'I still hear the n-word' - mum opens up on her experiences with racism

Bray native Emer O’Neill with her daughter Sunny Rae

Gabija Gataveckaite

A young mother has bravely spoken out about her experiences with racism in Ireland - saying that even in 2020, she hears the n-word being used at least once a month.

Speaking on RTÉ's Radio One The Ryan Tubridy Show yesterday, Emer O'Neill, from Bray, said that even as a child, her mother caught her trying to "get the brown off" in the bath.

"It really did affect me socially as a child. I knew from a very early age I was different," she said.

"My mum reminded me of an incident up in the bathroom where she came in while I was in the bath and I was profusely rubbing myself and said I was trying to get the brown off."


Heartbreakingly, her own son has said that he also wishes he was white.

"From that early age, I knew I was different. Funnily enough, I have a six-year-old son and he has actually come to me and said things quite similar... my son is still saying things like 'I want to be white like my friends'."

"I just really want for people to take a step back and just imagine what it's like to be a mother and have a child come tell you that they don't want to be in the skin they are in," Ms O'Neill said.

The mother-of-two, who works as a PE teacher, told how she was recently subjected to horrendous racist graffiti about her being plastered on a wall on a road in Bray.

"The week before that, I had done an article, I had been in The Bray People, that was kind of in retaliation," she said.

"It was really hard to see my name up there on a road I've taken since I was a young child, I'd walk it with my family.

"I had to bypass that road for a couple of days because it took a couple of days for it to be rubbed off."

She said that her mum considered putting her up for adoption before she was born.

"The idea of being a white woman raising a black child in Ireland in 1985 was huge for her. When she did have me, she would have been called the 'n-word lover'. I also still hear that word.

"I can soundly say I would at least hear the n-word, in my company, maybe not directed to me, at least once a month," she added.

Ms O'Neill recalled how when she was born, she lived with her mum in a council house for several years, which was set alight numerous times.

They then moved into a home of their own, but the racist abuse didn't stop.

"It didn't stop. There was a crowd of kids a couple of years older than me, who would follow me around and call me the n-word and tell me they were going to kill me. It went on for years.


"I was so ashamed to be black and be called out for it. I felt so bad for my friends because you could feel after the ordeal, they were uncomfortable and I hated making them feel like that," she said.

She said she is very proudly Irish and hopes the generation that is growing up now will actively call out racism.

"I speak Irish, my son is in a Gaelscoil. I played the bodhrán, I represented Ireland. I have a lot of pride in my country.

"I really want people to just take a step back."

"None of us chose the colour of our skin. I was born and raised in Ireland the same as you were," she added.

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