Every year, March 17th rolls around, and people invariably ask me one version of the question, "Steve, you're pretty obnoxious with the way you wear your Irish heritage on your sleeve.  You must LOVE St. Patrick's Day and drink green beer and get drunk!"
That's like saying, "Hey, you're black!  you must LOVE to eat watermelon!" or "Hey!  You're Muslim!  You must LOVE to blow up buildings!"

Well, no I don't like St. Patrick's day.  I hate it.  For years I've found it to be the most nakedly racist "holiday" on the calender. Irish heritage celebration in North America is basically a neo-blackface routine.
Celebrating Irish culture and heritage.  These people are "Irish for a day".  Lovely.

Since about 2005, I've been writing pretty much the same article for one media outlet or the other, and my opinions since last year's post haven't changed, so I'll just re-post it here (with a few updates):
St. Patrick's Day: Still Racist after all these Years:
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.
I did a google image search for St. Patrick's Day, and this came up.  Seriously. 

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?  I've worked at places where people would call in sick on March 18th, and the bosses chuckled, and left it at that.  Oh really?  Can I do that on Sept 3?  Or May 7 (the day after my birthday)?  No, of course not.  But I bet that if I did it the day after people pretend to be their racist ideas of what it means to be Irish, it'd be super-dee-dooper, lassie!
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.

If you truly want to celebrate Irish heritage, that's fine.  If you want to celebrate for no real good reason, that;s fine too.  Might I suggest a friendly conversation over a couple of pints and a couple of songs.  The Irish don't have a monopoly on that, but it's still fun, honest, and respectful to you and your friends.

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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I read your title, and said, "pfft!" Then I read the article, and completely changed my mind. A cogent and well written argument, my friend. No green beer for me today.

Call me Paul said...
March 17, 2010 at 7:59 AM  

Nah, enjoy your green beer if you like....it's beer, and if you're out with friends, may as well. Just don't slam 5 of them down or wear ridiculous leprechaun apparel on account of the "spirit" of the evening.

Steve Thoms said...
March 17, 2010 at 9:35 AM  

Thanks for the article.
In addition to the racism, Americans think that their nonsensical traditions are 'Irish'. HAH!
You think Irish people pinch each other, kiss each other for no other reason than their birthright, or destroy a national treasure with green dye?

Jessica Hammer said...
March 17, 2010 at 9:55 AM  

What shall we do on Canada Day?

Marjory said...
March 17, 2010 at 10:06 AM  

Mery Christmas EVERYONE!

Mike said...
March 17, 2010 at 10:11 AM  


I get on a rant about this very thing every year myself - except yesterday, but probably because I didn't leave the house.

The irony is that sometimes I've got so spitting mad about it that I've displayed another sterotypical Irish trait - beligerence.

March 18, 2010 at 5:43 PM  

Can't say I agree. Using the Jewish example doesn't fit as it not about religion it's about a nation mixed with many religions. A lot of non-Irish folk drink heavily during other holidays -newyears is a great example. Bdays are a common one where people take the day off to cure the hangover. Just because people drink on saint pats day doesn't reflect on the Irish in general. I believe you are just trying to look at the negative side of a holiday for bring people together. You could use you rant to attack other national days (independence day, Canada day, fĂȘte nation) which can involve heavy drinking by some.

I would like to see the view of other Irish folks- I mean non-Canadian Irish.

Anonymous said...
March 17, 2011 at 4:16 PM  

@Anonymous: (this will be the last time I leave a comment politely asking people to not post anonymously)...

"Using the Jewish example doesn't fit as it not about religion it's about a nation mixed with many religions."

Judaism is not a nation. That is to say, it's not just a nation. It's also a religion, a culture and a genetically distinct sub-population, in much the same way that other sub-populations exist (Mediterranean, Australian Aboriginal etc...). So it fits here.

Another reason why it fits: Americans (and the rest of the world) treat Jews like a minority, like they're inferior. We see the same behavior towards the Irish, it's just that on St. Patrick's Day, it's out in the open.

But as to the rest of your comment, your argument misses the entire point of the article. It's not the drinking I object to, nor is it the frivolity. It's that this "holiday" uses the worst Irish stereotypes, and trumpets them loudly. St. Patrick's Day is about drinking green beer and being a loudmouth....because that's what the Irish people apparently do. "Irish for a Day" is a phrase that has found its way into our popular lexicon, and it means some pretty down and dirty things.

The national holidays you mention are specifically about celebrating the birth of a nation, not a people.

St. Patrick's Day is a transnational holiday that is supposed to pay tribute for one day to the Irish people. If it was to the Irish nation, you can bet that no one in England would be celebrating it! :)

Steve Thoms said...
March 17, 2011 at 11:35 PM  

This is a great article. Non-Irish (as well as Irish) people celebrate St. Patrick's day by perpetuating negative stereotypes. In many ways the wound is self-inflicted. Bar owners (including Irish ones) promote the crap out of St. Patrick's day.

Despite the absurdity that has become the norm of St. Patrick's day, there are many positive things to celebrate about Irish culture. On March 17th I always wear green--an Ireland rugby jersey rather than something ignorant like a leprechaun costume--and listen to some good Irish music. If only everyone else celebrated that way.

Ray said...
March 9, 2013 at 12:22 PM  

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