UCD (University College Dublin) academics Dr. Ebun Joseph and Dr. Alice Feldman led a talk on Thursday 2nd July entitled So What Next: Becoming Anti-Racist via Zoom. The talk was part of UCD Alumni’s In Conversation series.

Dr. Ebun Joseph and Dr. Alice Feldman were introduced by Ria Flom of UCD Alumni at the beginning of the Zoom webinar, which began at 7 pm. Joseph is a race relations consultant, Career Development Specialist and module coordinator for UCD’s Black Studies module. Feldman works in the UCD School of Sociology and is a convenor of the UCD MA Race, Migration and Decolonial Studies and Decolonial Dialogues Platform. The academics commented during the webinar that they already have a long working relationship.

Joseph and Feldman focused on two topics: white fragility and anti-racism allyship. Feldman said she believed white fragility needed to be understood by white people so they can do the work of anti-racism allyship. They quoted from the recent bestseller White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo in their discussions about the topic. They discussed how when white people defensively deflect during conversations about race out of discomfort, or the fear that they are being attacked, they put the exhausting responsibility on people of colour to ensure that they feel comfortable and as a result, the conversation is closed. They both believe that if we cannot have open conversations about race and racism, we cannot change it.

Joseph stressed that there are only racists and anti-racists; if someone defensively says they are not a racist, that merely means that they are a racist in denial. Joseph added that silent racists are in the majority whereas the loud, violent racists are in the minority. Feldman said that an anti-racist needs to accept that they live in a racist society and they should examine the way racism can be eradicated from the organisations they are a part of. They urged that anti-racist allies need to speak up when they witness racist discrimination and that it was not good enough to remain a bystander.

Joseph firmly believes that without racist policies, racism would die. She explained how currently in Ireland if someone is subject to racist abuse or discrimination, the onus is on them to prove it. If this were flipped and the perpetrator had to prove they were not racist, this could produce real change. Joseph called anti-black racism a “global pandemic”. She noted that she saw a tweet urging people to have a similar response to anti-black racism as COVID 19 – one should assume they have it and ensure that they do not spread it.

At the end of the webinar, Joseph admitted that she was disappointed that UCD had not approached her about making the anti-racist movement bigger in UCD, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement igniting the globe. The academics would like there to be a compulsory anti-racism module in UCD because they feel we cannot expect to have an anti-racist society if we do not teach anti-racism. They finished with recommendations for further reading about race and anti-racism including ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla Saad, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado, How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri.

The conversation is currently uploaded on Facebook. The next instalment in the UCD In Conversation series is titled The Transformational Power of Community Engaged Learning and it will take place on the 16th of July.

Brigid Molloy – Reporter