Feeling Other – Racism and Racial Profiling in Ireland and Elsewhere

In Backwards and Forwards, one of my favorite books on writing drama, David Ball says that two connected events create one action.  By this he means one inciting event invites/invokes/encourages a response event that becomes the inciting event for the next action (and so on, and so on, until Hamlet lies dead on the stage).  Think of it.  I drop my pen. You pick it up and hand it to me. That’s one action. You’ve picked up my pen, and I say thank you. And away we go.

Well, a few weeks ago, two events happened that have conspired to make me consider notions of racism, class, culture, and fitting in.  Yes, this again.  Shortly after we arrived back in July, I wrote about suddenly being “ethnic.  Well, the latest events didn’t so much happen to me, as happen with me.

As part of my multi-pronged campaign to get out and meet people and explore Ireland on foot, my wife, Kalpana, and I headed out to meet a group of folks from a local Walking Club Meet Up group.  On the Dublin Bus (route 16a) ride to the walk’s starting point we passed through a good bit of Dublin (south, city center, and north).  But it wasn’t until we got to the northern (less affluent) parts of town that two Dublin Bus inspectors came on board.

This was particularly noteworthy because in nine months I’ve never seen a Dublin Bus inspector anywhere (north, south, east, west) at any time.  So I’m hyper aware that something is different.  One inspector comes upstairs and finds a smattering of passengers that include me (a white American), my wife (Indian American), two Italian girls, an Indian man, an olive-skinned “Middle Eastern-looking” (whatever that means) man, and four other white men.  Being the hyper-compliant, goody goody, hall monitor type that I am, I immediately brandish my ticket to the inspector, who promptly ignores it.  He checks my wife’s ticket, the Italian girls’ tickets, the Indian man’s tickets, the Middle Eastern man’s ticket, and one of the white men.  The he comes back to the front, ignores my aggressively flapping ticket once more, and checks the same tickets again (except for the lone white man), and then leaves.

Clearly this inspector was looking for something among a narrowly defined slice of the population.  We found out later (having complained to Dublin Bus about this flagrant act of racial profiling) that the appearance of the inspectors (at all) was likely due to the fact that (unbeknownst to the public) thousands of Euros in ticket have recently gone missing.  Yet that hardly explains the profiling, for which the official had no response, except to say that Dublin Bus’ inspectors (and employees overall) represent the pinnacle of professionalism.

While the Irish are often labeled as friendly and easy going, they’ve also been tagged as not being the most racially or culturally sensitive people on the planet. Witness the ubiquitous “damn Polacks taking all the jobs” comments.  This comment is almost always meant as a slight on not just folks of Polish heritage, but towards anyone of Eastern European ancestry. I find this attitude puzzling (or not) give the fact that Irish attempts at assimilation have, at times, been greeted less than warmly.

Later that same day, on our walk, I passed an attractive black-skinned woman and her child walking in the park. The woman stood out to me because it’s fairly rare to see dark-skinned people (be they African American, African, Caribbean, or what have you) in Ireland, but mostly because she was attractive.  I was conscious of the fact that I was staring at her.  Being handicapped myself, there’s a little voice in the back of my head when people look at me with anything other than a casual glance. That voice  always asks me, “do I look good today, or is it the limp?”  After forty some years of this, I don’t hold it against them, but still I wonder.

So, on this day, with racial issues on my mind, it occurred to me that this woman might think I was profiling her.  I found myself thinking, “Man, I hope she thinks I’m a letch and not a bigot.”

Later, it also occurred to me that on the bus I dismissively assumed there were more bus inspectors on the north side of town (the poor side) because that’s where the scammers would be.  Is that wrong of me?

Also, I was wearing a flat cap and am a white man. At a quick glance does that make me “look Irish”?  I’m told that the cap is too new and nobody Irish and under 60 wears them, so the Irish assume I’m American. American, good?  Or pig-dog American, heathen-exploiter, and cultural rapist?

All of this got me thinking, what marks us racially, culturally, stylistically as Irish, American, Indian, African, rich, poor?  And when we get to obvious color distinctions, what marks us as poor black, or poor white, and why?

Imagine there are two people standing in line at a store in London (or Dublin, or New York). It’s 7a.m. and both are un-showered and dressed in clean, comfortable old jeans and a t-shirt.  Both have clearly stopped in just to grab a newspaper and a coffee. Both are on vacation. Both pay cash. One is from Moscow, and one is from Namibia. One runs a syndicate, while the other is a farmer. One is male, and one is female.

  • One is Judy Schwartz, a white Harvard-educated solar energy expert who designs, manufactures, and distributes inexpensive solar panels all across Africa.
  • The other is Jim Alamahu, an Ethiopian-born (black-skinned) potato farmer from Moscow, Idaho. He’s also a millionaire.

