I write this every year, it’s a kind of self-indulgence I allow myself every march: St. Patrick’s Day is the most racist day of the year.

Every year we “celebrate” St. Patrick’s Day by drinking ourselves stupid, beginning in the middle of the afternoon, then maybe getting into a few fights. This is acceptable behavior because, we’re told, this is the one day of the year that everyone is Irish. Why is this flagrantly racist stereotype still so eagerly embraced? I believe it is because it is still widely acceptable to think the worst of the Irish, at levels unthinkable among other minority-groups.

People don’t pretend to be Mexican on Cinco De Mayo by standing in an unemployment line and selling oranges on the street-corners. On Yom Kippur people don’t wear shirts that say “kiss me, I’m Jewish” while wearing a cheap elongated nose while fake money falls out of their pockets. Black History month isn’t celebrated by enjoying an all-you-can-eat-fried-chicken buffet and starting a gang-war. And rightly so: these are all horrible racist stereotypes that reduce huge swaths of diverse peoples into the most negative imagery that is usually reserved for the old-racist-kook fraternity.

Why then, is it okay to celebrate ‘be an Irishman day’ (and lets be honest, March 17th has nothing whatsoever to do with the patron saint of Ireland) by getting drunk, making complete asses of ourselves, and be loud, obnoxious pricks? Even to the point of calling in ‘sick’ the next day, and actually getting away with it?

This friendly little guy is the emblem of Irish respect in North America. We all act like this. At least when we're not a)drinking b)fighting c)drunkenly beating our wives or d) having too many children.

I hear the rebuttals, the same every year: “It’s just an excuse to get drunk…and it’s just an excuse to have fun with my friends”. Do you really need an excuse to have fun with your friends? Of course you don’t. Do you need an excuse to drink? Maybe…but is it necessary for the Irish-drunkard stereotype to serve your loathsome late-night frivolities of licentious lewdness and lunacy?

We like to pat ourselves on the back with how progressive we have become through the delusional artifice of pluralism: the colours of Benetton have become united at last! Yet we cannot look past our beer goggles when the clock points to an excuse to drink that, as it so happens, pokes fun at the Irish. Society has (rightly) shunned people who use words like nigger, wop, chink, and kraut, but it's still okay to spend $10.00 on plastic leprechaun-wear, get drunk in the middle of the afternoon, and get kicked out of 4 bars in a night because, “Hey! On March 17th, we ALL get to be Irish for a day!” and then begin the drunken chorus of “Danny Boy”. I’m a student, but in my spare time, things bother me. St. Patrick’s Day bothers me a lot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate some else’s Italian heritage by controlling a union and eating a spicy meat-a-ball.

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Absolutely right. Very well said

Vince said...
March 17, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

ah c'mon, i'm irish and couldnt care less about the stereo type (I'm also a bar man just back from working st patricks day and its prob our pub's busiest day of the year)
couldnt care less about the parades and crap but its a great time for a session

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2009 at 11:29 PM  

@Anonymous: So I guess it's okay so long as you get to make a tonne of cash, eh?

You may not care about the negative Irish stereotype, but I bet you get uncomfortable when people start throwing around words like "nigger" and "Don't be a Jew" and "fuckin' chinks".

That's the point: this 'holiday' frames itself in a narrative that exploits the worst stereotypes of Irish racism, and people gleefully play along with it. This would be unthinkable if there were a holiday that treated another ethnicity in a similar way.

steveisgood said...
March 18, 2009 at 12:08 AM  

but its not really racist if i dont find it ofensive at all, i was living in the states a for three months last year and loved that everyone was coming over to me at parties so they could "drink with the irish guy"
felt like a celebrity, and the women were also coming over just to have a bit of 'craic'.
Every country gets stereotype....FACT so why not just make the most of it, have some fun and stop being so defensive.
PS you even Irish?

Anonymous said...
March 18, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

@ Anonymous:
"but its not really racist if i dont find it ofensive at all..."
An individual response as to how much or how little a person is offended has nothing to do with what is racist (or not). Racist representations are those which use negative stereotypes to reduce/mock/belittle an ethnic group. Even if there is no deliberate malice and hatred directed to the Irish on St. Patrick's Day, it has become a holiday (in North America) that uses belittling language and mocking caricatures to provide every loud-mouthed jock and bro and skanky-slut to drink themselves stupid.

It effectively says "Let's all get drunk on be-an-Irishman day. Because that's what it means to be Irish--a drunken bastard"

That is why it's racist. It has nothing to do with how much you, or anyone is "offended".

"loved that everyone was coming over to me at parties so they could "drink with the irish guy"
felt like a celebrity...

I hate to have to tell you this, but you weren't a celebrity, you were a novelty. They didn't give a shit about you, they just wanted to hang with the guy who looked like the cartoon character on their t-shirt.

"Every country gets stereotype....FACT so why not just make the most of it, have some fun If that's how you feel then you should have a grand ole time poking fun at every nationality and ethnicity. Like I mentioned in the post, celebrate black history as loudly and publicly as you can by eating a fried-chicken and watermelon buffet and starting a gang-war with an enormous cock. Celebrate Yom Kippur by singing songs about "Das Juden" and throwing around bagels while greedily hanging on to lots of cash and jewels. Celebrate American culture by gaining 50 pounds on Hamburger, Hot Dogs and Bud Light while invading the convienience store down the street that is run by that Persian guy and boast about freedom of speech while telling everyone else to shut the fuck up because it's really important that they hear YOUR message. It's all in fun right? What's the harm? Bars get to make money, and if a culture gets reduced to it's worst imagery that has been supplanted onto it from another culture trying to dehumanize it, so the fuck what?

"PS you even Irish?"
That is utterly irrelevant. Again, because it has nothing to do with people's level of offense. But yes I am. I'm also educated. I'm also a writer, musician, atheist and a Canadian. It doesn't matter.

steveisgood said...
March 18, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

Right on! Even a year later!

Moody said...
March 17, 2010 at 11:31 PM  

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