There are complaints about there being children in the parish school. Not complaints about there being children in general, but children in particular; certain children, “should not be in our school”.
There is no sense of embarrassment in the expression of prejudice, but it hasn’t the expression of prejudice always been thus? An aunt, long dead objected to “the Irish”, an uncle of a similar vintage objected to “the Asians.” Having a grandfather who suffered persecution at the hands of Mosley’s Blackshirts, I grew up with stories of those who objected to “the Jews”. Always there was some group upon which to pick, never mind that the complainers would confess that they knew not a single person from the group they hated.
Living in Northern Ireland, the demonised were “the Catholics”. Sometimes the term was not even used. Living in a Catholic area, I travelled to a town near Belfast to take a service one Sunday evening.
“Where are you from?” asked the churchwarden. I told him. “There are a lot of ‘them’ down there”, he replied.
Feigning ignorance of his meaning, I said, “are there?”
“Them” in our community means “Travellers”. Never mind that they are children, never mind that they have the same rights as any other child, never mind that our school is meant to be inclusive, never mind that there are laws protecting minorities; they should go elsewhere.
The singer Christy Moore does a version of Ewan McColl’s song, “Go, Move, Shift” , but Moore introduces a subtle change to the lyrics, a change which really encapsulates what is going on.
MacColl used to include the words:
“Born in a wagon on a building site
Where the ground was rutted by the trailer’s wheels
The local people said to me,
You’ll lower the price of property”
Moore’s version of “Go, Move, Shift” is unambiguous about from where prejudice comes, it is not the local people in Moore’s song who want the Travellers gone.
“Born in the common by a building site
Where the ground was rutted by the trail of wheels
The local Christian said to me,
“You’ll lower the price of property.”
Christy Moore would be unsurprised at the objections to the children. Isn’t it part of a long tradition? Isn’t just a reflection of prejudices that were always lurking under the surface? Doesn’t it reveal how little progress we have made?
When people object to children in a classroom, are we even worthy of the label “Christian”?