As I added in more and more details, did you make assumptions about who did what and from where?  I did.

At the store, If they are both paying cash and dressed the same, why do we make assumptions about their wealth and class, based on ethnicity/nationality?

Viva Bulworth!!!

Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:

Taxed in Two Places

About Glenn Kaufmann

I'm an American freelance writer, photographer, and web publisher. I specialize in writing about travel, food, arts, and culture. I also write dramatic scripts for stage and screen. I'm based in Ireland.
This entry was posted in Dublin Life, Home & A Sense of Place, Immigration & Emigration, Irish Life & Society, Modern Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Feeling Other – Racism and Racial Profiling in Ireland and Elsewhere

  1. Pekin Ogan says:

    Awesome Thinkin’ and Writin’ !!!!

  2. Scot says:

    Based only on the information you state above, I don’t see a racial profiling problem. Yes, the Inspectors were/are apparently looking for something or someone specific. You, for ‘whatever’ reason don’t fit what they are searching for. It is likely that IF they were actually looking for tickets that had been stolen, they may have had a ‘rough’ description of the perpetrator(s). That ‘rough’ description, or based on past experience, may have led the Inspectors to be searching for something that happened to rule you out. To claim that is indiscriminate racial profiling may be a bit out of line.

    To wit, I am NOT stating or suggesting that type of behavior doesn’t happen (globally even), but I don’t think you can necessarily say that was even remotely the case here. As for the other bits of information, like where the action occurred, it is quite likely that either that is generally where more crimes statistically occur or that the crime these particular Inspectors are working on happened. Additionally, if you were ‘eagerly’ offering your ticket to the inspector, as you describe above, or making it readily available, it is less likely that you were knowingly carrying a stolen ticket and therefore not the one(s) they were looking for.

    As a parallel, when one looks at the public Max line in Portland, Oregon and the crimes associated with it. There are quite obviously sections that statistically bear out that certain segments or areas are significantly higher in their incidents of crime than others. As a result, there are more transit authorities posted in those areas. Furthermore, are more of the crimes committed by one identifiable segment of the population than another? Yes, they are. Does that mean that when a transit authority questions someone they may suspect of belonging to that group, regarding an unresolved crime, it is a racial profiling situation? Absolutely not.

    In your scenario above about the two persons in line at the grocery store…let’s say the authorities came in and questioned one person about a crime but not the other. Does that make it a racial profiling crime? Not necessarily. They may simply have one or two identifiers to use as clues in their case. IF that identifier is that the suspect was a male. There’s one answer. IF that identifier is that the suspect was a person of color (sex unknown). There’s another reason for the questioning. There just isn’t enough information to make a judgement that any form of racial profiling existed.

    By nature, humans are designed to notice not only the similarities, but the differences amongst people. At birth this very set of ‘skills’ is designed to help one identify their family and more importantly their provider of sustenance. This helps one identify their neighbors and therefore their neighborhood and find their way back home. On and on it goes all as a means of helping you identify who you are and where you are. As for your ‘noticing’ a particularly stunning woman of color…that is part of your humanity. We are designed to notice things around us. It protects us especially in new or unfamiliar situations. You are doubly screwed in this, in that as a writer it is your very job to notice, identify, and describe the world you see around you. However, if you stared too long, Kalpana should have slapped you.

  3. Kalpana says:

    Scot – The manager I talked to couldn’t give me a straight answer about why this had happened. First, it was the bus driver that was being investigated (potentially; he didn’t know). Ok, fair enough. Then why come back twice? And why look at passes like mine that are not issued by the bus driver? And why look only at the passes/tickets of people of color if we weren’t the ones under suspicion?

    Then I got the bus fraud answer – there was a specific kind of ticket that was being stolen. I asked what kind and he told me (daily tickets). So the bus inspector should have been looking at those, right? I have an annual pass that entitles me to use the Dublin Bus system whenever. Glenn had a single use pass. THAT kind of ticket was the problem. The annual pass/monthly pass was not the problem. So why was the manager looking at mine? Twice?

    The eager types? Every single person had pulled out their bus pass/tickets (I’m a hall monitor type too). So why focus only on some people?

    Racial profiling is not about inconveniencing one person. It is about the systematic application of law enforcement based on certain racial characteristics. And that’s what was going on here.

  4. Mairead says:

    I’ve travelled on Dublin Bus on the south side of the city all my life and have always seen Bus Inspectors. They’re not a North side phenomenon.

    • Mairead,
      Not that I doubt you in any way. but can you define “always”? Are they on every bus you ride? Do you see them once a week/month/day?

      I frequently see inspectors on the LUAS, but not on the bus.

      And thanks for taking the time to read and comment.


