Black Lives Matter (BLM) as its known today was started in 2013 by three impassioned females – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors.
At its inception BLM was an online movement that was set up after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s Floridian trial was a messy ordeal featuring administrative delays and a controversial verdict supported by his claim of self-defence. In the seven years following the George Zimmerman case there was numerous controversies involving black people in America. Such events led to the development of BLM into an international organization (Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc.), whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities by the state and vigilantes ( https://blacklivesmatter.com/ ). Notably the greatest explosion in the BLM calendar did not happen until the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
BLM protests flowing from the death of George Floyd blended into a hazy summer of Covid-19 disruptions, civil movements and political debate. The American presidential election galvanized matters too.
With America’s transparent history of racism, segregation and slavery it is perhaps appropriate for BLM to make their voice heard in the USA, but is it warranted for them to amplify their voice in Ireland over one isolated incident where an armed and dangerous Afro-Irish man was killed by a member of An Garda Síochána?
On 30 December, 2020, George Nkencho was shot dead by a special Armed Garda Unit in Dublin. Evidence suggests that Nkencho went on a frightening spree where he assaulted an innocent shopkeeper and threatened innocent civilians. Garda were deployed to contain Mr Nkencho but they struggled in their efforts. Unarmed Garda followed him in a peaceful fashion from a shopping centre to a nearby housing estate. Efforts were then made to restrain him using taser guns and pepper spray but these measures were unsuccessful. Video footage shows Nkencho lashing out at Garda before a firearm was discharged. During the entirety of this ordeal Nkencho was armed with a knife ( https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/spotlight/arid-40201541.html ).
The death of George Nkencho was tragic, but it would have been no more or less tragic had he of been white. In fact it is likely that George Nkencho would have attracted less attention and less mutiny if he was white.
In the past 23 years there has been six cases (excluding George Nkencho) of Garda fatally shooting people ( https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/gardai-involved-in-six-fatal-shootings-in-the-line-of-duty-since-1998-39919572.html ). All of these previous six cases involved white people and none of them invoked the same degree of disquiet as the recent Nkencho incident.
Bad publicity, inquest and ignominy are always a high possibility on any rare occasion that involves a member of An Garda Síochána discharging a firearm. In Ireland the defence forces use lethal force extremely sparingly because they know that it can cause such an outrageous backlash of opprobrium. In the current age of smartphones where armed Garda know they are being filmed, and in the current age of anti-racist discourse, it is absurd to suggest that the George Nkencho tragedy was a racially motivated trigger-happy hate crime. Yet this is what Irish BLM supporters are disseminating.
Following the Nkencho shooting a lot of video material circulated on social media and much of it did not present Afro-Irish youths as helpless little victims of a tyrannical Irish society. Some videos showed unsettling abuse and intimidation directed towards An Garda Síochána; officers ran away scared while the angry mob prevailed. There was also footage of Afro-Irish youths beating up white kids, and reports of Afro-Irish youths terrorizing innocent people while running amok in public. BLM protests were held in different parts of the country inside and outside Dublin; such protests were in flagrant breach of level 5 Covid-19 restrictions but nobody wanted to highlight this affront for fear of stoking up tension.
Furthermore this recent kerfuffle is not the only suppressed blemish on the reputation of Afro-Irish youths.
Over the past few years there’s been numerous outcries concerning young black gangs behaving unlawfully, fighting and leaving communities living in fear. Tyrellstown, in North West Dublin, came to be known as a place of unrest because of such ethnic minorities. Balbriggan, in North Dublin, has also been spoken of mistrustfully. Truthfully some Irish people would shudder at the thought of crossing paths with a gathering of Afro-Irish youths on a dark night, and whereas some might interpret this apprehension as intolerable racism, others feel justified reasons for it ( https://www.buzz.ie/news/exclusive-shocking-footage-ashbourne-attack-left-teenager-hospital-320269 ).
In modern Ireland people of foreign descent are reproducing at a rate that might outpace native Irish people within the next century. In the Flemington area of Balbriggan 60% of residents are classified as ethnic Irish and 30% are classified as non-national ( https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/integration-is-a-key-element-of-balbriggan-s-development-plan-1.4001522 ). According to statistics provided by David McWilliams in Renaissance Nation (2018); Beltubbert, Drogheda, Longford and Navan are amongst some of the most ethnically diverse towns in Ireland. These statistics are interesting when held up against the widespread suggestion that Ireland is a very racist country.
In Ireland there is a narrative that tells the people they are racist. Everywhere you look and everywhere you go, you will hear or see the “R” word staring back at you.
Tommy Tiernan, who in the past was labeled a racist, now interviews ethnic minorities on his weekly RTÉ chat show. The Irish Times, Ireland’s most reputable broadsheet newspaper, embodies a liberal-friendly agenda.
As Ireland progresses into a diverse future it is of course important to militate against racism, but it is important to approach the issue of racism with an unbiased motive. As it stands there is a lot of anxiety surrounding the topic of racism; there are a lot of intelligent people afraid to discuss racism because it is such a sensitive subject and nobody wants to upset the applecart. Consequently a lot of people remain tight-lipped when it comes to racism, however this attitude is neither healthy nor democratic. This attitude puts society at risk of missing the middle ground on the issue of racism, and if society loses sight of the middle ground then the fight against racism cannot ever be won, and the risk of a “shouting competition” between far left and far right extremists will likely suffice.
In order for society to defeat racism in unity it is important to know that black lives matter but only as much and no more than yellow lives, white lives, Pakistani lives, Brazilian lives and everybody else’s life.