit. If it were true, you’d go around stopping WHITE PEOPLE out of nowhere to inconveniently and invasively ask where they’re from. Over, and over, and over. But nobody does that here.
Some, even, would argue that “oh, we Irish do it to ourselves” — referring to the cultural habit of trying to find common ground with fellow Irish people in conversation. Yes, that does indeed happen and I’ve witnessed it, but it’s different from the phenomenon I’m talking about. For starters, I haven’t ever seen one Irish person who fits the racial stereotype ask another who also fits the same stereotype, out of nowhere, on the street, where they’re from, without ANY other business in talking to each other whatsoever. Simply to ask that question, sometimes even having to go out of their way. Out of the blue. No, sorry, that’s not a thing here. The white Irish only ask each other about their family backgrounds when they’re ALREADY acquainted and in the middle of a conversation. Big difference there. I’ve lived in three counties over the span of almost a decade, and can guarantee you it’s not the same.
But ya know, these excuses will keep coming. Maybe not here, because I called them out, but in person and in other contexts where I have the displeasure of being CHASED by this kind of person. Earphones on or not, that won’t deter them. They don’t care whether I’m available to “entertain” them with my “otherness”. They don’t care about MY needs, period; only theirs matter. They just FEEL ENTITLED to my time. As though I was some kind of freak in a circus.
Now, multiply that by several days per week. Year in, year out. Over the span of a god forsaken decade. Oh, surely I just have to “cop on”. Grow a thick skin. It is what it is, etc. And to be quite honest, that’s not wrong — I do, I’m taking that to heart. I’m the odd one here, so I have no choice but to indeed grow a “thick skin”.
…Which does not mean I can’t blog about it. It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want.
But why crucify Ireland, Lucy? Don’t be unfair.
I talk about Ireland because I live in Ireland. It’s no worse or better than any other country in my book. I don’t know. I talk from experience; abstractions aren’t my thing. Yes, I know, some of the things I say are pretty hard to believe, but they too come from experience. Whether or not you believe it, that’s between you and god. I know I’m telling the truth, my conscience is clean, and I couldn’t care less about how many people validate me.
And no, by no means, “not every Irish”. If it were every Irish, I wouldn’t have married one. In fact, speaking of that, there’s even a pattern: the racism tends to come from the monolingual. Yes, you know what I’m talking about, a chara.
It comes from those who repeat, like a broken record, to anyone willing to listen, that they “hated Irish at school”. That’d be a fair enough opinion IF they stopped there, but… No. No, they don’t. It gets so much worse. It’s usually followed by a long rant where they blame their teachers for not being entertaining enough (little did they know, my husband works in the education industry, and LET ME TELL YOU, this attitude some people have is incredibly ungrateful, unappreciative, dismissive, and DISGUSTING). No, I’m not measuring words here. I do not feel the slightest obligation to be even a tiny bit civil to adults who behave like entitled brats. Adults with the emotional intelligence of a 3-year-old, extremely selfish and incapable of moving a finger to take responsibility for their own misery. Adults who would rather pretend they’re eternal victims, and life happens TO them, and they can just point fingers at others to blame for literally everything they dislike in ther lives. No, I don’t respect these adults. I don’t and I never will. They’re cowards, that’s what they are.
Being passive and naturally hesitant/afraid to take decisions in life is ONE thing; That’s a personality style and I’m fine with that. Going the extra mile, though, and accusing others of being “the cause” of your choices (or lack of choices), is the problem I’m talking about; because THEN it stops just being a personality style; It starts involving innocent third parties in the whole thing. And that’s like the old saying people repeated where I grew up — your freedom ends where another person’s begins. You share this planet with others. Be considerate.
People look at me living in a Gaeltacht and speaking Irish to the locals, and always think I’m either trying to one-up to them or impress them (because, again, apparently foreigners in this country only exist FOR serving the Irish, according to these close-minded idiots. We’re not allowed to simply do or learn something because we wanna; No, we were born to serve, they think). But ANYWAY, I digress — people look at me doing that and think it’s amazing or impressive or whatever.
Usually, I brush it off as “ah well, married into it, learned eventually, no biggie”. That’s because I don’t want to be a killjoy and tell you the naked truth. But if you want the naked truth, here it is:
I did that because people from the Gaeltacht have NEVER (ever, even once, all these years living here) judged me by skin tone. They only ever ask me the famous background question politely, in ongoing conversations. That’s grand, honestly. That’s how everybody should behave. That’s not, ya know, dehumanising. Amazing that this needs saying, but please don’t dehumanise people. Jesus fucking Christ.
So I did, in the end, find a way to lead a peaceful life away from bigotry. Except, ya know, when I need to shop or go “to town” for any other reason and then I’m reminded of this OTHER reality I wish was not a thing.
And why is that? Why such a cultural divide? Well, I am no History or Sociology expert, but if I were to take a guess, I’d say Gaeltacht people have a cultural identity. They’re not, ya know, desperately trying to emulate the American or whatever outside influence is now trendy. They did not reject the rich cultural heritage that is native to Ireland just because of peer pressure in teenagehood (or grow up too proud and selfish to ever change their minds about that, and eventually blame it on “teachers-not-good-enough, ooga booga” to escape responsibility for their choices or lack thereof).
And maybe (if my theory has any substance to it), in HAVING that cultural heritage, they’re less insecure about identity than their monolingual counterparts. Therefore, they don’t feel the need to cling to a mere stereotype of physical looks in order to feel any more or any less Irish in comparison or contrast to a random foreigner.
Regardless of how much or how many times I vent, though, I know I can’t change anyone.
And that’s because, plain-and-simple, I am no superhero. I’m just a random person in a crowd of millions. And quite honestly, I don’t wish I could change anyone. Yes, I know, the problem I’m mentioning here is serious… But even then, it’s none of my business. People will change IF and WHEN they feel like it. To even fantasise about taking that freedom away from them… would be sacrilegious.
The thing is… As painful as it can be (it does sometimes feel like a stab, right through the heart, whenever I am the target of bigotry here), it’s all just a bunch of opinions. Opinions by close-minded bigots who couldn’t be arsed to rely on anything other than their predecided assumptions about people. And even though I’ll probably go the rest of my life having to endure their unsolicited comments and invasiveness… It’s just that. Just comments. Just words.
Words are a bit like balloons in the air, right? They’re visible for a while because the colours are bright and a bit hard to forget, but eventually they disappear in the distance.
The bottom line is I have an amazing husband I love very much, a good enough job where both my boss and colleagues respect me, and actual friends who do appreciate me in all my humanity. None of that can be taken away by a bunch of commenters, much as they probably wish they could. And as annoyingly often as they happen — always reminding me of the existence of that bigotry, JUST when I was about to blissfully forget it —in the end, I do belong. I belong right here, where I am, right now — to the delight of some and the dismay of others.
I’m not going anywhere. People had better get used to that.