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04-01-2020, 11:43   #1
52paddy
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Dealing with prejudices of 'white colonialism' when you're Irish

Here's a relatively simple question with, no doubt, a complex answer. I, like most people on here (I assume), am Irish. I've not done any DNA tests but, as far as my known blood-line is concerned, I don't have any connections to a country that was/is a colonial power e.g. Britain, Spain, Portugal, France etc. Probably, if I go back far enough, I'll find something. But, for the sake of the point I'm making here, let's just assume my blood-line doesn't deviate much. OR if you're opinion is such that, "We all have traceable lines back to some colonial power so should stand up and be counted", then let me hear it. Though in this case, we're in murky waters because how far do we go back? Can we talk about modern-day people in Baghdad being from the once-richest city in the world in the 7th century when the Muslim empire was in full swing? I'm interested in history, particularly that pertaining to war, colonialism and the shift of power in the world and also how these elements affect ethic groups and cultures (both in terms of their population numbers and how the artistic expressions get affected by limitations of self-determination in terms of identity).


So, I'm white. And some would consider this a privilege. Indeed, due to the current-day prejudices, it is much easier to be white in many instances and in several countries across the world (though, perhaps, not so in others where white people are looked upon as enemies). I can understand why people in underdeveloped countries - especially those whose development has been massively curtailed due to occupying forces and resulting war - can bestow a hatred for the 'white oppressors'. Absolutely. The past few hundred years have shown European colonialism on a massive scale, throughout the world, for reasons nothing short of greed and power and at the expense of entire cultures and populations. And, sadly, many places around the world are still suffering a hangover (indeed, some still intoxicated by current occupying military forces) from events of the not-too-distant past.



But, do you ever feel lumped in with this crowd unfairly? Ireland has, of course, been occupied by our neighbour and still has a sizeable sum of its land under UK control. We've not been a colonial power but our ethnicity simply puts us in the same bracket for those who fail to ask specific questions and assume. We're not even a country that has been affluent for all that long. It's been but a few decades. And, although Dubliners like myself, have seen very limited conflict in our locality since 1916, my contemporaries in Belfast, Omagh and other towns scattered along the border and beyond it will have a different view of how Ireland looked even up until quite recently.


In conclusion, I'll say that my general response to people that mistakingly think we have colonial blood because of our skin colour is one of educating them on the actualities of Ireland's history. And that's always a winner. Unfortunately, those discussions aren't going to take place if wandering through Aleppo, Baghdad or Kabul. But the thing that pushed me to making this post was that my girlfriend, who is French, says she can often feel bad when visiting another country (in her case, it was Morocco) as she knows how much the French caused pain to many lands. And, because she is white, she feels that she holds the burden of her country's crimes (not literally because of herself, but in terms of how she feels when in the vicinity of people who are still suffering because of French occupation). I told her that I don't feel that specifically because my country has been occupied and not a colonial power but she remarked that, because I'm white, I am a display of the differences between black/white, east/west, developing world/developed world etc etc. To her, it was irrelevant about the actual country I'm from and to expect different treatment because of that was not only unrealistic (which I agree with) but also unreasonable. And, to be honest, I found this a little unfair. Yes, it's petty to be bothered by it, perhaps. And it's not something that keeps me awake at night. But I am, nonetheless, curious about how other Irish people feel about this. Just out of pure curiosity, rather than looking for answers or solutions.
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04-01-2020, 11:57   #2
Catmaniac
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There’s a fair few genes shared by Irish & English people, no escaping that. Just because our immediate ancestors are not known to have taken part in colonization, we are all part of the human race with all the propensities and proclivities which that entails, including the inclination to colonise, given the right circumstance. Nobody should feel guilty for what their ancestors did, just so long as they are more keen to learn from history than to repeat it


A parallel can be drawn in this: nobody can blame present day German people for what Hitler and the Nazis did, or indeed Austrians for that matter, as the Führer was from Austria.
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04-01-2020, 12:11   #3
52paddy
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Originally Posted by Catmaniac View Post
There’s a fair few genes shared by Irish & English people, no escaping that. Just because our immediate ancestors are not known to have taken part in colonization, we are all part of the human race with all the propensities and proclivities which that entails, including the inclination to colonise, given the right circumstance. Nobody should feel guilty for what their ancestors did, just so long as they are more keen to learn from history than to repeat it


A parallel can be drawn in this: nobody can blame present day German people for what Hitler and the Nazis did, or indeed Austrians for that matter, as the Führer was from Austria.

Ok. But in that case, do you think that it's unfair for a colonised people of different race to brandish "white" people as examples of imperialism? Is it justified because of the realities of imperialism and the fact that it was mostly done by Europeans, certainly in that last 500 years?
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04-01-2020, 13:10   #4
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Originally Posted by 52paddy View Post
Ok. But in that case, do you think that it's unfair for a colonised people of different race to brandish "white" people as examples of imperialism? Is it justified because of the realities of imperialism and the fact that it was mostly done by Europeans, certainly in that last 500 years?
Absolutely not.
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