  5. Melodychins says:


    I have just left Dublin after 11 years of living there. Bus inspectors were a very common sight on all routes both north and south up until…oh I guess 2008/ 2009 maybe. They have gradually died out on all routes and to see one now is very very rare. I’m not sure quite why this is but my suspicion would be that, as Dublin Bus is a state owned company, their funding has been significantly cut over the last few years, so I presume they simply can’t afford the man power. Luas’ staffing requirements are supplied by a company called Veolia (who are Dutch I believe), who are not state owned and as such are not subject to the same budgetary constraints as Dublin Bus.

    In relation to your experience with the bus inspector, yes, the people he double checked were of colour BUT you also mention that they were female. Maybe he wasn’t a racist, he could have been just a good old fashioned Pervert as opposed to the next coming of Hitler. You mention you were sitting upstairs. Do you know how he behaved towards the people downstairs? As to why he didn’t check your ticket, you mention further down in your post that you have a physical impairment that also sounds that it hampers your mobility to some degree. If you were carrying a crutch/walking stick with you and the inspector saw it, it is quite likely that what he thought you were waving at him was a free travel pass that is given by our welfare service to people with a disability.

    Honestly I really think you are over analysing a small incident to it’s minute detail and then when you get that tiny detail you are smothering it in conjecture. I mean after all it’s more than likely you were perved on and condescended to as opposed to being racially profiled so everyone wins no? 🙂
    Thanks for the post and do your self a favour and get out of Dublin for Patricks day.

  6. Annie Daywalker says:

    This is an interesting read, but I feel it necessary to address some issues you raised. Firstly, to assume someone is racist is a form of racism; you assumed that this incident was racially motivated, but inspectors regularly do the same thing to Irish and people of any colour. They are known to target teenagers, groups of friends, people with certain haircuts, particular types of clothing, etc. and we have all experienced that one who seems to target us unfairly and for no apparent reason. You don’t know for certain what went on inside his head and you assumed that it related to the colour of the other passengers’ skin. It might be, but then again, it probably wasn’t. You made that connection, not the bus inspector.
    The person you called for an explanation cannot give you one, as they were not there and did not witness anything. It is their job to avoid bringing their company into disrepute, while ensuring that you feel listened to as a customer and it sounds like they did just that. It is also well-known in Ireland that public service companies don’t bother to follow up on complaints or take them in any way seriously, unless they are officially threatened with legal action (i.e. via a solicitor).

    Secondly, nobody calls Polish people ‘Polacks’ in Ireland. It is a derogatory term used mainly in the U.S. and I have never heard any Irish person use it. Yes, many people felt hard done by when Eastern Europeans came in their thousands, undercutting construction staff in particular and offering their services for less than minimum wage. These people had worked hard all their lives and suddenly found themselves unemployed or on massively reduced salaries, because others were willing to work for peanuts. That has everything to do with economics and nothing to do with race or ethnicity. You’ll find that the vast majority of people don’t really care if Polish or other Eastern European people come to Ireland and many of us have forged great business and personal relationships since the migration began. Most of us don’t care who shows up, as long as they don’t mess our lives up in the process.

    I also find it odd that you never see black people in Ireland, since there are many thousands living here, particularly in Dublin. Ireland has accepted more asylum seekers of African origin than most European countries and offers extensive welfare programs to anyone in that position, regardless of colour. Free housing, food, education, clothing, etc. are offered for the entirety of the time that asylum seekers are in Ireland, be it awaiting confirmation of asylum seeker status, visa processing or gaining permanent residence/citizenship. Many others are not fleeing homeland horrors and have come to Ireland to work in a competitive, well-paid and up until recently, thriving environment, with some of the lowest tax rates in Europe. I personally don’t pay attention to how many ‘ethnic’ people are on the street – I have other things to do and I’m not consumed by the search for racial differences. But I still know that they’re here and have been for many years. The argument you presented about the white professor/black farmer has already been addressed by a previous comment, so there’s no need for me to do the same, but it did seem a bit vague.

    On a personal note, I have just spent 3 months in SE Asia, where I was verbally and physically abused on a continual basis; pushed, punched, grabbed, groped, laughed at, screamed at, spat at and ripped off at every opportunity for being white. Racism comes in many forms and unless someone blatantly confirms that their actions are racially motivated (which happened regularly in my case), you are making an assumption. To assume that a white person is behaving in a certain way because the person in front of them is of a different nationality or race, is racist and ignorant in its own right.

    Lastly, please lose the flat cap; it’s disrespectful to our culture and yes, people might think less of you if you continue to wear it. You don’t need to look Irish to be accepted; you just need to treat people with respect and show them that you’re a good person. You seem to be a nice person with good intentions, so I doubt you’ll have much difficulty fitting in and becoming a valued member of the local community. Good luck with everything.

