“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-12 22:14Z by Steven

“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Away
Travel Journal
2018-01-23

Emma Dabiri


Emma Dabiri is Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, the answer rarely satisfies the inquisitor. Photo by @thediasporadiva.

In this series, we’re highlighting the stories of people who remain connected to their home countries—either those with immigrant parents or those who are immigrants themselves. With “We Are All Immigrants: Stories About the Places We’re From,” you’ll hear from those most acutely affected by changing policies and a shifting reality, those who exist as part of multiple cultures at once. Here, London-based professor and writer Emma Dabiri explores what being an immigrant means to her and to her family.

And although my parents were born and raised in countries not their own, I’m not sure that the term immigrant applies to them in the way it does to me.

I was born in Dublin and have lived in London for almost 20 years—since I finished school—which quite straightforwardly makes me an Irish immigrant. Ostensibly I am Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, that answer, rarely, if ever, satisfies people. Race, it would appear, complicates things…

Read the entire article here.

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No doubt I am mixed, but I’m mixed and black. Blackness can accommodate mixedness, in a way that whiteness, with its myths of purity cannot.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-11-20 04:55Z by Steven

No doubt I am mixed, but I’m mixed and black. Blackness can accommodate mixedness, in a way that whiteness, with its myths of purity cannot. In some contexts I am black, in others mixed, sometimes I am Irish, others Nigerian (white is still off limits), but I am always me, always with the potential to identify as any of these things.

Emma Dabiri, “Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names,” Dublin Inquirer, October 25, 2017. https://www.dublininquirer.com/2017/10/25/emma-on-whether-irish-black-people-are-woke-and-on-changing-foreign-names/.

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Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Posted in Articles, Europe, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2017-11-20 04:46Z by Steven

Emma: On Whether Irish Black People Are Woke, and on Changing “Foreign” Names

Dublin Inquirer
2017-10-25

Emma Dabiri


Illustration by Rob Mirolo

Do you think Irish black people are woke? What’s being woke? Is there any civil-rights movement? You’re mixed race, so are you black? Africa: would someone like yourself get the culture? What did you get culture-wise from your father’s side? Irish people come across as just trying to look for one person they can say… Yes, here is our black successful person, as opposed to uplift black Irish people in general […] In Dublin, Pavee Point has a centre. The LGBT community has Outhouse. Why do you think ethnic minorities don’t have such a place?

Cheeky! This is like 10 questions but I like ‘em, so let’s go. Let’s start with explaining “woke”. “Staying woke” refers to questioning the dominant paradigm, and occupying a state of awareness about structural oppressions.

The phrase “staying woke” has some early references in the 1960s, it was then further popularised in the 2008 song “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu, but really caught on following the wave of protest after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the subsequent rise of Black Lives Matter. In 2016, “woke” entered into the Oxford Dictionary

…Am I black? Gosh you aren’t shying away from the big questions, now are ye? But yes, I identify as black. The thing is, despite being told I was black (and often not so politely) my whole damn life, and often being reminded that I wasn’t “really Irish”, my claiming of my blackness still elicits occasional cries of “But what about your ma?” or “You’re erasing your Irishness!” Blah blah di blah blah blah.

I think what we really need to look at is why a person with a white parent can identify as black, but why a person with a black parent can rarely, if ever, identify as white. We have to stop acting as though racial constructions are rational or ordered. They are not. I always say that you cannot be “half white”. You are either white or you’re not. And I’m not…

Read the entire article here.

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Whiteness is “pure” and doesn’t extend to brown girls, even those who can trace their Irish ancestry back to the 10th century.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-03-19 01:57Z by Steven

Specifically, many of the problems arose out of my claims of Irishness itself. That was what really seemed to offend people’s sensibilities. Irishness is synonymous with whiteness, it seemed. Whiteness is “pure” and doesn’t extend to brown girls, even those who can trace their Irish ancestry back to the 10th century. How frequently I heard that I “wasn’t really Irish”. But I am Irish. In addition to being born there, my mother, her parents before her, and theirs before them, for generations and generations, are all Irish.

Emma Dabiri, “I’m Irish but I’m not white. Why is that still a problem as we celebrate the Easter Rising?,” The Guardian, March 29, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/29/irish-white-easter-rising-ireland-racism.

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“So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-11-19 15:11Z by Steven

[Emma] Dabiri’s own story serves as a typically atypical example. Her mother was born to white Irish parents in Trinidad, where Dabiri’s maternal grandfather worked as a civil engineer. Her father was born to black Nigerian parents in Ireland before moving back to Nigeria, and Dabiri herself was raised in her paternal grandparents’ house in Atlanta, Georgia, before returning to Dublin aged five. In summary? “So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish,” she laughs.

Ellen E. Jones, “BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia,” Evening Standard, November 17, 2016. http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/bbcs-emma-dabiri-says-her-first-time-in-brixton-was-like-discovering-a-black-utopia-a3397851.html.

