There's More to St. Patty's Day than Green Beer
Here’s an interesting factoid: drawings of leprechauns like the one above were originally racist sketches of the Irish, not unlike Little Black Sambo. In fact, Notre Dame’s mascot is a living example of Irish stereotyping: short, hairy and prone to fighting rather than thinking.
Nowadays, no one considers such caricatures as remotely offensive, even in the kind of over-sensitive climate that recently pushed The University of Illinois to retire their mascot, Chief Illiniwek. Fighting Irish: good fun. Fighting Illini: unacceptably insensitive.
One could call this a double-standard where European cultures are not afforded the same considerations as non-European cultures. But really, this is just a sign of how far the Irish have come. Not only have they (somewhere between a quarter and a half of me can say “we”) overcome the obstacles of prejudice but they’ve escaped the status of second-class citizenship all together.
No doubt, white skin made a huge difference in how easily the Irish were able to assimilate. That’s why it would be patently unfair to compare Irish integration with that of non-whites. But Irish do have reasons to be proud. After all, they successfully became fully accepted Americans while keeping many aspects of their heritage alive. The fact that all of America now celebrates the feast day of Ireland’s patron saint is just one example how the Irish changed America as much as America changed them.
So drink your green beer or pint of Guinness, but remember that a lot a Irish fought through a lot of turmoil before the rest of America was ready to raise a glass to the Emerald Isle.