The issue of racism has reared its ugly head as it recently made news headlines. The conviction of Stephen Lawrence’s killers gave us a sinister reminder of the worst consequences of racism. Just as with the brutal murder of Toyosi Shittabey in 2010, we must use these incidents as a wake-up call to stamp out the possibility of such horrific tragedies happening.
They also serve to highlight the significance of comments of prominent figures in society such as those of Fine Gael Councillor Darren Scully who stated his refusal in dealing with representations from “black Africans” is due to their “aggressive attitude and bad manners”. Elected representatives making such comments can play a vile role in “normalising” racism.
This was seen in 2002 when Le Pen came second in the French Presidential election. At that time, a year after 9/11, vicious racist attacks on Arabs and Muslims saw a dramatic rise; these were exacerbated by Le Pen’s racist and prejudiced remarks.
A recent example of this was Sepp Blatter. The corrupt head of Football’s world governing body FIFA, expressed the view that racism was not an issue in football after charges of racism were brought against Suarez and Terry.
Racism is very much a part of capitalist society and it comes as no surprise unfortunately that it is on the rise at a time of prolonged economic crisis both in Ireland and internationally. Capitalists and establishment parties use “divide and rule” policies, which appeal to prejudices, in order to detract from the underlying problems of the system.
The absence of a strong political presence on the left, means some working class people, young and disillusioned males in particular, may be conned into believing that minorities are a factor in rising unemployment and continued austerity.
Thankfully the rise of a far-right organisation has not presented itself in Ireland, but there have been gains for some racist parties and groups across Europe since the crisis began. Opposition to racism must be linked to other class issues such as unemployment and cuts in services. Ultimately, the only possible way of getting rid of racism and prejudice is by eradicating class society and the conditions that allow it to exist under capitalism.