Saturday 17 March 2018

'You can't tell a woman of colour it's an exceptional experience' - Racism debate sparks tension on Cutting Edge

Jackie Lavin, Emma Dabiri, Alison Spittle and Brendan O'Connor on RTE's Cutting Edge.
Jackie Lavin, Emma Dabiri, Alison Spittle and Brendan O'Connor on RTE's Cutting Edge. Newsdesk Newsdesk

A debate on racism was one of the major talking points from Wednesday night's Cutting Edge.

Last night's episode featured entrepreneur Jackie Lavin, writer and broadcaster Emma Dabiri and comedian Alison Spittle, as guest panelists.

The subject of racism was brought up when Emma recalled one of the big news stories of the week; the viral series of videos recording an Irish woman's racist rant on a Limerick train.

As an Irish-Nigerian girl growing up in Dublin, Emma said that she encountered racist abuse firsthand and she was "shocked that people were shocked" by the video.

"I'm shocked that people are shocked because this things like that happened extremely regularly [when I was growing up]," she explained.

The social historian told her fellow panelists that she became the target of racist abuse when she was just five-years-old and it continued through to adulthood.

"I remember walking through town with my boyfriend when I was 15 and someone used the 'n-word'. I was unphased because I got that a lot. This is standard. This happens a lot," she said.

"Because I've had it my whole life, I don't know what it would be like to not have experienced it."

Emma Dabiri on Cutting Edge
Emma Dabiri on Cutting Edge

Emma explained that the regular torrent of abuse and hate projected at her has made her feel "dead inside".

Jackie Lavin suggested that Emma's experience was an "exceptional case".

Jackie Lavin on Cutting Edge
Jackie Lavin on Cutting Edge

"Can I just put a bit of balance on that?" she asked the panel. "I've been in the hospitality business for a long time... and when we ask [visitors] what they like most about Ireland they say 'the people, the people were so nice and so kind and so friendly'.

"I really do think think that it was an exceptional case," she said referring to Emma's experience, before agreeing that what she went through was "horrendous and horrific and awful".

Her comments fell flat with Alison Spittle and host Brendan O'Connor.

"Ah no, I think you can't tell a woman of colour that it's an exceptional experience," the Westmeath comedian argued.

"I think if people are tourists and they're visiting here... I think we're making different points here," said Brendan, before directing the discussion back to Emma's point.

"Nealy every single [mixed race] person I know has had a similar or sometimes worse experience so it's not an anomaly," Emma said as she closed the debate.


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