This week my taxi talk featured a man named Ajah. Ajah is originally from Nigera, he moved to Ireland in 2006. He has been a taxi driver a few years now.
He asked me all the usual questions – what am I up to? Where am I from? I explained I am commuting from Cavan to Dublin weekly. I told him I would probably move up to Dublin next year to find work. So I asked “Do you like Dublin?”
He said he had always thought about moving to Ireland; he explained his country has very little opportunities for him or his family and he had heard good things from other friends who had moved to Ireland already.
So he made the big move back in 2006. He moved into a house just outside the city and got a job in a small, well known shop in the city. He said he was very grateful to get the job but he had no choice but to quit it just a few months later. He said when he started he was asked if he wouldn’t mind his name tag saying A.J, his manager told him his own name was just too hard to pronounce and the customers wouldn’t be able to read it. He told me he was really insulted but agreed to A.J, as he was happy to have the work. After his first week he said he lost count of the amount of insults that were made towards him by the general public – especially younger people. The final straw for him was his boss insisted his accent needed to change. He told him some people had said he was hard to understand and told him to try put on a Dublin accent, just while he was in the shop. He left the job that day.
Soon after that he became a taxi driver, and sadly he soon realised he couldn’t escape the racism which clearly engulfs Ireland. He said Irish people, especially women, avoid getting into his taxi when they see the colour of his skin. He said other taxi men skip ahead of him in the taxi lines and he has often been called some nasty names by drunk customers – not your average names, most comments were concerning this man’s race.
As I got out of the taxi he thanked me for having a chat with him and said it was nice to not be ignored for once!
An article on racism in Ireland by David Flemming, on rabble.ie, illustrates just how bad racism is in Ireland “Statistics released by the Immigrant Council of Ireland show a disturbing 85% increase in reports of racist incidents in the republic for 2013. More recently the same organisation released stats which indicate that these incidents continue to rise in 2014, with 137 incidents in the first 6 months of the year. This is a rise from 64 for the same period last year, bringing the total increase to a shameful 114%.”
It really made think – this was one man’s experience of racism in Ireland. It is a sad society we live in if this is how we treat people who aren’t the photocopy of ourselves. My sister lives in Australia, my friends live in America. I’d hate to think they received even a small amount of racism Ajah has received in Ireland.