This Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s important to remember that my culture is not your costume; it’s my costume.
Before you put on your SHENANIGANS shirt and plastic shot-glass necklace, ask yourself: Are you mindful of their cultural roots? Are you honoring my ancestors who invented them decades ago in Charlestown, Massachusetts?
Everywhere I look, there’s a reductive caricature of Irish culture, and it’s a blatant rip-off of the reductive caricature of Irish culture that my people forged over so many Celtics seasons.
I hear the bagpipes in songs where they obviously don’t belong, a tradition of ours that dates back to the late twentieth-century music of the Dropkick Murphys. I see friends sharing leprechaun imagery when I know they don’t even have a red-headed (though admittedly half-Ashkenazi) cousin who they force into a little green suit every March.
The whole celebration is incredibly disrespectful to hundreds of years of Irish history I gathered from dozens of weeks of study abroad in Dublin. It’s simply disheartening to watch our long history of appropriation get exploited by people who can’t tell Bill Burr apart from Donnie Wahlberg.
They forget that Saint Patrick is a figurehead for people like me who aren’t actually from Ireland but went there once and made it our whole personality. And just as he took the clover from their land and made it his symbol for God, we took it from God and made it our symbol for every Napper Tandy’s on the eastern seaboard.
But now our heritage has been completely corporatized. People buy Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s instead of supporting storied cultural institutions like Dunkin’. They eagerly order Guinness instead of condescendingly ordering Guinness.
This holiday should honor the generations of Irish people displaced from their beloved homeland because of famine or colonization or because their dad’s great-grandparents fled government overreach in order to sell private health insurance more profitably.
It’s about time that we give men who wear scally caps once a year the attention they so desperately need. Folks like us haven’t had a representative holiday since Presidents’ Day.
So today, before you look outward at your red-bearded hat, look inward to your 23andMe results and see if you can reasonably round up to one percent.