- 16 Dec 21
Anne Marie Quilligan shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Anne Marie Quilligan
Social care worker
I’m a community support worker – I work with Travellers and non-Travellers. What I see is there are definitely things in Ireland that we’re oblivious to, or don’t pay enough attention to, in relation to class. And I see too how this can impact children. Children in different areas have different vulnerabilities and disadvantages. One thing that’s staring us glaringly in the face, and not being addressed through social policy, is our young children’s experience of racism.
That could be anti-Traveller racism, or it could be racism due to a child’s ethnicity or the colour of their skin. As professionals, there perhaps isn’t enough training and awareness on how racism can impact the development of a child. We know that the more frequent a child’s experience with racism, it has an impact on the child’s psychological wellbeing – but it also has an impact on the child’s physical development.
People who experienced high levels of racism, there’s evidence that they’re more prone to illnesses such as asthma. There is a science behind this and there isn’t enough awareness of that. That has to begin at home, but it also has to begin in schools as well. It’s also down to individuals because, for example, I didn’t have to be taught how not to be racist.
There’s an awful lot of people who have never had to be taught how not to be racist, but there are people who have an unconscious bias and aren’t aware that they may be holding onto prejudices, or making racist comments, or just refuse to acknowledge that they are racist.
It would be beneficial to have that brought into the education curriculum, because I feel it has to start in schools. No one is born racist. And if it can be learned, it can be unlearned, and un-taught. It needs to come from a social policy level, from a representation level, but it also should come from an inclusion level within the schools.
Any child can be integrated into a school, any child can be placed in a school and a box can be ticked, to show that the school has a diverse population.
But just because a school might have a diverse population, or an employer or business has a diverse recruitment policy, it doesn’t necessarily mean the staff or the students are actually included, or represented in the day-to-day running of those institutions. If you have children who come from minority backgrounds, whether it be religion, ethnicity, the colour of their skin – how does it feel for those children to have no representation of who they are as a people within the curriculum, the environment or the school?
What I would like to see is children feeling safe and secure within their school environments. I would like to see more of an emphasis not just on highlighting anti-racism, but highlighting more diverse cultures within our education curriculum, and making children who come from different diverse backgrounds feel welcome. They should feel the same safety and confidence in their classroom as they do at home.
I would like to see schoolbooks and the curriculum be reflective of the children who are actually sitting in the classroom, rather than an overwhelmingly white, settled Catholic ethos representation. Because it’s not going to work if the teacher doesn’t believe in it. We need to see this not just within the school system, but also within the curriculum at colleges and universities.
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.