- Film And TV
- 09 Dec 21
Yasmin Seky shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Pamela Uba was recently crowned the first Black Miss Ireland. I remember seeing the comments on the pictures on her post, and it was just infuriating. I shared it, and I had a response from some other Black people – people in the music industry, DJs, actors.
One of them said to me, “Oh, that’s the older generation. Younger Irish people are more tolerant.” That really pissed me off. A race of people is not something that needs to be tolerated. We’re an integral part of society, the same way everybody else is. I’m Black, and I’m Irish, and there’s no debating that. There’s literally no debating that at all. So it’s really hard to have a conversation.
If you’ve ever seen two racist people have a conversation in the comment section of anything, it seems like it’s almost ingrained in them. I hate saying it, but sometimes I feel like you can’t really change people’s opinions. It’s so hard. So we need to educate younger generations. It has to be taught from somewhere.
Even the campaign we’re doing now – I was really reluctant to do it at first, because it’s difficult trying to appeal to people who don’t respect you anyway. Who see you as subhuman. And me, as a Black person, trying to appeal to their compassion, or trying to win over their sympathies, is ridiculous.
I feel like sometimes they need to hear it from allies – from white people that feel like it needs to be addressed. That’s the only time that people like that will listen. I stepped away from a lot of things – I stopped modelling, I stopped doing that sort of stuff.
I would show up to campaigns. They’d be like, “Yeah, we really want you to be part of this.” And yet me, this mixed race girl, is meant to be the Black person of their campaign. Yet their make-up artist doesn’t own a single Black foundation. I have to bring my own. The hair stylist has never worked on Afro hair before.
It’s completely fine to have representation in brands, campaigns, TV shows, music – but if you want representation, make sure that you have people there that understand us and people who want to work with us – and that it’s not the case of “Oh shit, last minute we need a Black person.” It is something that needs to be considered when going into things.
It’s such a draining topic. I’ve lived in a couple of different communities where I probably have been the only Black person, or my family have been the only Black people. When I was growing up, there were no Black TV presenters on RTÉ for example. Now we have Eimear, who is working on Ireland AM, then we have Trish who’s joined RTÉ as well. It’s good that we have representation, but it’s the fact that people are still commenting on it. They are not the token Black women. They are not the token Black people in RTÉ or on Ireland AM. They are not taking up someone else’s space.
Anyone that has grown up in Dublin has seen that it is now a multicultural hub. In my primary school, and in secondary school, we had all walks of life. This is why it feels like some people are just living in denial. It feels like some people are delusional. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes I’m just like, “Wow, they’re so angry that I exist.” And that kind of makes me happy.
But I think it is getting better. The more that we’re on TV, the more representation there is, the more comfortable people will be. Because we’re born here. We live here. There’s generations of Black Irish people.
I think there’s a big difference between ignorance and racism, and I feel like the majority of it is ignorance. If kids grow up learning that this is what we call Black people, or this is how we treat Black people, then there’s no one there to tell them any better. That’s part of it. As soon as you know better though, you should do better. What can be done in the future? Educating younger people and teaching them something fundamental: that, really, we are all the same.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.
- Film And TV
- 10 Dec 18