Last weekend, I came across a number of disturbingly racist tweets. After seeing BBC reporter Kevin Sharkey complaining on Twitter about racist attitudes encountered by him whilst out with a black friend a few days ago, I feel compelled to share the tweets on Slugger in order to highlight what I believe is the worryingly high tolerance threshold in our society for racist attitudes.
There is a logical correlation between communities which indulge and excuse racist and prejudicial comments and those witnessing repeat incidents of racist-inspired attacks on persons and properties.
Across Belfast, in particular, we have seen scores of such incidents in the past few years. We have also witnessed political and religious leaders make public comments that have done nothing to encourage and educate many in local communities to understand and empathise with the plight of the ethnic minority communities that now call Belfast home.
After the ‘Big Two’ fixture at Windsor Park last Saturday, one Glentoran fan tweeted what he later stated was a chant he’d heard at the game from Glens fans (presumably) directed at Linfield fans in a mocking manner because the Shankill Road was home to a mosque (it’s not, but several weeks ago the Shankill Leisure Centre was used for prayers by Muslims, which drew this response from loyalist leader, Jamie Bryson.)
Context, as always, is important.
East Belfast has been the scene for a disturbingly high number of racist incidents in the past few years, including the infamous picket of a black man’s home which DUP First Minister, Peter Robinson, denied was racist.
Meanwhile, another Belfast based individual was tweeting photos of clearly impoverished black children, most likely in Africa. The reason was not to provoke sympathy for their plight, but rather to highlight how their black heads resembled a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bubbly bar.
Just a joke, albeit in very poor taste? Perhaps some of you will reach that conclusion.
However, it prompted the following reply, showing how quickly even a distasteful ‘joke’ can lead to a dehumanisingly racist sentiment being aired- the “wee niglets” remark clearly a made-up word combining ‘nigger’ with the diminutive suffix ‘-let.’
Another local football fan posted a photograph of what he claimed to be a Romanian woman, whom he stated became unhappy when he shouted “Fuck Romania” in her face. The tweet and photograph prompted an approving reply from another individual, who made the following comment: “gypsey (sic) bastards mate get them out of our wee country”
Welcome to Belfast, eh…..