    • Annie,

      Thanks for taking time to read the post ( or most of it anyway), and for taking the tie to weigh in.

      I’m really not sure if you read the entire post, or were so offended early on that you stopped reading. But the overall gist of the post was to question where our assumptions about race/class/ethnicity and social “value” come fro,. I even questioned my own reaction to male/female/black/white/rich/poor value judgements in the “two shoppers” scenario that I described.

      I was pointing fingers at the Dublin bus inspector because he really did only seem concerned with checking the tickets of people with color. Except for the one white passenger he only checked tickets from people of color, and he made a point of going back and rechecking only their tickets. He looked at nobody else on the bus. I didn’t see what his partner did downstairs. My comment was only about that one inspector, and not inspectors overall, or Dublin bus as a whole. Racism is an issue you ferret out and deal with one racist at a time. And it may well be that the inspector has no tendency in that direction, but he should nevertheless be made aware of how his actions could be perceived.

      And, as for your comment stating “It is also well-known in Ireland that public service companies don’t bother to follow up on complaints or take them in any way seriously, unless they are officially threatened with legal action (i.e. via a solicitor).”, you have just demonstrated how my #1 gripe in the post Five Things I Hate About Dublin Ireland gets perpetuated. To wit:

      The reason Ireland has so much”Institutionalized Disorganization & Shameless Lack of Accountability” is precisely because you all let that crap happen.

      Here you are defending the bus representative (and all other public services representative’s) stalling tactics, and half-assed professionalism as essentially,”it’s just the way we do things”. If that’s well and truly the case, don’t be surprised when it happens to you again and again, and becomes a societal reflex. And don’t stand around baffled at the Irish economy’s inability to recover when you yourself have just made the case that it’s perfectly acceptable for our public officials to screw off all day unless and until we sew them to the point of doing their job.

      And as for not taking notice of people of color. Unless you have reason to notice thees things, most people don’t. That is to say, people of color tend to notice other people of color. And, in particular, they (and anyone really) tend to notice the absence of their color in a group. That may well be the reason you felt so disenfranchised in Asia.

      I was not singling Ireland out, but was asking a broader question about why we ( everyone on this planet) tend to make value/class judgements based on race/ethnicity, etc. I’m genuinely curious.

      and, the flat cap stays. I didn’t by it to look Irish. I bought it because it’s a style I’ve always liked (long before I came to Ireland), and it looks good on me.

      Seriously, thanks for reading, and weighing in. It’s discussion that I’m looking for.

  7. Annie Daywalker says:

    Hi Glenn,

    I was not so offended that I stopped reading, as you suggested; I read your entire post, several times, as I found it hard to believe what I was reading. My point has clearly been missed, as I did not defend the current system, nor was my argument suggesting any of the things you mentioned. As per my previous post, your assumptions have completely changed the context of what has actually occurred.

    You assumed that I defended the bus conductor’s actions; what I actually said was that this goes beyond ethnicity and is a much wider problem. Not once did I state that this was in any way acceptable and you would note this if you had approached my answer without your agenda in mind. I merely provided an explanation from the perspective of the culture you are now living in, as you are still adjusting and do not have the same experience as those of us born into it. You have to understand something to appropriately respond to it and this what I was trying to show you.

    You have chosen to assume that I have adopted a blasé attitude, even taking it further to suggest that I am to blame for problems within the public sector and the wider economy. In my professional life, I enable small and medium businesses to recover in the current economic climate, so forgive me for laughing when I read your suggestion. In relation to your comment on how I “let all that crap happen” to begin with; are ordinary Irish people to be held accountable for the messes of unscrupulous, top-echelon bankers? If this is your opinion, you might be a good candidate for current government. You also mention the ”Institutionalized Disorganization & Shameless Lack of Accountability” that we Irish supposedly allow; yes, this does happen in the business world, but a lot of these issues cannot be tackled by the ordinary person trying to feed their family. Before pointing the finger of blame, look in your own backyard. If the U.S. had adhered to it’s very own SOx legislations, or put any emphasis at all on regulation, the collapse of the U.S. economy and the global shock waves that followed might not have happened, or at least would have been less severe. The reason you noted that the Irish collapse was so similar to that in the U.S. is because both economies strongly relied on property markets and had a penchant for unsubstantiated lending. The Irish economy was strongly based upon that of the U.S. and had substantial American interests, so it was inevitable that the domino effect would occur. There are many legitimate reasons why the economy has yet to recover, so further education in these matters may benefit you.

