Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Reaction Show Racism The Red Card Received

Regarding the reaction Show Racism The Red Card received to Phil Mac Giolla Bhain being photographed with SRTRC.

As publisher of the book, Minority Reporter, by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, which inspired Show Racism The Red Card to invite him to associate himself with them, I'm compelled to respond to their statement today. 

Although an atheist I was brought up in a Protestant, Rangers-supporting, British Forces family background. The notion that I could ever be, or could ever support anyone who is, anti-Protestant is ridiculous. I am as offended by anti-Protestantism and anti-Britishness as I am by anti-Irishness and anti-Catholism. It is worth noting that the heroic protagonists in Phil’s two recent stage plays were both brought up Rangers supporters. I’ve known Phil for over five years and there isn’t a sectarian bone in his body. Had there been there would have been no association with me.

The vile reaction SRTRC received to its public association with Phil is familiar. It is the same as the reaction The Sun received when they announced serialisation of Phil’s book. Police were obliged to visit the journalist who wrote the puff piece to advise him on the safety of him and his family. Phil regularly gets such threats. The editor of Phil’s book, Angela Haggerty, received the same abuse, to the point that an internet radio show host was jailed for inciting anti-Irish and sectarian hatred against her. This same grouping demanded Angela get sacked from The Sunday Herald when they employed her as a columnist. They succeeded, albeit temporarily.

Many of those providing this reaction appear to be organised, primed to swing into action every time Phil or Angela make traction. Their crime? Being Irish or being of Irish descent and not only refusing to sit at the back of the bus but, in fact, demanding vocally that they should be at the front of the bus. You might be familiar with the term “an uppity n*****r”? That is the objection of most those complaining.

My advice to SRTRC is ask all those objecting to Phil being associated with SRTRC what they have done for SRTRC lately. Have they shown the same determined reaction to people singing about being up to their knees in Fenian blood in The Billy Boy Song, or those singing that the Irish should go home? Because, if the objectors have not been as vocal in their objection to those examples of racism as they have been to perceived offence in Phil’s writing, then you have to ask, if objectivity is truly the priority here, why not? Have these “concerned members of the public” publicly and without fear or favour condemned fans of their club for singing these songs or any other form of racist and sectarian abuse? If not, then SRTRC has to ask them directly why not?  

Every week thousands of people sing these appalling racist and sectarian songs. Where are the “concerned members of the public”  then? More often than not, standing beside someone doing the singing perhaps? Or worse, singing themselves? Can you imagine the reaction in England if thousands sang about being up to their knees in Black people’s blood what society’s reaction would be? Or what the media reaction would be? Would it be ignored the way it is ignored in Scotland? Well, it might be, if Anti-Racist organisations caved in to people who objected to those opposing racism.

If Anti-Racist organisations instantly change their course due to the adverse reaction of “concerned members of the public”, who have a questionable track record of opposing racism or of selectively opposing what they see as racism, then those genuinely affected by racism may well cease to view such Anti-Racism organisations as effective - or even worthwhile.  

Secondly, the manner of SRTRC change of course here (via its statement) was not glorious. SRTRC released a shocking statement heavily referencing Phil but without previously making him aware of the content of this statement, far less seeking to invite any kind of input or right of reply pre-publication. SRTRC hung Phil out to dry. His crime? To positively reply to SRTRC request for an interview. This suggests that SRTRC had no interest in protecting the reputation or the safety of an anti-racist campaigner whom, at their own instigation and initiative, they invited to their project. Having instigated this episode SRTRC had a duty of care to its subject.

Of course not all the objectors were racists, but the racists among them are now empowered. All they had to do was turn up with their torches. The empowerment resulting from SRTRC publicly and hastily disassociating itself from Phil was not factored in by SRTRC, which disappoints because one would think an Anti-Racist organisation would sensitively consider all the implications of its actions.

SRTRC stated they wanted to be objective and avoid “label” usage. An admirable aim. But at what stage then do we call racists racist? Is the word banned? SRTRC would have to change its name were that the case. Having worked substantially in Northern Ireland many months of the year for 20 years I understand perfectly the counter productiveness of inappropriate label usage. I understand how peeling off peripheral support for the hard core of racists is inhibited by insulting that periphery. Rather than peeling them off it instead binds them closer together.  I get that. And the hard core of racists, whom some call the klan, work very, very hard to conflate that peripheral and casual, passive support with themselves. So that, when someone identifies (“labels”) the hard core as racist, they twist that to say “look! they are calling us all racist”, which is untrue. But, by insidiously co-opting the support into the racist core lump, they protect themselves, disguise themselves as “concerned members of the public”, and manage to hide their own racist views from immediate view.  

As a publisher we'll continue to support organisations such as SRTRC, but not uncritically. Now many genuinely concerned members of the public, i.e., those who actually oppose all racism every day as opposed to some who’s very inconsistency on the issue should have instructed SRTRC, will see this change of course by SRTRC as climbing down, or worse, as caving in. That is potentially more damaging than offending those who are at best inconsistent in condemning racism.

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