When I lived in Brussels, I was once walking in Matonge during the evening and a black woman spat at me. It was a bit disconcerting but I assume you could write it down to madness rather than racial tension.
In the Princess’s class in Belgium, there was a little black boy called Charles. She once said to me that she was one of the Belgians in her class but he was not Belgian. When asked where he was from she couldn’t say but she was adamant that black people couldn’t be Belgian. As she was an Irish child talking about a Belgian little boy, there was some irony there.
Once a Chinese baby looking at the Princess started to cry. “He probably wishes he had Belgian skin like me,” she commented.
I’m sure that racism is alive and well in Ireland but I am glad that it seems to have completely stopped appearing in my daughter’s conversation in the way that it did in Belgium and never appeared on the boys’ radar at all as far as I can see. It’s not all bad here, you know. Though being the centre of European attention as a bush fire that may lead to contagion is about as much fun as you would think it might be. I was at the National History Museum with the kids yesterday (near the Dáil and Government buildings) and the place was heaving with foreign camera crews. If you saw small children in grey uniforms waving behind the reporter who carried the Irish story in your country, they were mine.