    You also assumed that I felt disenfranchised in Asia because I was suddenly noticing that I was an ethnic minority – this is not only incorrect, but a rather daft observation. As I mentioned, I was physically and verbally abused every day, by people who blatantly told me that I deserved this treatment because I was white. This is very different to suddenly noticing that there are Asian people in Asia; if I were that mentally incapacitated, I would not have a career to take time off from and I would not have gone there and educated children. There are thousands of Westerners in Asia; I didn’t have far to go to see another white person and if I was that wrapped up in my own culture, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place. When someone tries to ram you off the highway at high speed, while screaming “f**k you white devil”, you know for certain that you are being racially attacked. My point was that I had confirmation that this and other situations I experienced were racially motivated; unless you have that proof, you’re making an allegation about someone that is quite serious and damaging. You might just be interested in what makes us see differences, as you say, but to make suggestions about a person when they haven’t actually confirmed their position, is extremely dangerous and can cause potential long-term damage to their personal and professional reputation.

    It is clear to me that you will continue to base your views on assumption and after reading your answer, I don’t expect you to properly read this response either. Feel free to keep the flat cap, you can’t hear what people say behind your back so I guess it won’t affect you. Best of luck to you, I wish you all the best in your new life in Ireland.

    • Annie,

      Racism doesn’t get a chance to explain itself. It’s based entirely upon action. It’s for that reason that I suggested in my last comment that the bus inspector should be made aware of the appearance of his actions. Many racists ( at least the ones who aren’t Nazis, or members of the Klan) always have some excuse for their actions, and are shocked ( shocked I tell you) to learn that anything they’ve done could be construed as offensive.

      As for your comment about the Irish laughing at me behind my back when I wear a flat cap. I can only interpret that to mean that to the Irish, they and they alone are entitled to the wearing of said cap. Hmmm.

      This must be the open-minded inclusiveness (referred to in your first comment) that has made Ireland a wonder of ethnic tolerance revered the world over.


  8. Annie Daywalker says:

    Nazis and Klan… wow! Now there’s a sign of a person who has been backed into a corner and can’t think of anything useful to say. Thank you for proving my point.

    If you read my post, you’ll note that I actually said that you can’t hear what people SAY behind your back (there was no mention of laughter)… a suggestion that people see you as one of THOSE Americans that you spoke of previously; the loud, ignorant, arrogant, culture-rapist type. Obviously, I don’t know you personally, I cannot speak for everyone and thus can only express my own opinion of your blog and the opinions of the 30 or so people who have commented elsewhere (that’s how I learned of this site – a friend was so insulted by this that she posted a link on Facebook, generating entirely negative responses. Please don’t look it up, it is far from complimentary). Because I believe in helping people, I have tried to reason with you and I have tried to educate you. Sadly, you have continually twisted everything I have said so that you can cling to the belief that you are always right. You also do not appear to have the capacity to absorb what is contained in my responses; that, or you choose not to.

    As previously noted, Irish people will usually accept people from any country, culture or ethnicity; what we don’t accept is ignorance and arrogance – qualities you seem to have in abundance. That’s the impression I get from your rants on this page and I’m sure that those who have personally met you have come to similar conclusions. I will say no more but to wish you luck in this world. If you behave this way in real life, you’ll certainly need it.

    • Annie,

      Apologies if you thought I was calling you a Nazi, or member of the Klan.

      What I meant to imply was that people that militant (Nazis & the Klan) don’t care how they appear to the public, and are not shocked if people think them racist. In fact, they welcome it. But, generally speaking, everybody else who does something racially insensitive (which is probably all of us at some point in our lives) are shocked to learn that we’ve done something that can be perceived as racially insensitive.


  9. L says:

    Wow. This is such good entertainment. If it were food, I’m SURE it would be fattening…

  10. Pingback: Love of City Not Country – Dublin vs. Ireland | An American in Dublin

  11. Kath O'Meara says:

    Hey there.

    I’m an American living in Ireland for a decade+ now. There is no doubt in my mind what you have described was racial profiling. And I’m not at all surprised that people here have posted comments trying to talk you out of it. I am amazed at how often people make racial and/or xenophobic slurs to me (in Dublin and outside it) and expect me to agree. When I remind them that I’m a foreigner too the response I invariably get is: “oh but your different!”. Because I’m white? American? Of Irish descent? And when I have dared suggest that something I have witnessed might be racially motivated (like the time I was being helped in a bank and next to me was a gentleman from Africa, who was so kind and polite but got so much abuse from the manager who, when helping me was all smiles and “what brings you over to Ireland?” or the time (sadly one of four) I witnessed a man verbally assaulting people of color and angrily ranting about non-nationals on a bus, or the time in 2000 when taking a walk from Fairview to Clontarf it was impossible to ignore the large graffiti “Foreigners OUT” “Knackers OUT” “Blacks OUT” repeated over and over again on the footpath and on the walls of the old bathing houses) the response I get is one of calling me a racist-against-white-people for criticizing any behavior on the part of those born in the country I love and now live in. Seriously?!

