As i walked down the Main St last night, after a lovely family dinner, son in hand, someone drove past and shouted racist abuse at me. Unprovoked, out of the blue.
I won’t lie. It shocked and upset me. I have thick skin, sticks and stones and all that and usually, it just rolls over, forgotten. But sometimes, sometimes, it does stick. It does hurt and most of all it does worry me. In the fifteen years i’ve lived here, it would be miraculous if i’d never experienced it before now. But in all those years, all my experiences of racism have been from children and teenagers.
Kids in their school uniform who shouted awful slurs, kids who came in to where I worked and called me derogatory names, teens in their sports kit who were waiting for a bus on the diamond who thought it was funny to make sexual gestures and generalise a whole nation of people through me. A boy who called out hateful words as I walked past with my toddler daughter, who turned out to be the child of someone who worked closely with refugees. Teens who attacked my brother on the first day of his visit to Donegal last christmas, again while he was with my daughter. A boy who shouted vile things at me and my two kids as we walked home from the graveyard who I now know to be the son of well respected business people. Kids from the tech, again in their uniforms, who called me foreign scum. Children of local, law abiding people. I could go on. Because every last one of those experiences weigh on me and live inside of me.
It makes me wonder if adults know better or if they just get more adept at hiding it. And that’s the thought that scares me the most. I don’t think people are inherently racist or bigoted. This is learned, from the actions and words of others. And it makes me fear for my kids. I teach them to be proud of who they are, of where they came from, to be strong. So if the time comes that they experience this, that they can stand tall and rise. But i know it will still hurt.
There will be people who tell me to get over it, or worse, if i don’t like it to go home. Herein lies another quandary for me. I have lived in Ireland longer than I have lived anywhere else in my life. Longer than the country I was born in, longer than the countries where I grew up and went to school, longer than the countries I travelled to and worked in. Most days, it does feel like home and yet, as you can see, some days it doesn’t.
You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. -Maya Angelou