IT is deeply shaming for our whole com- munity that racism should emerge as a virulent dynamic in our culture, visiting its evil expression upon defenceless people and plumbing even darker depths than our legendary sectarianism.
Academics have studied the phenomenon, even reaching back to the racism of ninth-century Vikings and, more recently, to the routine 17th and 18th- century cultural acceptance of slavery.
We may, perhaps, take a crumb of comfort from the fact that a 1786 attempt to set up a company in Belfast to engage in the lucrative slave trade mercifully failed.
Sociologists may also note that racism is expressed most violently by people who have little else to occupy them or who are easily spooked into seeing others as a threat to their own already pathetic social or economic status.
The fact that immigrants, while vulnerable, are often more skilful and productive than the racists who attack them, merely inflames the sense of inferiority which lies, mostly unconsciously, below the surface of the supremacists dispositions.
But when all historical, sociological and psychological aspects of the disease have been probed and catalogued, and even if and when adequate judicial and policing remedies have been applied, it will still be found that racism, like sectarianism, lies deeper than these categories of understanding and action.
Racism, ultimately, has nothing to do with its victims: it is a disease lying wholly within the racist, just as sectarianism lies totally within the bigot; and while they thrive in our culture, all of us are in more or less danger of being infected.
To imagine that being white or Protestant or Catholic or unionist or nationalist or loyalist or republican …