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“We came out, a car drove up, called her a ‘n***er lover’ and drove away. She was obviously deeply upset because she couldn’t be seen as someone who was in a genuine relationship.” Richard Bashir Otukoya: “There was no, ‘Oh look at this guy, he’s got a job, he’s doing his Ph D.’ There was none of that.It was just, ‘No, you’re black.’ That’s it.” Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times As someone who has suffered “subtle racism and explicit racism” all his life, the incident did not unnerve Otukoya (“That’s fine because then you know their intentions”).Reaction to interracial coupling is not one-size-fits-all, either.According to statistics released by the European Network Against Racism (Enar) Ireland last August, people of “black-African” background were involved in the highest number of reported cases of racist assaults.
“There was one time we went to Tesco,” remembers Otukoya.
You do get looks if you’re part of an interracial relationship.” It was not necessarily vicious, pointed distain that was thrown at Law, who dated a white boyfriend in Belfast for two years.
It was more like a constant background noise that the relationship was something different or other – even coming from those with seemingly no prejudice in their hearts.
You can sense you’ve crossed a barrier you shouldn’t, and that becomes a problem.” There are other disparities in experiences, depending on what part of the country a couple lives in, their social circles, and family history.
Tara Stewart and Karl Mangan, for example, report no tangible distinction between their relationship and anyone else’s, but they see themselves as living in a liberal bubble.
While Ireland is becoming much more cosmopolitan – certainly in Dublin and its surrounds – I think [there are still] long-held beliefs around cultural difference” In Otukoyo’s mind, there is a distinction in attitudes to a black man having white friends and generally being a functioning member of Irish society, and a black man who enters a relationship with a white woman.