What is it with Dublin people starting off their conversations with "I'm not racist but..." Anytime I'm a customer in a taxi, I hear it from the taxi driver and anytime I'm driving my taxi I hear it from the customer! It's always followed by a racist statement about the foreign nationals who work in our country.
It pretty much amounts to saying " I'm not telling you but wait 'til I tell you!"
Ireland has always been a somewhat racist country and I put this down to us being an isolated island nation but I have noticed already that the racist sentiment amongst both customers and taxi drivers has increased massively since recession has hit our shores. The following are some observations in recent times:
(1.) I have been second or third on a taxi rank and customers have chosen my taxi over those in front of me. I have been told then by the customer that they wouldn't get into a taxi driven by a black man.
(2.)Some customers who have hailed me on the street have made comments when they get in such as 'Im not racist but I don't like those black lads' or most commonly heard nowadays is 'I'm glad I got one of our own'. I challenged a woman on this comment one day and she replied that she was simply glad I knew where I was going, that's a whole other post/topic altogether though. This post is purely about racism in the taxi industry and not about driver's knowledge of Dublin's streets as there are many other nationalites and indeed Irish drivers who have little knowledge.
(3.) I have been told by a fellow taxi driver who was sitting at a very fast moving taxi rank that it came to a halt when a foreign national taxi driver got to the top of the rank. Customers were instead walking on around the corner and hailing taxis instead.
(4.) I have seen someone actually getting out of a taxi driven by a black man and then get into my taxi instead. I was then subjected to 25 minutes of 'black man this' and 'black man that'. I often feel like stopping the car and telling them to get out but as is mostly the case working nights the customers are loaded up with alcohol and it could go either way if I decided to attack thier morales. I actually don't know if I would be within my rights to do this even.
(5.) I am sick of hearing other taxi drivers using the awful 'N' word when telling stories or describing a situation that involved a black taxi driver. A lot of Irish taxi drivers see foreign national taxi drivers as taking money out of their hands and fail to remember the masses of Irish that emigrated through the 20th Century and that often illegally took jobs in foreign countries. There is a programme here called the back to work scheme whereby foreign and indeed Irish nationals can be given a grant to buy a taxi licence and are allowed to keep their dole for 4 years on a sliding scale. This causes heartbreak for a lot of taxi drivers including myself who receive no assistance in a saturated market but my anger is with the government for offering this scheme, not the person who accepts this very sweet offer, wouldn't you take them them up on their offer? More on that here:
(6.) Another fellow taxi driver who has a taxi with slightly tinted windows stopped on the street for 2 passengers. On the door opening he heard one of the men saying to the other "If he's black I'm not getting in"
In general, even when you hear a friend or a stranger talking or telling a story they would always include the fact that a person in said story was black, eg. there was this black guy walking up the road. If he was white or had brown hair would we feel the need to include this useless detail to the story?
There are various reasons for all this. Some people are just plain pig-headed racist, some believe in harsh economic times that 'charity begins at home' and they want to pass on their euros to an Irish taxi driver, some are pissed off with a lot of the foreign national taxi drivers not knowing where they are going (again I'll cover this one again...maybe) and relying too much on satellite navigation equipment.
I honestly don't know what the solution to all of this is but I do think it needs addressing fast. A few years ago I thought it was a generation type thing and that Ireland's young would not grow up thinking this but I hear it from young people now when I'm out walking and indeed in my taxi.
I hope the future is brighter and I'll try and speak up a bit more in the taxi to do my bit.
I'm not racist but ... can't we all just get along.