Let me lay my cards on the table. I do not think Conor McGregor is a racist. I do not have any empirical data to back this up other than a belief based on what i have seen and heard from the man via the media over the last 5 odd years. Indeed i believe he is a force for positivity and I like many are attracted as much by his mindset as to his fighting abilities.
I am relieved that he finally addressed the issue comprehensively and properly in his Interview with ESPN’s First Take during his Open Work-Out media day last weekend. However it was his 2nd or 3rd attempt on the subject and that interview will probably get lost in the Tsunami of video content that is already out there about the fight. Floyd has brought up other some other stuff since then but i do think he is trying to fan the flames on this to a certain degree. However I want to leave Floyd aside for the rest of the article because i think Conor needs to address his specific use of certain language and just stop it and hopefully move on.
Let me be clear. I think he overstepped the line at times during the World tour and especially during that second press conference in Toronto. The most offending sequence to me was as follows.
The crowd started singing a common football chant used by Irish fans the world over Ole, Ole, Ole and spurred on by this Conor started improvising.
‘ I want you to sing it for me (referring to the crowd) and I want you to dance for me (referring to Floyd)
‘ you sing and you Dance…dance for me boy’
I physically flinched when he uttered that last line. ‘ Dance for me boy’
It was a big mistake, it was wrong and he should specifically apologise for that reference. It was a racist comment.
Ireland is a small country but we are very well aware of the historical and contemporary racial prejudices in America and the centuries of social injustices that have followed from what President Obama has referred previously to as the ‘Original Sin’ of slavery.
I think the rather crude effort Conor made in New York at pointing to his love of rap and hip-hop and saying that because he embraces these cultural and musical areas – he couldn’t be a racist is rather too simplistic and doesn’t actually prove his point.
I can’t speak for Conor McGregor but as an Irishman i can point out a peculiarity about us as a nation. We identify ourselves as Irish first and white almost not at all.
This I think is significant. We feel as a nation that we know oppression, one that was consistent, malignant and yes racist for many hundreds of years. In our case a racism based on our Irish race not the color of our skin.
In the modern era, African-American slavery has always resonated with the Irish in Ireland because of our historic servitude to the English. To put it a cruder way we never saw the benefits of being white because for 8 centuries year we were busy dealing with the disadvantages of being Irish.
In recent times due to greatly improved economic conditions ( even accounting for the economic crash of 2008) we have seen a diverse influx of different nationalities to our fair shores but we remain a largely white population. We need to remind ourselves that just because we do not have a sizeable black population this does not equate to us automatically not being racist on skin color. It is especially important in this scenario not to fall into racial stereotyping.
Every Irish person can point to the now infamous historical prejudice that has faced Irish and Black immigrants going back for over a century, whether that be in London, New York or a thousand places in between. We have a simple but savage signage in common.
‘ No Black’s, No Irish , No dogs’
‘ Irish And Black’s need not apply’
We should never forget this nor forget the people who were prejudiced alongside us and who continue in many instances to be prejudiced against today.
I’ve spent a more than is healthy amount of time trawling through Youtube on following this event. There is a phenomenon on Youtube of what are called ‘Reaction Videos’ where people post videos of themselves watching particular popular events and interviews. it’s often a great way of getting a serious of amount of hits to your particular Youtube channel.
Because Conor Mcgregor is such a huge social media hit and quote machine there are literally hundreds and hundreds of Youtube videos of people reacting to Conor Mcgregor press conferences, fights and Knock-out’s. I swear to fucking god it’s almost a cottage industry with the amount of people that are doing it around the world.
I would say that at a guesstimate about 50% of the people who post these reaction videos about Conor are urbane, young African Americans. It is clear that almost all of this constituency LOVE Conor Mcgregor. They Love the shit-talk, the confidence, they love the rags to riches story. But most of all they love the fact that he backs up the shit-talk in the Octagon.
I have to say I was curious how they would respond in their ‘Reaction Videos’ to that Toronto Press Conference. I thought it would be a good barometer as to how African American’s viewed his comments. It definitely did not pass without mention but it did not turn into a widespread commentary into how racist Conor McGregor is. I think for the most part the African Americans responding gave him a single get out of jail free card. There won’t be another one.
Indeed it may do no harm to remember the words of the Irish Poet William Butler Yeats
Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.