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'It is just pure anti-whiteism': NTA hit by complaints over anti-racism campaign

In August, the NTA launched a week-long public campaign to highlight experiences of racism.

One of the images that was posted across the transport network in Ireland during the NTA's anti-racism campaign
One of the images that was posted across the transport network in Ireland during the NTA's anti-racism campaign
Image: National Transport Authority

A PROMINENT ANTI-RACISM campaign by the National Transport Authority (NTA) prompted a slew of complaints from members of the public – including accusations that the campaign was ‘anti-white’. 

In August, the NTA, with the support of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, launched a week-long public campaign to highlight racism experience by both staff and passengers on public transport in Ireland. 

Posters, made up of almost 900 commuter selfies, appeared across the public transport network, including in train stations, at bus stops and on the side of Dublin Bus. 

The campaign was part of a nationwide effort to highlight the frequency of racist comments, harassment and physical attacks occurring across the country.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign in August, Bode Olatunji recalled some of the incidents of racism he has experienced in his 16 years as a Luas driver in Dublin.

“The one that shocked me the most was an elderly man who knocked on my door. I thought he wanted to ask me a question so I opened the hatch. He said to me: ‘I’m going to get you fired, you black bastard’,” Olatunji said. 

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, seen by TheJournal.ie, show correspondence from members of the public to the NTA in response to the campaign. 

Some complainants questioned why the NTA felt the campaign was needed, and some accused the campaign of being “anti-white”. 

“While I welcome the new anti-racism campaign initiative, I am curious to know why the National Transport Authority felt the need to use the image of a Muslim woman wearing Islamic attire in an anti-racism campaign,” one person wrote. 

They said they found the image of the Muslim woman “offensive” because it “implies that Muslims are victims of racism and that those who oppose Islam are racist”. 

“Islam is an ideology. Opposing any ideology, whether it be Islamic, Christian, Jewish or any belief system is not racist. Implying it is shows a serious lack of understanding of both religion and racism,” they said. 

Capture Source: National Transport Authority

In response, the NTA outlined that the image was chosen for the campaign “not because of the fact that she is wearing a hijab or is Muslim” but because it was “looking for images of people of diverse backgrounds to create using the selfies members of the public donated”. 

Another person wrote to the NTA questioning why it was running the campaign and claiming that racism was not an issue in Ireland. 

“I can’t remember ever having met a racist. Have you? Any time I ask anybody have they ever met a racist they struggle to think of anybody,” they wrote. 

I just don’t think racism amongst the public is an issue at all. 

‘Anti-whiteism’

The campaign posters were made up of hundreds of commuter selfies, presented in the form of a mosaic. 

A number of members of the public complained that white people weren’t highlighted enough in these posters and other display materials from the campaign. 

“Congratulations on your latest campaign to combat racism on our Dublin buses. I think it is something we have to tackle, though as a daily user of Dublin Bus I would say that it is a very, very rare occurrence – but of course once is once too often,” one person wrote to the NTA.  

However, they added: “I cannot help but nothing that so far the only faces I see displayed on the sides of buses and in bus shelters are those of foreign people. When will the ones of white Irish people be displayed too?” 

2 Source: National Transport Authority

In response, the NTA said the campaign was “created to support public transport staff and passengers in an inclusive way and promote and encourage respect among all”. 

“The campaign images were chosen based on diversity and their representation of people from many backgrounds. This includes the photographs which make up the mosaics,” it said. 

In a follow-up response, the NTA added that the images used to create the mosaics “are people of many different backgrounds with a large amount being white”. 

“While there isn’t a poster with a white person as the main image, we don’t feel anyone has been excluded,” the NTA said. 

In another similar complaint, one person said they were “perplexed as to why there is no white European or Irish faces involved in the adverts”. 

The person claimed: “This implies only white people are racist and is actually racist with this implication.” 

Another piece of correspondence sent to the NTA following the campaign read: “It is just pure anti-whiteism”. 

3 Source: National Transport Authority

Anti-racism campaigns

Anti-racism campaigns such as the one launched in August at Heuston station, where the Luas, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail operate services, have been running since 2012.

Bode Olatunji said the incidence of these events in his time as a Luas driver have decreased but added that he is still almost certain to experience at least two incidences a month.

bode-t Bode Olatunji has been working as a Luas driver for 16 years. Source: Conor McCrave/TheJournal.ie

“It is slowly getting better, very slowly, but I believe eventually we will get there. I just feel like we need to do more,” he said.

“When we first started we experienced it every week, now we get it maybe once or twice a month.”

He added: “You see people jump out in front of your tram making monkey chants, giving you the middle finger and making all sorts of comments to you. 

I want people to understand that being black, or being white doesn’t mean I am better than you, it’s really about equality, and humanity and standing together as human beings.”

This story was supported by the general fund of Noteworthy. You can find out more about helping us do projects like this here.

With reporting by Conor McCrave and Ken Foxe 

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