    So fair play for sticking up for yourselves and saying it like it is.

    Oh and p.s. I’ve been told twice, to my face, that if I don’t like Ireland I should leave. The comment that got me in trouble both times was saying how it was raining again. Did I mention I’m originally from Seattle?

    • OMG, I couldnt agree more!

      It is dangerous to talk about the rain in Ireland with the Irish, well in case if you are a foreigner.

      I used to study in a college in Dublin in a class with just Irish people except for the two of us, myself and a German girl. It was a horrible rainy weather and I said once in a class: “The weather is awful”. I received terrible, gloomy looks. A while later the weather was crap again (like it ever changes) and my German colleague said: “I love Irish people, but the weather is awful” and she got smiles. I guess that how you do it in Ireland.

      Also, regarding this: “And I’m not at all surprised that people here have posted comments trying to talk you out of it.” that is exactly it! I did hear shit about foreigners including Polish a lot from the Irish and I dont want to hear crap: “No, it doesnt happen in Ireland”.

      How many times did I witness awful comments towards the Blacks. A while ago I was waiting on a bus outside of a Rotunda Hospital. There was an Irish couple standing right next to me when suddenly a heavily pregnant Black woman passed us by with two children. Imagine the red face of that Irish guy and what comments he started openly expressing about how she abuses the Irish social welfare system and so on and then at the end of course: “Hate them!”…. This is also another Irish thing: making comments on the streets, like they think that they cant be heard…

      Check this video out: http://bit.ly/1iQaaep
      and wait for the end: “It is also nice to see a Black person finally” – I nearly died when I saw this bit.

    • Edwin says:

      As an Irishman, I’m ashamed you witnessed anything like this.

  12. Heidi Murray says:

    Flat caps have never looked good. If the lead singer of one of the world’s biggest rock bands can’t get away with it, nobody can.
    And it’s fairly narrow minded to paint racism as an Irish phenomenon.

    • Heather,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and for taking the time to respond.

      I am, however, a bit confused. I went back and read my original blog post. I don’t see anywhere in there where I say that racism is exclusively an Irish phenomenon. Or, are you saying that it’s narrow minded of me to ascribe any notions of racism to Ireland?

  13. Chris Klug says:

    Just read this entire page, as my wife and I are thinking of moving to Dublin. I began the page by wanting to mention that I studied under David Ball in graduate school, as a way of finding common ground. Now I feel that might be liker spitting in the wind. I’ll find other posts to comment on.


  14. David says:

    Irelands prison population and non-irish nationals an analysis
    Irelands prison population and non-nationals an analysis
    Maybe the bus inspectors knew these stats below.
    Given that over a third of the Irish prison population is non Irish, it’s little wonder they acted how they did. Oh, by the way, I find American officials to be THE most xenophobic and paranoid group i’ve encountered in around 40 countries that I’ve visited. Your Immigration people treat non Americans as aliens (as well as labelling them as such) and your national psyche is breathtakingly arrogant and puerile. I’ve found the Irish to be consistently the most friendly people i’ve met anywhere (just ahead of Greek Cypriots who were charming). Given that I’m English, the welcome, courtesy, humour and warmth I’ve met in Ireland, is extraordinary when you study the history of strife between Britian & Ireland over centuries. I also think that when you start slagging off another person’s country and throwing racism accusations around, it’s time for you to go home and comment on the USA’s manifold and shocking social problems. The world doesn’t need lessons from expatriate Americans on….well, anything actually. As neo imperialists and war mongers, you people should stay firmly inside your own continent.
    And now the statistics>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    9,711 persons were sent to prison in 2007 compared to 9,700 in 2006.
    Of those committed 6,447 were Irish nationals or 66.4% of the total 9,711, which is a decrease of 352 on the
    corresponding 2006 figure of 6,799. Almost one third of persons committed in 2007 were non–Irish nationals.
    Other EU nationals (excluding Ireland) accounted for 1,354 (13.9%) of persons committed.
    Other European nationals accounted for 311 (3.2%), African nationals for 612 (6.3%), Asian nationals for 611 (6.3%) and
    Central/South American nationals accounted for 303 (3.1%)

    Prison commitals (2007 report) [1]
    Irish ******* 6,447 66.4%
    All non-nationals 3264 33.6%
    EU ********* 1126 11.6%
    African ****** 612 6.3%
    Asian ******* 611 6.3%
    other european 311 3.2%
    latin American * 303 3.1%
    UK **********228 2.3%
    North American 18 .02%

    General population by nationality (2006 census) [2]
    Irish 3,706,683
    All non-nationals 419,733
    EU 163227
    UK 112,548
    Asian 46952
    African 35326
    Other european 24425
    North American 14775
    Latin American 6249

    Ratio of Prison commital to General population
    Latin American 0.04849
    African ***** 0.0173
    Asian ****** 0.0130
    other european 0.0127
    All non-nationals 0.0077
    EU ********* 0.006898
    UK ********* 0.002
    Irish ******** 0.00174
    North American 0.0012

    • David,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and particularly for taking the time to assemble those stats and respond. The figures are interesting and informative.

