Why I Hate Saint Patrick’s Day
This post is dedicated to a brother I passed on the street this morning. A green-clad man said: “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day” to which the brother responded “Yeah, you know, just trying to not get beat up.”
It’s kind of like that for black people on St. Patrick’s Day.
364 days of the year, I’ve got no problem with the Irish. But I don’t mess around and leave my house on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m too old, I’m too black, and no longer willing to risk bar brawls on a holiday. Don’t worry about me, I’ve still got Cinqo de Mayo and Purim and a host of other holidays that I can use to hide my alcoholism.
I don’t want to rain on anybody’s good time. If you love St. Patrick’s Day, keep right on loving it. No worries. Just don’t expect many of your black friends to join in the fun. As a “friend” told me on SPD-1996: “Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Except you, Elie, ’cause you’re black.”
Don’t I know it.
If you watched Gangs of New York and didn’t notice how Martin Scorsese glossed over the horrible racism blacks experienced at the hands of the kinds of people he portrayed in his movie, you’re probably don’t understand the deep, historical tensions between the Irish and the blacks. It’s really not the fault of either group. 19th Century Irish immigrants belong to a long line of groups that have come to America only to be pushed to the lowest rungs of society. That’s where you’ll find black people, and it’s only natural that blacks and Irish would fight amongst each other for low-end jobs.
African-Americans are kind of used to it. It happened with the Irish and the Italians when they first came here in numbers. It’s happened with Mexicans in California and Puerto Ricans in New York. It’s happening with Koreans now and soon enough, Iranians and Iraqis will be coming here in significant numbers and it’ll happen again. Hell, even Caribbean and African immigrants are quick to distinguish themselves from African-Americans. Recent immigrants get crapped on and slightly less recent immigrants crap all over black people. It’s like you can’t be a “real American” until you develop some kind of general animosity to America’s indigenous black population. Meanwhile, somewhere “The Man” laughs and lights up another cigar with a wad of cash.
But the Irish were different, because back in the day a lot of them became cops. And let me tell you something, making your new immigrant class the muscle as your regime attempts to retain control of a minority population during a period of social change is a bad idea. You’re just asking for animosity.
So I do not enjoy hearing stories about the glory of the Five Points any more than I enjoy hearing about the heroic deeds of the Confederate captain in your family. I respect the history, I don’t necessarily want to celebrate it.
But I’m not here to just talk about the past. Modern day SPD isn’t all about ancient conflict between two ethnic groups. Instead, my current issues with the holiday has less to do with history and more to do with physical and mental safety.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell many black men this, but when a girl says “kiss me, I’m Irish” she’s not talking to you, bro’. I made that mistake once (SPD–1999), and I’m still shocked I got out of that bar alive. The Boston bar I was in became so silent you’d think I’d raped a hockey team full of red heads with one stroke. One time then-girlfriend (now wife) said she wanted to go to South Boston to see the parade. All of our white friends looked at her as if she had just said she planned to sever an artery to see how long it took to bleed out. They left it to me to politely say “baby, I don’t think your plan maximizes our long term survivability.”
Even when I’m not worried about physical danger, walking around while black on St. Patrick’s Day is kind of like being in that Paul Mooney skit: “Ask a Black Man” on the Chappelle Show. Here are some questions I’ve been asked on this holiday:
“Elie, why don’t black people — sorry, some black people — like to work?”
“The penis thing, that’s a myth right? Right?”
“Hey, I’m Irish, I can drink, just like you can play basketball. … Bollocks, of course you can play basketball.”
“I wouldn’t have a problem if my sister dated a black. It’s not brilliant, but it’s not like she’s going to marry one.”
I could go on and on and on. And sure, I could hear these kind of questions any day of the week. But I do hear them on SPD. All the freaking time. Do you know what’s fun about waiting for a friend to get drunk enough on one specific day to ask you something that he’s clearly been thinking about since he met you? Nothing. There’s nothing festive about that. Why would I want to sit around all day waiting to get offended or assaulted or both?
I get why Saint Patrick’s Day is fun for some people, but it’s not fun for me. Too much history, too many opportunities for drunk people to show their ignorance of my history. In my twenties, I’d get out there and try to fight the good fight. But now I’m old and tired. I don’t mind staying out of the way so other people can have their fun tonight.