- 17 Dec 21
Cayisha shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Listening to the perspective of minorities is the only way to get the message across that we need more change. We need education at all levels for all people – and not just from one colour. We all need more information about our heritage, even just how connected Ireland is with Black people.
It should start from a young age in schools and be inclusive of everyone. We need to shape the next generation, to teach them that it’s normal to see diversity. At the end of the day, we’re all human.
I was born in England. There’s a lot of mixing over there in terms of colour. Then I moved to Jamaica, and again that was a very Black-based country. If a white person comes into Jamaica, there’s never racism. They’re in awe of these people, and totally fascinated by them. Stepping into Ireland 28 years ago was a shock. People were being racist instead of being in awe of somebody who looks different to them.
People don’t question my Irish identity as much anymore. But they do my brothers, who were born here. My brother is so dark-skinned and has the thickest Wicklow accent going, but people ask him where he’s really from. It’s like, what does it take to be Irish? It’s mainly from older people who are stuck in their ways. And mostly it’s just ignorance, but there’s also a superiority complex. People think they’re entitled to touch your hair - small micro-aggressions like that. Every Black person I’ve spoken to has had someone coming up to them touching their hair. That’s been made into a joke but it’s not funny. It’s racism.
I think that George Floyd’s murder has brought more awareness of diversity into our everyday lives with the movement that started. But when it comes to authority and policing, George Nkencho’s death in Ireland wasn’t massively different. That was only this year, and there were mental health grounds too. It show that there is still racism here, you know?
There’s a lot of hypocrisy when it comes to Irish racism, especially when it comes to that whole slave narrative. People think because we were colonised for 800 years and experienced famine and mass emigration, that white people understand the same struggles as Black people. But there’s a huge difference. Unless you’re in our shoes, you might not even notice everyday racism. That’s white privilege.
On the other hand, when I went to Jamaica, they had a lot of the same words in their Patois language as they do as Gaeilge. The slaves all mingled over there, so we’re all very close. In Montserrat, they’ve got Black Caribbean Irish people named Patrick with red hair. It’s amazing. You may not even realise it, but we’re all connected. Jamaica is a place of real love.
In Jamaica, they see the positives from people coming into their country and rebuilding their economy. Rather than over here, where you get, ‘They’re taking our wives, taking our jobs’, etc. When people from Eastern Europe came to Ireland years ago, there was so much prejudice.
White Irish people were on the dole doing nothing, but complained that these people were taking their jobs – jobs they didn’t even want. You just can’t win with that mentality. We need to see our differences as a positive thing rather than a negative. We might learn a thing from each other and can evolve that way.
I do feel there is hope. Creating change starts from home in your communities and it bubbles out nationwide. Anti-racism campaigns get everybody informed and spread a lot more awareness. I am optimistic for the future.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.