      But I have to say, I love how most complaints to this blog devolve into some sort of America bashing. As in: “I know Ireland is bad at (insert almost any topic here), but America is much worse.”

      It’s the weakest of all arguments, particularly when you consider the number of Irish who have thrown over Ireland, moved to the U.S., and not looked back. Don’t get me wrong, the U.S. has huge, monstrous problems, not encountered anywhere else on the planet. It also has the same problems as many other countries, but they are multiplied and magnified many times over. I know this. Why do you think I’m here, and NOT there?

      I have to say I love the way Irish defenders slag on America, especially in light of the way Ireland tarted itself up with tax incentives to lure American money over and make the Celtic Tiger possible. Perhaps next time we should just leave the cash on the dresser in the morning.

      Let me be clear: There is NO excuse for racism.

    • David,

      I had another thought last night.

      Has it occurred to you that it may not be that the Irish show racist tendencies because there are so many foreigners in their prisons, but that there are so many foreigners in prison because the Irish are a little bit racist? If two Irishmen get into a brawl it’s likely to be chalked up to “lads acting up”. But if two Senegalese cabbies get into a fight, one or both will probably go to jail.

      Again, I will state that there is no excuse for racism.
      There may be reasons and rationalizations. But in my book there is nothing that could be inflicted upon you (as a person or country) so heinous (no amount of church/colonial oppression, and no amount of violence or abuse) that would make me say,”Oh, yeah, you’ve had a hard life, so it’s okay for you to be racist.”

  15. carl says:

    This shit is all in your head because you are american, Is it irelands fault that Your counrty is full of racist people NO, Are people who are unemployed pissed off that they can not get a job yet so many non nationals have one yes, But that does not make them racist they are just pissed off.
    I love america but hate americans doesent matter what people say yous are right regardless, Thats why i am heading to canada to live for the next two years you can experience american life without haven to deal with americans. And i am leaving to see the world and not because of ireland in any way.


    That last post you put up (April 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm) was fucken retarded please just read it again.

    • Carl,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and particularly for taking the time to reply.

      I can’t wait to hear how you are treated in Canada, when you tell them that Canada is “American life without haven to deal with Americans”. I’d say you’ll last two weeks (not two years) before they show you the door.

      Please let us know how that goes.


  16. carl says:

    Yeah I will let you know how things go. I was a little drunk when I posted up that reply.
    I don’t hate Americans, that was really stupid and immature on my part, It was just what you wrote pissed me right off.

    I think what I really wanted to say was that in Ireland we see people as people not by Sexuality,sex or race, were in America that’s all they seem to see.

    I wanted to again apologise for my first post.

  17. Bee says:

    I found this to be very interesting. Though I am young, only 14 and a freshman, I still have my opinion that the Irish Bus Inspector was wrong to only check the people with darker skin colors. The fact that I had found this just in time for my Racial Profiling paper was pure luck. Also, I have come to a conclusion that no matter what race you are, we are all human and whether we think about it or not, we are always profiling somebody. Age, Sex, Looks, Race. Everything. It is all being profiled in today’s society. I guess this is my conclusion, but I respect you sir, and I thank you for being my source for my paper.

    • Hi Bee,

      thanks for reading the blog. And, thanks in particular for taking the time to comment. Your opinion is always welcome d here.

      As for your paper, feel free to use my blog as a casual reference. But be aware that I am no expert, and my opinions are just that. They are only “opinion”. You’ll want to strengthen your paper with ore expert fact and observation than just my blog.



  18. Ashley says:

    As an African-American study abroad student in Dublin, I found this post to be completely spot-on. I have personally felt a persistent sense of underlying hostility when walking down the streets in Dublin. I’ve met some very nice people here, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t go a single day without being openly stared or glared at. I’ve traveled through the American South and live in a very liberal, diverse part of the states. I’ve even visited Stone Mountain, Georgia, the Mount Rushmore of the old Confederacy. Never have I repeatedly felt such racial animosity and negativity directed towards me as I’ve felt in Dublin. Thank you for posting this blog entry; it’s unfortunate, but I’m glad that someone else has noticed the atmosphere here. It’s extremely unsettling for minorities in general.

