How long have you lived here?

A friend contacted me recently about his child’s unpleasant, uncomfortable experience on her first day in secondary school. An experience that reduced her to tears.

When she told the teacher, by way of a class introduction, that she was from a small village not far from the school the teacher asked her something to the effect of ‘where are you from originally?’ or ‘where are you really from?’ or ‘how long have you been here?’

The girl was born and reared in Ireland and is as Irish as I am. But she has an unusual surname.

Not a name like O’Reilly or Malone or Fitzpatrick or Murphy or Smith but an unusual name, the name of her father who came to this country a couple of decades from another continent.

Her surname is lyrical and sounds great as it trips off the tongue. But it is not a common Irish name, whatever that is.

Hence the wholly inappropriate question from her teacher in her first day in secondary school. The girl was deeply upset about this singling out, this differentiation she felt from her classmates.

She went home crying feeling like she was identified as a ‘blow in’.

And concerned about how her friend will be treated in her school for her family is not from around these parts either.

It is not good enough in 2022.

I wrote a blog post recently about an employer losing a discrimination case as a consequence of some of his questions at the interview stage of recruitment.

We all have a role to play here, not just employers, when it comes to asking dumb, inappropriate questions.

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