The Dublin Diaries: Respect Life. Black Lives Matter
In my 24 years of life, I have never felt so exhausted. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, my home country is struggling to reform the abusive systems that have discriminated and oppressed people for far too long. In addition, my family and I are grieving the loss of my great aunt, Noreen Conway, who I lived with for my first semester at Trinity College in Dublin.
In many of my previous columns, I had the opportunity to share my experiences with her and reflect on the special times we got to share during her last few months. Martyn, my second cousin, had described her as nothing short of an institution. Aunt Nora was known in many regards as the Queen of Cabra. She had lived on Cabra Drive for approximately 60 years and her presence there seemed eternal. To my family in Cleveland, she was the beacon of Dublin, as she welcomed us all back home to Ireland and made our visits so special.
Along with being our favorite Dublin ambassador, she was an incredible community member. I had the pleasure of witnessing this many times. She always remained faithful in her duty to be a better person, citizen and Catholic. Her faith was unwavering and the compass to how she approached every aspect of her life. While at times I grew frustrated about her wishes for me to not do laundry on Sundays because it was supposed to be a day of rest, I can now appreciate how instrumental her faith was throughout her life.
She was an eternal light in her community. Neighbors would be in and out often and one, whom I have come to rely on throughout my time here, would even go so far to describe her visits each week as “free therapy.”
To say she will be missed greatly is an understatement. So many considered her as their guiding light, including me. Her wisdom and guidance was constantly sought after and I valued her opinion so highly, especially when I moved to Dublin.
Among so many other things, I admired her will to respect life in all forms and to stand up for what she believed in. On my last holiday to Ireland in 2018, Aunt Nora again welcomed me and my college friend to stay with her for a few days during my college spring break trip. During this time, Ireland was going through their reform on abortion laws and many marches were arising in the capital. At 92 years of age, Aunt Nora informed me she would be attending the pro-life march on O’Connell Street to protest the legalization of abortion. While our beliefs on this subject may have differed, I remember being so inspired that someone of her age would feel so obligated to go and fight for what she believed in.
She was a force to be reckoned with throughout her whole life. I am inspired by her life in so many ways, but perhaps right now her will to fight for her beliefs are particularly guiding. I have wondered what she would think about the protests happening all over the world as a result of the police violence happening in America. I suppose if she were alive, we would discuss it after watching the news and I imagine she would be rightfully outraged. Aunt Nora believed in respecting life in all forms and treating all people equally and justly.
It is heartbreaking to see all of the suffering happening in America right now. In my country, black people have been suffering and dying at the hands of the inherently racist systems that have governed our society since its foundation. Now more than ever, white people are starting to listen and recognize the cracks in our foundation and the people that are pleading for justice and equality under the law. These pleas have been ignored for centuries, but complacency is no longer an option.
While I know my voice on these issues is coming from a place of immense privilege, I feel that it would be irresponsible of me to fail to use my platform to acknowledge the pain and problems facing Black people in America. My heart hurts so much for what is happening in my country. While I remember the protests in Ferguson, this time it feels different. Our country is asking more of us. Black people need our support.
Ways in which we can support the movement vary on where we are in our journey of advocacy. Firstly, I think it is important to check in with ourselves and reflect on our personal biases. While we have all made mistakes and no one is perfect, we need to have a mindful and aware perspective on how our biases may be shown and acted on in our everyday lives. We must actively be assessing ourselves in order to be inclusive and embrace diversity in all forms.
Another important point of support is to diversify our media sources. My education at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism has taught me the importance of reading a wide range of reputable sources. Not everything you read on Facebook or Twitter is credible and you should be wary of what, when and how much you consume the news. It can not only be inaccurate, but also damaging to your mental health if you let yourself be consumed by it. Additionally, be aware of the biases inherently present in some mainstream news sources. While the goal of journalism is to be unbiased and objective, it is not always fulfilled.
Living to Tell About It
Next, I encourage you to read more books by Black authors. One that I find particularly relevant right now is Living to Tell About It: Young Black Men in America Speak by Darrell Dawsey. Having read this for a journalism class during my undergraduate studies, I find myself recalling the many experiences of young Black men in America and their struggle to survive. It provides a much needed glimpse into their lives and shows the humanity in their encounters with the systems of power in place. My next read will be How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. It is recommended by many academics and scholars and it examines the history of racist ideas.
Finally, I believe we should be approaching Black Lives Matter demands with an open mind. While some may consider the demands to be more radical or extreme, we have to challenge our current systems of power and examine the detrimental impact it is having on our black citizens. People have been dying for centuries at the hands of our government.
I am using my column this month to share my commitment to learning how to be antiracist and how to help create an antiracist world. I hope that some members of my audience might be inspired to do the same.
The reformation has only just begun; the future is in our hands. Black lives matter.
Tiocfaidh ár lá,
*Margaret Mary is a postgraduate student studying marketing at Trinity College Dublin. She is an alumna of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and is from Cleveland, Ohio. To keep up with her adventures abroad, follow @margamary on Instagram.