  19. Pingback: We Come Bearing Gifts: Immigrant Contributions to Society | An American in Dublin

  20. Jessica says:

    Hi Glen
    I find your blog informative and spot on. Sadly, many of the problems you mention were in fact something I noticed while leaving in Ireland, like for example extreme reactions to even slightest suggestion that something might need improvement. My boyfriend, Mexican of darker skin, has had racism-related incidents many times over 5 years of living there. I wish my experience was different, but it was not, and I think those things need to be commented upon or discussed.
    Our unhappiness in Ireland led us to leave, as I did not see myself fitting in there at all, and I am sure everyone who has ever responded in indignation of “if you don’t like it you can just leave” can feel very proud and happy.. and yet, things are in a sorry state they were before, and there’s no change and no use being made of critical thinking and impartial observation. My experience of living in Ireland was not very good, and I am happy to be away, in the place where I can actually speak my mind freely, and I am not afraid of expressing my opinion for the fear of bashing or worse. I advise people not to move there, if they ever ask me this question.

    • Jessica,

      I’m sorry to hear that you felt forced to leave.We are nowhere near that point. Then again, we haven’t been here five years either.

      I’m curious to know, where did you move after Ireland?

      Do you have family there? And, if not, what led to that choice of emigration destination.

      Thanks for reading, and particularly for taking the time to comment.


  21. Conor says:

    Can’t deny that racism exists, everywhere on the planet and perpetrated by all races, unfortunately it is human nature and I share the ethos that we have a responsibility to discourage it. What can be controlled is racism in policy and professional execution. Which is really the root of your post. In my opinion though, there is not enough evidence to suggest that the ticket inspector’s actions were too racially motivated. For one thing, perhaps racial profiling is efficient, I don’t know I’m not a ticket inspector, secondly there may have been another type of profiling at play and you are prematurely deciding that it is racial. Furthermore, its completely secondary to his job, he can decide without accountability to patrons, who to inspect or not inspect, he is only being incompetent if he is intimidating or in some other way purposefully being unprofessional and disrespectful to the people on the bus. Was he disrespectful to the people whose tickets he inspected?(in which case yes, absolutely he should be reprimanded) How he decides to conduct his inspection is his business within those parameters. The last thing i would want this to result in is an inspector that feels due to the sensitivities of patrons, that he must waste his time inspecting every single ticket even those his years of experience or indeed description of perpetrator/ticket type are telling him that he can narrow his search. <- that is being inefficiently politically correct.

  22. SeánMacA says:

    I was just browsing and saw this

    If you have a crutch or are very obviously disabled then they don’t tend to check your ticket. There is a blind man on my route and I have never seen his ticket being checked when an inspector gets on

    • Sean,

      That’s because the severely disabled don’t need a “ticket”. There’s a disability pass they use that doesn’t need to be swiped. That saves them from having to fumble around in their chair or with their cane/crutches., etc. which would make them more unstable.

  23. Edwin says:

    Wait wait, it sounds like he checked everyones , white included, except the person holding his ticket up for them to see

    • He/they only check a few “token” whites. Given the extremely high percentage of white folks on the bus, his checking 90% people of color (or non-white European) is pretty clearly racial profiling.

      • Edwin says:

        Aha, fair enough so. Lads, ye need to chill the fuck out. Your replies to this genuine observation and links to a discussion on race and racism in general are pretty pathetic. Are we still so insecure that we are unable to take any form if criticism from someone with an insight to our culture and society that we are without? We have problens and thats ok, soneone highlighting them who wasnt born here is ok.

        Carry on sir, it’s good for us.

  24. Reij says:

    Was browsing and came thru this post. I see that you had written this post almost 4 years ago. How have your experience been since then? Did you face anything again? I was recently offered a job in Dublin and was weighing the options to move from Amsterdam (where I live now) to Dublin.

    • Reij,

      Thanks for reading the blog, and thanks in particular for taking the time to post a question.

      Overall, Ireland is a nice place to live. The quality of life is pretty good and the people, on balance are quite friendly.

      That said, there are still huge unacknowledged race and class issues in Ireland.

      But, sadly, it seems like that may be the case everywhere these days.

      The part that is most trouble for me here is the “unacknowledged” part.

      Many Irish seem to have this notion that they “can’t be racist” because they themselves have been discriminated against. And as a result there is a very subtle undercurrent of institutionalized racism here.

      Then again that may not be as bad as other places. I really couldn’t say. And even if it’s not as bad as other places, that doesn’t excuse it here.

      On balance I’d say move to Dublin if you have the chance. I think you’ll like it.

      But with Brexit who knows what’s in store.

      Hope that helps.


  25. David Riske says:

    I can’t believe how much anger there is on full display. Maybe it would be a good idea to relax. I get it- the internet is anonymous so it’s ok to blather. Children, settle down.

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