Beyond Skin examines the scars of racism and sectarianism

Áine Carson

THE headline ‘Belfast is the race hate capital of Europe’ prompted Darren Ferguson to change xenophobic attitudes in his hometown.

A musician armed with a volunteering background in community aid & development experience, and working for Concern Worldwide, Ferguson was no stranger to taking the bull by the horns.

It was the combination of negative & positive social and artistic elements that led to the formation of Beyond Skin. In addition to the consistent negative stereotype of Northern Ireland regarding the sectarian conflict, in 2004 Belfast hit the international headlines as Race Hate Capital of Europe

At the time Darren was working for Concern Worldwide and along with friends that shared an interest in music and development education, recognised that the arts combined with a DE philosophy could assist greatly in addressing local issues of sectarianism and racism. But a magic ingredient was needed that would define the vision…

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Hello world!

Well, today is the first day writing on my new blog “eraceamerica”.  I decided to start this blog because I feel the discussion of open and honest feelings about race in America is lacking.  I have been to several websites discussion boards where race is discussed, but usually someone starts writing irrational and illogical racist rants to prove their point.  I have seen some very ugly, hateful, and just plain mean posts on these websites over the years. Instead, of coming away from these websites informed or with a more open mind on race; I am angry, disillusioned, and scared.

I feel the media is encouraging more fear and distrust among the races in America.Why are we as a nation, so hung up on promoting perpetuation of hostile race relations?  For instance, the media has been bombarding us this past year with images and news stories of white police officers killing black men,etc. To be honest, these stories are more about inequalities in income, class, and education. I could go on and on about this and I eventually will in other posts. The reality is most of the victims in these news stories were poor, from low-income neighborhoods, and not very educated – they happened to be black.

There definitely is a race problem in America, but the average American’s reactions to race in general is “This is just the way our society is….” or “You cannot change racist belief systems”.  Thousands of books, documentaries, contemporary movies, magazine articles, talk shows, news shows, and website forums/blogs feature this topic.  But, too many times disucssions get heated, real honest views on race are “sugar coated”, and no solutions on solving the race problem in America are provided. Once, I saw a talk show in the early 1990s where an Italian-America white male said if Eddie Murphy moved in his neighborhood he would be upset, because Eddie is black and he does not want to live around black people. This was honestly put, but the talk show host quickly put on her “politically incorrect” hat and squashed the guy’s comment and change the topic quickly and move to another person.  It was as if she was embarrassed and ashamed by the guys honest comment about race.  If more people admitted their true feelings about people of another race, without being attacked verbally or made to feel like a pariah, we would be one step closer to solving the race problem in America.

This is a free country and we have free speech.  As Americans, it is our birthright to be free with ideas, expression, thought, and views in general. But, as Americans we need to start open and honest dialogue on race if we want to surive as a nation for another 300 years.  On July 4, 2076, America will be 300 years.

Will this racial divide which causes distrust, fear, anger, hate, self-loathing, still be present in our society?  How can we cooperate and help perserve our nation together as one people and one American family?

Please feel free to reply on your true feelings on this topic and I hope this blog becomes a place where people feel safe to divulge how they really feel about other races. Open discourse……………………….let’s begin!