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BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-19 01:14Z by Steven

BBC’s Emma Dabiri says her first time in Brixton was like discovering a black utopia

London Evening Standard
2016-11-17

Ellen E. Jones


BBC presenter Emma Dabiri in Brixton Matt Writtle

She’s a SOAS fellow and former model, and now Emma Dabiri is fronting a new BBC show as part of the broadcaster’s Black and British season. She talks race, immigration and the politics of hair

There are many ways of being black and British. More than two million at the last count. Some of these are being celebrated, explored or simply presented this month as part of the BBC’s Black and British season. Programming strands include history, music, football and family life, all of which come together nicely in Back in Time for Brixton, which begins on Monday.

This spin-off from the hugely enjoyable social history series Back in Time For Dinner follows the Irwin family from Dagenham as they go on a time-travelling adventure through  50 years of black British life, recreating interiors, hobbies, talking points and hairdos as they go.

Giles Coren is reprising his presenting role but this time specialist expertise is provided by Emma Dabiri. She is a SOAS fellow in African Studies, a broadcaster and occasional model (her Twitter handle is @thediasporadiva), so there’s plenty to talk about when we meet in the Ritzy cinema’s café, a short walk from Brixton Tube station.

“I think sometimes, when there are attempts at diversity, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’ll just pop a black person in there and that’s diversity’,” she says of the need for the BBC’s season. “But here the emphasis is actually on black stories and black people. Representing all those different versions of blackness is really important, especially at this moment when the issue of British identity is such as it is.”

Dabiri’s own story serves as a typically atypical example. Her mother was born to white Irish parents in Trinidad, where Dabiri’s maternal grandfather worked as a civil engineer. Her father was born to black Nigerian parents in Ireland before moving back to Nigeria, and Dabiri herself was raised in her paternal grandparents’ house in Atlanta, Georgia, before returning to Dublin aged five. In summary? “So my mum was Irish but she’s Trinidadian, and my dad’s Nigerian but he’s Irish,” she laughs.

Although Dabiri, 37, has lived in Hackney since 2000, Brixton retains a special place in her imagination. The first time she ever set foot in London was as a child, when her mother brought her to Brixton to have her hair styled: “In comparison with Ireland at the time it seemed like this black utopia.”…

Read the entire article here

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Black Lives Matter

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Justice, United Kingdom, United States on 2016-10-17 01:01Z by Steven

Black Lives Matter

Wonderland
2016-10-11

As the Black Lives Matter conversation continues to unfold the world over (BLM crowds stormed London City Airport as Wonderland went to press), we asked Emma Dabari, a teaching fellow at School of African Studies, to organise a debate between a few of London’s most independently-minded young creatives.

Emma Dabiri, Fellow, SOAS: What are all of your experiences with Black Lives Matter and the differences between the UK and the US? Capres, you organised the recent London protest [which was meant to be for 30 people, and closer to 3,000 turned up].

Capres Willow, protester, Black Lives Matter: The reason I organised the protest was because I was online and I came across one of the killings. I was like: “This isn’t the first one, this isn’t the last one. It seems like all people are doing is typing about it online.” Okay, that’s great, show your opinion, but we need some real action. So I just organised a protest, not expecting much from it and then 3,000 people turned up. After that I thought: “Okay, now I’ve got responsibilities.” I’m not an activist and I’ve never been to a protest before, but from that I was like: “Alright, what’s next?” Do you go about it in a political way? Do you approach the government and say: “This needs to change”? Then you look at the fact that it’s an institutional problem within the police. I’m not saying a policeman is racist, but the police as an institution is a racist institution…

E: Do you think that police brutality is one of the main issues affecting black British people? We know it’s not to the same extent that it is in the US…

Mischa Notcutt, a stylist who runs the clubnight PDA: That’s because they have guns! That’s the only reason we’re different from America. Brexit proves that we’re not as forward as a country as people think…

E: I’m not in any way trying to suggest that the UK is better than the US, that’s not what I think. But what do you think some of the differences might be between how racism manifests itself here and there? I actually think British people are a lot more sophisticated in the way racism operates. I think there are issues that are specific to the UK, that are maybe harder to unpick.

Ronan McKenzie, fashion photographer: Exactly, it’s more undercover.

M: It’s a lot more insidious here. People are more scared about being called racist.

E: Precisely. In Brazil they had a policy called “The Whitening”. Unlike in England where there was generally a fear of so-called “race mixing”, in Brazil they had this huge African descent population in the late 1800s/early 1900s. It was this actual policy where they thought if they could just dilute the black population enough, through mixing with the white, they could eventually rid Brazil of the “Negro problem”… Obviously the whole forbidding mixing thing didn’t work here, but we’ve said racism is more insidious here. Have you read those articles that say that the African Caribbean group will be the first group to disappear in the UK? It’s regularly reported and the articles always finish in, I think, a quite gleeful tone. I just feel like: “Oh, is that what you want to happen?” I wonder if the more softly integrative, assimilate approach in the UK is maybe a low-key whitening thing.

