More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish?

I’ve just listened to Steo Wall, and Toshín singing ‘More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish’.

I’ve seen signs, T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, and tote bags with ‘More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish’ on them. Now, this song has the slogan as a title. It is my understanding that this all well-intentioned, and very much an anti-racism push-back against the horrific racism we’re seeing all around Ireland. I don’t, however, think that just replacing ‘No’ with ‘More’ undoes the harm of the initial signage.

‘More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish’ still suggests that dogs, Black people, and Irish people are life forms of equal value. Now, I love my pets just as much as the next person – but if I were given the choice between housing one of them, or housing a Black person, or an Irish person, or a person of any background, the animal would have to surrender their position. I don’t think ‘More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish’ goes far enough as an anti-racism replacement for ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’. It seems a bit….performative, a bit reductive, a bit too much of a ‘quick fix’ where someone was trying too hard to be clever, and forgot to be smart.

It reminds me of Imelda May’s recent poem ‘You don’t get to be Racist and Irish’, where she uses this new ‘More’ catchphrase. Apart from the fact that this is not a well-written piece (it reads like something scribbled in a hurry, and released before it was refined); Imelda May has, herself, been called out for Anti-Traveller Racism. In a series of tweets in early 2021, she was taken to task for her appropriation of Traveller culture to promote her latest album. She issued a nonpology, and said her granny once told her that her granny had Romani blood. Yes, you read that right – she feels that because her granny told her that there is a Roma person in her family tree at least five generations ago, Imelda has the right to appropriate a barrel-top wagon, which is a visual representation of Traveller culture.

The truth is that Irish people are racist. We are. We always have been. I’m heartily sick of us slapping ourselves on our backs, and saying we’re not racist. We won’t stop being racist until we accept that we are in the first place, and then take steps to dismantle this racism – it’s institutionalised, it’s endemic, it’s sanctioned.

If you’re interested in examining your own racism, you might start with books like Emma Dabiri’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, ‘What White People Can Do Next’, and ‘Twisted; Reni Eddo-Lodge’s ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’; ‘White Tears, Brown Scars’, by Ruby Hamad, and Regina Jackson’s and Saira Rao’s ‘White Women’. Practically, you can look at Race2Dinner and – if you’re quick – you might be able to snag yourself a ticket to Equitable Dinners, Atlanta (which also has an online option).