All our analogies seem to involve wine. I’m not sure what that says about us but it’s unlikely to be good. Still, there are worse things.
Last night we finished a bottle of red wine, and what emerged in that final glass was the dregs, the clotted sediment that sneaks up on you when you’re not watching. We know it’s a natural part of the process but it’s still a bit grim. And we know winemakers increasingly make sure it’s more frequently not there, because people don’t like it and complain.
This morning we checked the news and came across one of those things that’s quite a lot worse than too much wine. Michelle Marie, a model and blogger, who is also British and black, was curating the @Ireland Twitter feed this week, and quickly found herself subjected to an extended barrage of racist abuse, which was lovely.
We know the @Ireland Twitter feed as, like many people around the country, we had the privilege of being involved in it a few months ago. As part of our role with The History Press Ireland, in collaboration with the Royal Irish Academy and UCD, we took part in a live publishing q&a. It went well. People were nice, we were briefly trending. All in all, it was hard work but everyone felt it was a success.
If, however, we had done that preparation and spent that time and been abused for doing so, I’m not sure how we would have coped. If someone had abused us for being black, British and gay, we would have probably been, admittedly, confused. There are however, I’m absolutely sure, a million ways that the sort of people who feel compelled to hurl abuse at someone who had given freely of their time for others could find to say about us. This thought made us realise that we’re lucky, but that it’s just luck and that any of us could have been in this woman’s position. We deeply hope that she will cope better than we would.
We don’t believe Ireland is a racist country, any more than Britain is, or Europe or any other country. There are, however, racist people in all of them. Much like the sodden dregs at the end of a bottle of wine, they are there. But, much like the consumers that the winemakers listen to, we also feel we can make a difference by not accepting this. In small ways, in the everyday, the more we make this kind of behaviour unacceptable, the more opprobrium we attach to the casual comment or the passing joke, the more we revile the darker impulses of a society that favours and condemns on the grounds of race or religion or wealth or history, the better our world might slowly be.