The title of this blog may have led you to it, perhaps thinking that it was going to be something freaky about the Irish on this St. Patrick’s Day. Granted, today I’ve seen sexy pictures of women in green on social media, but that is not what this blog is about.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain, which was then occupied by the Romans. According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he was held captive for six years. While in captivity, Patrick turned to faith and ultimately converted to Christianity. He would eventually escape and make his way back to Britain, where he continued to study Christianity.
As is often the case with religious figures, Patrick had a vision that would lead him back to Ireland where, over the centuries, he becomes a mythical creature, given credit for, among other things, banishing snakes from Ireland. The shamrock, which is often associated with the Irish, was used by Patrick as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity. Patrick’s walking stick grows into a living tree. (Think the Tree of Life, or the Tree of Good and Evil.) And Patrick speaks with ancient Irish ancestors. (Think Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.)
March 17th is believed to be the day that St. Patrick died. Different accounts date his death, in 461/2 and 492/3, at the age of 120. (Think the long life the Patriarchs are said to have lived.)
So, this March 17th, especially in New York City, we are all Irish. Because of the pandemic, the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade is virtual. The bars will not overflow with patrons.
This St. Patrick’s day, though, I think of my mother, and what she once told us as kids. “Today, you’re going to meet your white relatives.” I imagine she said this with tongue-in-cheek. I don’t recall the day we met these white relatives. I do know that 3% of my DNA is from Wales, and 2% is from Scotland. I don’t think this makes me “Black Irish,” but it speaks to the role of the Irish during the era of slavery in the “New World.”
My maternal grandparents came to America in 1919 and 1923, by way of Panama and Barbados, not on a slave ship, but another ship, and was processed through Ellis Island. AncestryDNA revealed a second cousin connected to this part of my family tree. He is white, as we identify people of European descent in America. My paternal side has roots firmly planted in the South, in North Carolina. Interestingly, when I get as far back as 1805, one of my ancestors is listed on the census records as a “mulatta.” I am shaking my family tree, as hard as I can, to see what white people will fall out, but they are holding on tightly, not wanting to be exposed, at worst, rapists, at best, absentee fathers for the children they sired.
As far back as I can remember, on St. Patrick’s Day, our mother would make sure we wore something green. I don’t think this was to be in solidarity with our white ancestors. Black people are people of great empathy. They share in and celebrate other people’s culture. You can see us celebrating the Chinese New Year, the West Indian Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, etc. We do know how to be in solidarity with others. Others seem not to know how to be in solidarity with us. Other races should look to Black folk. There is so much to learn from us, about empathy, compassion, resilience, and triumph.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Very well said, my brother.