Features

Deconstructing Irish Pride

Catie Byrne 
     Features Editor

Every March 17, people across the world dress in green, fill their Guinness glasses to the brim and eat corn beef and cabbage to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

The holiday began as a day to honor the death of the patron Saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, in the 17th century. It was a day of feasting for Christians and particularly Catholics in Ireland. Today St. Patrick’s day has become rather secular and culturally removed in countries outside of Ireland.

For Irish Americans St. Patrick’s Day has become more of a celebration of Irish heritage than anything else, and as a result, a disturbing pattern has emerged among some of its most fervent holiday participants.

This trend is the tendency for Irish Pride to morph into white nationalism. The transformation of Irish cultural and ethnic pride into a racist, supremacist doctrine is not just observable, but wildly common.

As observed by BuzzFeed journalist, Joseph Bernstein, in his undercover infiltration of white nationalist groups through social media, in the column, “I Spent Two Weeks Tracking A Secret Teen White Supremacist Messaging Group,” many self-proclaimed white supremacists would identify themselves with their nationalities.

The first person Bernstein came in contact with, a teenager named “Pa,” identified himself as Irish and discussed hate crimes against his Irish ancestors in order to uphold his belief in white oppression and superiority.

The logic of these white nationalists Bernstein documents follows the pattern of: young white people have an interest in the history of their predominantly white country of origin, this knowledge becomes a pride in their nation of origin and then finally, that identification with this nation becomes supremacist nationalism that asserts the superiority of these nations and whiteness.

It does not take much digging at all to find these white supremacist beliefs disguised as national pride. On the white nationalist website Stormfront, there was an entire comment thread dedicated to how to advance white supremacy under the guise of Irish pride.

One thread commenter even devised a strategy for how to form such a white nationalist group, “If a group was to form, the Trojan horse method would be best IMO. That means the group would have to pretend to be one thing (like a cultural group etc.) while mainly being another (pro-white etc). The media/reds would have to be really careful [with] what they’d then say and it would give the group members a bit of freedom to be seen in the group.”

A notorious breeding ground for white supremacy, the website 4chan also featured threads about regarding how to advance white nationalism through Irish pride.

“Irish pride, a ok, white pride. So obviously we just need to hide our movement inside the shield of national identity, happy Irish (white) pride day,” said the 4chan commenter.

Within forums such as Stormfront and 4chan, one of the white supremacist symbols codified as Irish pride, is the Celtic Cross. According to the Anti-Defamation League website, the cross, which is sometimes referred to as Odin’s wheel or the Sun or Wheel cross, is, “A traditional Christian symbol used for religious purposes as well as to symbolize concepts like Irish pride.”

The ADL continues, “The white supremacist version of the Celtic Cross, which consists of a square cross interlocking with or surrounded by a circle, is one of the most important and commonly used white supremacist symbols… Norwegian Nazis used a version of the symbol in the 1930s and 1940s. After World War II, a variety of white supremacist groups and movements adopted the symbol. Today, this verson of the Celtic Cross is used by neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and virtually every other type of white supremacist. It has also achieved notoriety as part of the logo of Stormfront, the oldest and largest white supremacist website in the world.”

The white nationalist connotations of the Celtic Cross are important to understand and recognize on days like St. Patrick’s Day due to its aesthetic popularity within holiday parades, and the possibility that those touting the symbol are doing so to promote white supremacy in the name of Irish pride.

Many critics of the way Irish Americans celebrate and interact with St. Patrick’s Day are Irish themselves.

In an interview with an Irish person living in Ireland that wishes to remain anonymous, the Irishman reflected a discomfort with the zeal many Irish Americans have in celebrating their heritage on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Given Ireland’s history with regard to exploitation, colonialism and genocide, the way Irish-Americans approach Irishness and St. Patrick’s day is infuriating,” said the Irishman.

The anonymous Irishman further expressed a sense of frustration with the way many Irish Americans take on the identity of Irish. The Irishman said he felt as though these Irish Americans took an obsessive approach to reconnecting with their Irish heritage to further a racist complex of white superiority, rather than having an actual regard for the history of violence and struggles that the Irish have and continue to face.

“Ireland suffered a lot under British colonial rule and we’re still seeing effects of it to this day. Like the famine caused such a fall in population that 150 plus years on, we’re still at half of what we were at pre-famine. And the famine was deliberately exploited by the Church of England to convert Irish Catholics, as well as the government exporting food from Ireland during this time, despite people dying en masse. Just, for a country and a people that faced the British special brand of colonialism, Ireland seems remarkably eager to ignore the implications [of nationalism] and Irish Americans in particular seem mostly interested in using Ireland’s history as a rhetorical cudgel to silence people of color; especially those affected by colonialism,” said the Irishman.

There is of course, nothing inherently wrong with St. Patrick’s Day or celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. However, to ignore the propensity of white supremacy dressed up as Irish pride, only allows this dangerous ideology to grow.

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