I know there will be some people who read the headline above and just assume that it is unfair, because that’s the country we live in now: Trust in institutions is so low, and everyone has an agenda, and so on. Gript, those people will think, is probably just exaggerating what the Minister said.
But no. We’re not:
“Mr O’Brien said his department is facing a number of issues and “racism is one of them”.
He said some providers will not take international protection applicants because of “their own views”, while others are fearful of “public disapproval” if they provide accommodation to them.
“In both circumstances, racism is involved,” he added.”
The thing about racism, as a charge, is that its value lies in how eager people are to prove themselves innocent. Nobody wants to be thought of as a racist (probably even including actual racists). The number of people who would actively admit to racism in this, or any other western society, is a fraction of a fraction of a per cent. The number of people who would go to great lengths to avoid being thought of as a racist is significantly higher than that.
Because this is true, charges of racism are easily weaponised, and this statement from the Minister is good example of that in action. Thought of in that light, this is not so much a statement of fact from the Minister as it is an act of blackmail: If you want to prove you are not a racist, then you will open your communities’ doors to whomsoever I send you, and you won’t utter a word of complaint. And if you do complain, it is evidence that you are racist.
In point of fact, though it shouldn’t need to be said, there is basically no evidence of widespread racism in Irish society, or even enough racism to be worthy of comment. Ireland has accommodated over 100,000 Ukrainians since the war in that country broke out, with almost complete acceptance from the population. In terms of migrants from elsewhere, it took an unprecedented surge in numbers, and a significant migrant accommodation crisis, for anyone to speak up. And when they do speak up, the speaking up is generally of the mildest, most NIMBY variety. In towns across Ireland, the message has not been “no immigration”, but “we can’t host a migrant centre here”. There are few objections in Killarney to hosting migrants in Ballina, and vice versa: it has consistently been about the locality, not the policy. In some places, like East Wall, a more concrete set of objections to immigration in general were advanced – but they have been the exception, not the rule. And besides, opposing immigration is not racist.
What is true is that there are obviously differing societal attitudes to taking in women and children fleeing a war than there are to taking in young males from countries that are not war torn. These differences in attitudes are not based on bigotry, but established fact: In every society that has ever existed, young males commit crimes and sexual crimes at vastly higher rates than mothers with children do. That is as true of all-white societies as it is of any other. It is also true that crime and anti-social behaviour rises in almost every social setting where young men are confined together, and away from their families. That accommodating people in this way is sub-optimal for both them, and for the communities sentenced to facilitate it, is an obvious statement.
As such, the charge of racism should be seen for exactly what it is – an attempt at moral blackmail. The Minister is hoping against hope that the societal taboo against racism will break the resolve of at least some of those communities and individuals who have as yet refused to co-operate with his plans to turn their towns into housing hubs for young male refugees.
It is also probably true that the Minister himself believes it. He is, after all, a man of the left.
As we saw this weekend with the latest oddball intervention from President Higgins, men of the left do tend to think themselves something of a moral and intellectual cut above the riff-raff: In the President’s case, it was to essentially denounce the whole social science of economics as being short sighted and unwilling to see the greater truth that economic growth is, he declares, bad. In the Minister’s case, being a lifelong anti-racism campaigner leads him to think, I suspect, that he, through years of work and study, has conquered the primeval and bigoted instincts that plague all men. Because he is above racism himself, and more educated than the average protestor in Mullingar, he is prone to think that the locals are simply indulging in a bit of tribal, caveman-esque discrimination. Sure it’s all they know. The nature of elitism is that the elites are elite precisely because they are more evolved than you are. At least in their own minds.
He’s wrong, of course. But that won’t stop him.