This is a touching article to mull over this St. Patrick’s day. Do you find it ironic that a people pushed to the edge of starvation and annihilation themselves, turned around and scraped together what they could to give to the Irish people suffering in the famine? You shouldn’t, on the level that this is who they are. The image of the violent savage was a propaganda piece successful in diminishing the numerous tribes throughout the Americas, so that, dehumanized, they could be overwhelmed and removed–left for dead, forgotten–out of the way of ‘Manifest Destiny.’
In history class as child, I used to wonder…but how was this believed all right? If someone came into my home today–even back then–it would be viewed as a violation of my rights, a crime. Not so with the indigenous peoples. What the white majority wanted they took, and that was viewed as all right, because the white majority made the rules and weren’t punishable by them. You’ll see much of this in play today if you take an honest look around. Startling and upsetting as it can be–until we admit to the presence of privilege, then people will be made to suffer by it.
As for the Irish, at the time, they weren’t considered white. There was a huge propaganda campaign against them too that began many decades before. The drawings and films and other media of the period often depicted them as apes, criminals, drunks and always angry. You can read more about that in my Race and Ethnicity in Film essay.
The Irish have since become acceptable as whites. However, since arriving on American shores, they were used to fill out the Federal Armies for the Civil War and used during the westward expansion to murder indigenous people and move them off lands that the Federal Government decided would be given out to white settlers. They were also the white slaves of the nation, the majority of indentured servants came from Ireland. Consider also, African Americans were used in the same manner. You have to wonder, did the WASP elite believe they shouldn’t get their hands dirty for reasons of future liability or disgust? They forced others to do the labors they believed beneath them–like the upper Roman echelon. That attitude persists in the money elites to this day.
What I do know for certain is that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, meaning he drove out paganism, and destroyed a significant piece of Irish Culture, yet he is celebrated. Even more ironic, Black and Tans is what the British Soldiers were called at the time Ireland struggled for independence against England in the early part of the 20th century. Asking for one can get you popped in the mouth to this day in Ireland. Bullet holes mark buildings, graves dot the countryside. Those random Irish crosses are not random. Furthermore, reveling on St. Pat’s by getting blind drunk and belligerent supports the years of the ethnicity being diminished by the dominant WASP culture as blind drunks and belligerents barely evolved beyond the apes. But, wear your green and gold. That was done in protest of the flag, the Irish Colors, being banned by England. Needless to say, I do not participate out of respect for a long colonized people–my ancestors. However, members who lay claim to the ethnicity attempt to disavow these truths, in an effort to lay claim to the status of ‘white’–as in member of the privileged racial class. Too many don’t even realize they do it. I will wear green, but I will also go forward with an accurate picture of this history and teach it, not falling into habits that are a stereotype to diminish that rich and wonderful history.