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 you you probably love to drink green beer and get drunk!"
These people are "Irish for a day". Lovely.
That's like saying, "Hey, you're black! you must LOVE to talk during a movie and dance
around white people!" 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. I can scarcely walk down a city street today without being called a leprechaun by some drunken (or sober) asshole (No, I'm not making this up). 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.
It....was a different time....
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 (and every other year I post this) 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 slobberingly 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:
1)“It’s just an excuse to get drunk!"
2)"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. If you do, maybe you're a bad friend. 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. Yet 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.
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.
Or by playing with these Italian plumbers who stomp on "Goombas"
The opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Skeptic North, any of my past/present/future employers, or any of my past/present/future academic colleagues. These words are entirely my own.