Thursday 27 May 2010

Debate about debate

As some of my Irish friends and acquaintances have suggested, talking about anything that directly or indirectly refers to race is a minefield littered with potent threats of being labelled a racist or a bigot. This has meant that in Ireland, we have actually been debating for some time now, the lack of open debate about the changes in the demographic profile of the country through immigration rather the actual debate on the implications of these changes. As a strong believer in the right to freedom of speech and expression, I would tentatively agree that people should not be deterred to discuss issues that affect for fear that they will be negatively labelled. I’m careful to say tentatively because, while I am particularly keen for the debate to take place, I do not want to lend any ounce of credence nor legitimacy to those whose agenda is cloaked in racist demagoguery. Case in point would be someone who does not have a problem with South African migrants as long as they are white but certainly would emphasise their anti-immigrant sentiments when it is black South African immigrants. Of course, I should also hasten to add that I do not have time or patience for those who play the card at every turn to cover up for their incompetence.  As Reverend Jesse Jackson once said to a crowd of young people many years ago, “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism. Therefore, in all things be excellent.”

1 comment:

Becks said...

But in the mean-time converstaions about race are vital. I just taught a course on race politics last semester to a bunch of Americans. Interestingly the kind of conversations I have with them about race are VERY different to those I have with my South African students. And this is obviously because, in the US you probably never encounter debate around race politics unless you take an African studies class. I realise now how priviledged I am in South African academia to be able to talk about these things... but every time I encounter inequality apropos race politics I realise how much more we need to be having constructive debate on race without anyone feeling offended or being defensive. And I think one of the inescapable perils of such a platform would be some occassional bigotry. Great subject IV... hope you pick it up again and take it further.