“How can anyone say that what is happening to my children is nothing to worry about when it is so clearly affecting them in a bad way? It is that attitude from the authorities that is stopping other people in the same situation from reporting what is happening to them. There is a difference between insensitive name-calling and deliberate vicious verbal abuse. In a small place like Carrickfergus where we are told there is no real problem with racism, I witness it every day. It is so bad for us that I am even considering leaving the area. To me the verbal abuse is a sign of the lack of tolerance for ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland and this must be addressed before someone is murdered just like Stephen Lawrence,” A Northern Irish mother of two black children speaking to the Belfast Telegraph.
Rather than being something to be ignored, experts have warned that verbal abuse is often the symptom of something more dangerous and therefore the seriousness of racist name-calling cannot be underplayed.
Jolena Flett, racial harassment adviser for the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), warned: “Often the only thing that gets reported is criminal damage or a physical attack and often these are the end result of long-term verbal abuse being accepted as normal and not dangerous.
“However, in our work with clients it is often the verbal abuse that is a symptom of a more dangerous attitude that people are less than worthy of respect. It is this attitude that leads to assaults and damage, and it is when it is at the verbal stage that we need to tackle the problem before it becomes violent.
“Also the impact that constant verbal abuse has on people is devastating.
“They feel isolated from their communities and can affect their home life and their perception of their self-worth.”