The issue of the day today is are the ‘Green Lights’ being used by a number of Dublin taxi drivers are in some way racist as they are being used to denote the driver as ‘Irish’ and not a dastardly foreigner.
Now the drivers were on the airwaves saying the lights were simply there to help you and me, the public, find them through the persistent hazy mist of Dublin weather (how thoughtful). However, some drivers are also sporting 100% Irish stickers, and are confidently using the example of ‘Buy Irish’ labels on goods in our shops to defend them. This unfortunately misses the point that their non-national driver colleagues are in fact working here in Ireland and so are active members (and equally so in all ways) of the economy.
One driver in outlining the benefits to the new lights hit a tangent, ‘But now that you mention it most people will walk past black or foreign drivers to find an Irish driver even if they are not next on the rank. So maybe the lights will help people find us’. Gee thanks for making it easier for us to facilitate our inherent racism.
Vox pops were aired where members of the public voiced their reasons for not choosing foreign taxi drivers, some felt lack of geographical knowledge was a valid reason for avoiding them (of course this presupposes that all foreign drivers are geographically challenged while all Irish are not…). One enlightened member of the public on Sean Moncrief’s radio show claimed that because black people ‘all look the same’ meant it would be too difficult to follow up on a complaint. Of course complaining an Irish driver is much easier because you can say ‘yer man had red hair or whatever’ ah it’s hard not to get excited when open debate hits such highs.
So let’s try and see what some of the real reasons could be behind this issue.
Yes there is an element of racism here; there is racism from the public toward black or foreign drivers because of various trust issues as well as simple straight forward ignorance. There is racism from Irish drivers toward their non national colleagues for financial and again issues of basic ignorance.
It is the economic argument that for me stands out most. The taxi industry is having increasingly tough times, more cars on the streets less punters it is a simple supply and demand issue. So what do we see happening, the Irish drivers are looking to eek out a Unique Selling Point (USP) to help them garner a competitive market advantage. Nothing too wrong with this, one could say and would be right too. Some drivers will take credit cards, some will have newer cars etc all in an attempt to get that advantage, but when that advantage is sought on a foundation of blatant racism it is simply wrong.
This is probably a microcosm of greater problems we are seeing and will see in even more cases as this economic crisis continues and it is these very battle lines that need us ‘The General Public’ to stand at and say in a resounding voice ‘We do not want this in our society’. You often hear the phrase ‘Irish people are inherently racists’ it is true but it is not singular to the Irish.
I feel all people are in some way inherently racist and it is in tough times, particularly economically, when we really show our inner racism. Society has also shown it can combat racism and we need to pull on all those experiences to ensure we do not allow Ireland to head down that road in 2012 and beyond. We are hearing of Far Right movements growing in Hungary, we saw it in Greece and we know of it in Holland, France the UK and others. We haven’t anything organised here but if we allow this seeping consensus of racism to go unchecked we may not need it to be organised for it to exist. So in whatever way you can, in conversation, online or in action fight racism in all its forms, it will be better for all of us.