Reading through comments on Traveller related online news articles is soul destroying at the best of times, but the outpouring of anti-Traveller sentiment in recent days, in light of the Irish presidential elections, has been particularly distressing. Amongst all the usual ill-informed opinions based on prejudicial stereotypes, there’s a growing trend of people who not only fail to acknowledge Traveller marginalisation and prejudice, but who seem to believe that we are somehow the recipients of special or preferential treatment based on our ethnicity. Those who hold these views are entirely unwilling to acknowledge that they are privileged, even if they do grant that some minorities/ Travellers are disadvantaged.
In order to recognise and better understand the daily effects anti-Traveller sentiment/racism/ discrimination, it is useful to identify situations in which you may have advantage or privilege over Traveller people. We would invite those of you from the majority community here ( Irish/British, white) to read through the following statements and see how many apply to you.
Then take a moment to consider that not one of them applies to Travellers.
This is the reality of our lives, the reality of the everyday prejudices that lead to a right wing, ignorant buffoon leaping from 1%-21% in the presidential elections.
1. I can, if I wish, be in the company of people of my ethnicity most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I’ve been socialised to mistrust or who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. I can go shopping assured that I will not be followed by security staff.
4. If I turn on the TV or open a paper, I will see people of my ethnic group widely represented.
5. What I am told about our national heritage, I am told that people of my ethnicity made it what it is.
6. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and validity of their ethnicity.
7. I can be fairly confident that my voice will be heard when in a group of people in which I am the only member of my ethnic group or race.
8. Whether I use cheques, credit cards or cash, I can count on my ethnicity not to prejudice the appearance of financial reliability.
9. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism and prejudice for their own daily physical and emotional protection.
10. I can be fairly confident that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their ethnicity.
11. I can talk with my mouth full, be loud in restaurants etc and not have people attribute this to my ethnicity or race.
12. I can swear, dress in second hand clothes or not respond to emails or letters without having people attribute this to the bad morals, poverty or illiteracy of my race or ethnic group.
13. I can speak in public to a powerful group without putting my ethnic group on trial.
14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race or ethnic group.
15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my ethnic group.
16. I can remain oblivious of the language, culture and customs of persons who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
17. I can be confident that if I ask to speak to ‘the person in charge’, I will be facing a person of my ethnic background or race.
18. If I am pulled over by the police or the inland revenue audits my tax returns, I can be confident that I haven’t been singled out as a result of my ethnicity or race.
19. I can easily purchase books, greeting cards, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my ethnicity.
20. I can go home from most meetings of organisations I belong to feeling somewhat included rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
21. I can be relatively confident that an argument with a colleague of another ethnicity or race is more likely to jeopardise her/his chances for advancement than mine.
22. If I declare that there is an issue of race/ethnicity at hand, or that there isn’t an issue of race/ethnicity at hand, my ethnicity will lend me more credibility for either position than a Traveller will have.
23. I am not made acutely aware that my appearance or bearing will be taken as a reflection of my ethnic group.
24. I can have concerns about racism and prejudices without being seen as self -interested or self-seeking.
25. I can take a job with an employer without having my colleagues suspect that I only got it because of my ethnicity.
26. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.
27. I can be fairly confident of finding people willing to discuss and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
28. I can consider my options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my ethnic group would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
29. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my ethnic group/race.
30. I can be sure that if I require legal help, my ethnicity will not work against me.
31. I can arrange activities, book venues etc without being turned away because of my ethnicity.
32. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my ethnicity is not the problem.
33. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only/primarily to people of my ethnicity or race.
34. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my ethnic group or race.
35. I can travel alone or with my family without experiencing embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
36. I have no difficulty in identifying neighbourhoods where people approve of our household.
37. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our family living conditions/choice of accommodation.
38. I will feel welcomed and ‘normal’ in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
39. I can look at mainstream news reports without outpourings of hate speech in the comments section, all directed at members of my ethnic group.
40. In order to progress academically or professionally, I do not have to play down my ethnicity or hide it entirely.
41. When I complete a piece of work or a project, I can be confident that any praise will be genuine and complete and not seen as good ‘for one of them people’.
42. I can enter any shop or bar with a group of my ethnic group, sober and behaving reasonably without being refused entry/ service based on my ethnicity.
43. I can make a legitimate complaint about prejudicial behaviour without being told that I’m ‘playing the race card’.
44. If I raise my voice or am affirmative in any way during a meeting or conversation, I am credited as being ‘passionate’ and ‘authoritative’ rather than aggressive or confrontational.