Sunday 19 November 2017

Soapbox: Racism isn't always so black and white

The investigators need to be let do their job, even if that means mistakes are made, says

Illustration by Tom Halliday
Illustration by Tom Halliday

Eilis O’Hanlon

The cool people have spoken. They’ve skimmed the report into the removal of two Roma children from their families in Athlone and Tallaght last autumn, rolled their eyes at the lack of enlightenment shown by some of their fellow countrymen, and concluded smugly: It’s all about the racism, innit?

Knuckle-draggers in blue uniforms, inflamed by nasty right-wing myths about gypsies stealing babies for money, muscled their way into the homes of people for no other reason than that they looked a bit foreign and took away their blonde, blue-eyed children for no other reason than that they didn’t look foreign enough. That’s the story the maudlin, middle-class emoters wanted to hear, and that’s the one they’ve decided to tell themselves. There’s nothing more satisfying than the smell of outrage in the morning. Who needs nuance anyway?

It’s not as if there’s any excuse for not reading the whole thing. At under 200 pages, Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan’s report is refreshingly brisk as official documents go. It’s also written in a clear, lucid prose style, which mercifully avoids the usual jargon. If they had bothered to read it, the “Disgusted of Dublin 4” crew would discover a far more subtle document, one which avoids easy ‘racist police vs victimised ethnic minority’ cliches in favour of a clear appraisal of how exactly such mistakes happen, which turns out, surprise surprise, to be more about cock-up than conspiracy. It usually is.

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