A long history of racism in Belfast: A reply to Fortnight

Dear Editor,

As an American living in Belfast, I read Brian Dooley's article (“A Long History of Racism in Belfast”, Fortnight, March 2004) with particular interest. I was disappointed.

The historical references to Frederick Douglass' experiences in Belfast in 1845, and black American soldiers in Northern Ireland during WWII, are revealing. But Dooley then lays the blame of contemporary racist attitudes upon Rev. Ian Paisley.

The argument that segregationist attitudes are the prevail of the DUP and/or Free Presbyterian supporters ignores wider truths of Northern Irish society. As if you have to be a Protestant to be a bigot.

A favourite among outside researchers is to make common cause between the American and Northern Ireland civil rights movements. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American integrationist; in Northern Ireland, the struggle was more directed against the state.

To be fair, the trade union movement in Northern Ireland do organise cross-community rallies, including those against racism. But there hasn't yet been a civil rights movement to unite the people of Northern Ireland.

Yours,
Yank in Ulster

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