Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Just Wanna Know Where Da Gold At?


I don't do St. Patrick's Day. I don't mess with it at all. And I'm very vocal and clear when I express my lack of desire to wear green one specific day of the year. All though, while being brainwashed in elementary school, I was convinced that one year I saw a leprechaun in my bedroom (which probably resulted from misplacing my glasses and having dust built up on my ceiling fan). However, ever since I was around 15 or so, I've opted against "celebrating" St. Patty, even though I do enjoy a party - especially after a few drinks.


My last name is typical of Northern Ireland. While it could be Scottish, linguistically it is Gaelic, a language originally spoken by people in Ireland and spreading, eventually, to Scotland. Now, the origins of St. Patrick's Day are religious, but many people see it as an excuse to get wasted and pick four leaf clovers. I don't want to bore with the details of Saint Patrick, or the rebellion, or even how it warped in Irish History, as a day-long break from fasting and Lent. Let's talk about the Irish.


The Irish, like many American immigrants, came to this land of ours on a boat with hopes of opportunity sometime in the 18th century. Many of the Irish farmed until the Industrial Revolution in America, around the 19th century. Now, of course this is an abridged version and a huge chunk of history is missing. Many people know that the Irish, especially New England to Mid-Western ones, were treated like crap and, well, systemically fucked. Besides contributing largely to the development to police agencies, the Irish lived in shanty towns and were not provided educational opportunities, especially with poor health care and a high infant mortality rate. They were even hit with a specific kind of segregation: many places had what were referred to as NINA signs up: "No Irish need apply". I'm very sympathetic to that, and while it might sound like contemporary America familiar, many people do not know that there were Irishmen in the South.


A substantial number of Irish in the South were slave owners. Heck, not saying all Southern whites were racist, but the only non-colored person I've heard of not owning slaves was named Atticus Finch. Where is the cohesion, you ask? Heregoes:
From what is known of my family history on my father's side, my grandfather was the grandson of a slave. As a matter of fact, he had one of the best memories I know. He could tell you where and when something occurred down to the hour and never second guess himself. As such, we very thankfully know from our oral tradition of this bit of information about our family. This is not typical of Blacks in America; many of us have no idea where we came from and I am grateful that, while it does not take us to our African roots, we have a piece of history that we don't have to guess or assume. As such, my Irish last name that has been passed down through generations of men on my father's side is a legacy that feeds the possibility that the people who owned that side of my family were, indeed, Irish immigrants. Now, the Irish mostly favored the Union over the Confederacy, but this changed sometime in 1861. However, in the early 1800s, there were Irishmen in the South that sought to help coloreds, Blacks and natives if there were any left, become better educated; however, angry anti-abolitionists fought against the gesture.


My over-active imagination theory makes me want to do more research, but sadly, I never really think about Irish history until Saint Patrick's Day. I suppose this makes me like most other people, but I'm only human after all.


Be Righteous.

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