R: You can see that in fashion, for example, where people will be talking about diversity but they won’t cast any dark-skinned girls. That’s not really diversity, if really you only like your black girls light-skinned.

Mischa: That’s interesting, because when I was younger, me and my sister would aways be like: “But we’re the future! Everyone’s going to be like us eventually!’ The Jamaican side [of my family] always see us as the white cousins, and the white side always sees us as the black cousins. So we always felt in the middle. We always thought: “The more mixed-race people, the better”, because that would give us more things to identify with being mixed race and dual heritage.

R: I think it depends on where you are, as well. I’m from north east London and if you’re mixed race you’re like, the gods. Everybody wanted to be mixed race, everybody wanted to have lighter skin, curly hair and look mixed race, and all the mixed race boys in my area were so sought after.

Munroe Bergdorf, model: It’s almost fetishised.

R: But it wasn’t a celebratory thing… It was more like: “I don’t want to be dark-skinned. I want to be more beautiful. I want to have lightskinned babies, so they look better and be respected more.” It’s not because you thought it would be great mixing… I remember, when I was younger — maybe even up until a few years ago — when I didn’t want to tan, I’d put factor 50 sunscreen on because I didn’t want darker skin. I never looked at my dad thinking: “I don’t like his colour.” I just didn’t want to be darker skinned myself.

E: I think that’s a difference I’ve experience between white environments and black environments. In addition to the racism that often occurs in white environments, there’s the more liberal, celebratory, “Oh, one day everybody will be brown like you! This is the future!” If you put that in black context, and you see the way colourism operates, and the way there’s all this pressure, and desire to be lighter, and to have more mixed, European features, then that kind of celebratory narrative seems quite perverse! In that context, it gets really gross… What do you see as the role of non-black people?…

Read the entire article here.

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Late Night Woman’s Hour (2016-05-27)

Posted in Audio, Economics, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, Women on 2016-05-28 18:50Z by Steven

Late Night Woman’s Hour (2016-05-27)

Woman’s Hour
BBC Radio 4
2016-05-27

Lauren Laverne, Presenter

Lauren Laverne and guests discuss the origins and pitfalls of stereotypes of women.

  • With Joanne Harris, best-selling author of Chocolat who has written about myth and fairy tales.
  • Lisa Mckenzie, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, who has explored portrayals of working class women
  • Emma Dabiri, teaching fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, who has studied what people mean by the term ‘mixed-race’ in Britain today.
  • Jane Cunningham, founder of advertising and marketing consultancy Pretty Little Head.

Listen to the episode here. Download the episode here.

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However, though my mum’s Irish, my father is Nigerian. I am not white! This fact, one that I had never even considered before I returned to the land of a thousand welcomes, now became the defining feature of my existence.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-03-30 02:15Z by Steven

However, though my mum’s Irish, my father is Nigerian. I am not white! This fact, one that I had never even considered before I returned to the land of a thousand welcomes, now became the defining feature of my existence. I remember that first week or so back in Dublin, when I was sent out to play with the local kids. One of the first rhymes I heard was: “Eeny meeeny miny moe. Catch a nigger by da toe.” Who, or what in the hell was “nigger”, I wondered? I soon learned.

Emma Dabiri, “I’m Irish but I’m not white. Why is that still a problem as we celebrate the Easter Rising?,” The Guardian, March 29, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/29/irish-white-easter-rising-ireland-racism.

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I’m Irish but I’m not white. Why is that still a problem as we celebrate the Easter Rising?

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Europe, History, Media Archive on 2016-03-30 01:59Z by Steven

I’m Irish but I’m not white. Why is that still a problem as we celebrate the Easter Rising?

The Guardian
2016-03-29

Emma Dabiri

With an Irish mother and Nigerian father, I grew up singing Irish rebel songs. But the racism I experienced was not part of the dreams of 1916’s revolutionaries

I grew up singing Irish rebel songs. One of the first ones I learned, which seared an impression on my young mind, was James Connolly. In the haunting ballad the folk musician Christy Moore laments the 1916 execution of Connolly, the Easter Rising revolutionary, and hero of the working man:

Where oh where is our James Connolly?
Where oh where is that gallant man?
He’s gone to organise the union
That working men they might yet be free.

The song outlines the capture of Connolly, a central figure in the 1916 Easter Rising. On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, Irish republicans desperate to end the British occupation of Ireland mounted an insurrection in Dublin. British forces, with their vastly superior military advantage, quickly crushed the rebels. Nevertheless, these events – the centenary of which was commemorated this weekend – were the catalyst for a long fight for Irish independence that was eventually achieved in 1922…

Read the entire article here.

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