Yesterday evening in Waterford a gang of individuals gathered outside of the home of a Roma family in order to have what was described as a “peaceful protest”.
We, the Young Greens, fully condemn this action, because we see this as an act fuelled entirely by ignorance and racism.
‘This wasn’t racist, it’s a peaceful protest’:
Imagine for a moment that a large group of people gathered outside of your home. They may not throw stones; they may not hurl insults at you, in fact they may not say anything. However, one does not need to be assaulted, whether physically or verbally, to be intimidated, and there is no way that this form of intimidation was just.
To have a large gang of people standing outside of your home with the sole intention of letting you know that you and any one of your ethnicity are not welcome in the community is an action which is inherently aggressive and contrasts sharply with the claim that this was “peaceful”. We would also say that racism in and of itself is a violent structure.
This action was an action that targets a group of people in a personal capacity. These individuals are not trying to affect change upon a broken system. They are simply parroting the scapegoating that the Roma people have been subject to from those in positions of power and from an often biased media that seeks to cement the position of those in said power. This was not a “protest”, this was an angry mob.
Were those involved in this “protest” to gather outside of the home of an Irish family who they suspected of committing crimes, they would be condemned out of hand. Were an Irish family at the centre of the debacle taking place then the immediate response of everyone involved would be to let the justice system do its job, and to condemn the intimidation of the family in question. But for a Roma family the situation is different, the fear that this family must be feeling isn’t treated similarly. The ugly truth is that this lack of sympathy is solely because these people are Roma.
‘This is justified because all Roma are involved in criminal gangs’
It is extremely disheartening that Irish people, of all people, would view the Roma in such a negative light, that so many still believe that the Roma as a people are inherently criminals. This is particularly disappointing because we as a people had had to endure similar stereotypes in the past, because failures in the social system made it economically necessary to emigrate. Irish people have been particularly harmed by caricatures which painted us as drunk, violent criminals who were abusive towards our families. Many cartoons and articles existed in which Irish people were portrayed as ‘subhuman’. And now, knowing that harm, we have fallen into the same trap as those who actively oppressed us, we have become oppressors ourselves. Stereotyping was wrong when it happened to the Irish people and it is equally wrong now when we stereotype the Roma culture, the culture of a people who have also experienced hardships.
The Young Greens are not content with standing idly by while such intimidation occurs. We stand with groups like Waterford against Racism ( http://tinyurl.com/pf2fjb3), and Pavee Point ( http://tinyurl.com/oj6gejo) who are fighting against this kind of harassment and discrimination. We encourage every party to stand with us in denouncing this racist behaviour and to make clear statements condemning the actions of the last few days. At this point in time the citizens of this country need solidarity, we all need to stand together. Racism is something which is unquestionably abhorrent and should never be tolerated. A clear line must be drawn between lazy, dangerous racist stereotyping and the risks it poses on a local and national level.
The Young Greens/ An Óige Ghlas