The Truth Is

It starts casually, like most conversations, this recap of a colleague’s visit to a Black History Week event. The points she carries back to me are mostly about how difficult it is for Africans to find jobs in Ireland – beyond the roles of carers or drivers – and how, without jobs and the integration and relationships that fosters, it is very difficult to establish a multi-faceted community on this island. You don’t see them in shops, my Nigerian friend reminds me, or in restaurants unless they’re in the kitchen washing up. She doesn’t go on, but I fill in: offices, banks, board rooms, schools.

I think: maybe they need to upgrade papers and qualifications when they work here. This is true.

I also think: even locals often need to use who they know to get a job. That is also true.

I keep listening though and I hear: all opportunities are not equal. That is the truth.

When I first lived here, I often felt excluded, not a part of things. That is true. But the truth is, I have never experienced racism although I too am a new Irish.

There are facts all around us, true things everywhere, but sometimes we need to look for the larger truth. Because we know something is correct, that does not mean that it is the truth in the situation before us.

I heard a Traveller on the radio recently comment that their community was not listened to in regard to provision of homes. It has long been a contentious issue, where and how Travellers live. You can say they should be grateful for the places provided for them, which is not a wrong statement, but why do we feel the need to do what we think is best for someone else? Why can’t we just listen to them instead of going to a lot of time and expense doing something that just won’t suit?

A week later, I hear another report about houses that a group of Travellers have been waiting for over many years. The new homes are beautiful, “But there is no place for our horses.” It is true the houses are lovely; it is true they are in the right location; it is true that people should be grateful, but the truth is, nobody decided to provide something that was needed, was requested and – I’m guessing here – would have been possible given that the houses are in the countryside.

We respond to the slogan Black lives matter with injurious tones, “But all lives matter!” True. All lives really do matter, but they are not saying all lives don’t matter. They are not even saying black lives matter more than others. The truth is they are saying that black lives matter because in much of society it often seems like they don’t.

There’s the old How can they afford to smoke? comment that seems to always come up when someone talks about the pressures of poverty with a cigarette in their hand. Yes, true, cigarettes are very expensive, and it’s very true money could be better spent elsewhere. But truth: people are addicted to many substances. People need comfort or reassurance or a way of escape. Everyone tries to find their own way to cope with the truth of their own life.

Do we listen for the speaker’s reality rather than focusing on our own? I’m learning it’s all about not writing your own story on top of the one you’re hearing.

2 thoughts on “The Truth Is

  1. Wow. You are BRAVE! And honest! And I loved it. I see a bit of racism here in bc , but not black, it’s brown, although I don’t see much. We have a lot of black families in my church. They integrate in among us , and we enjoy having them. Good words cousin. I love you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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