In a recent discussion dealing with stereotypes of the Irish character here at TheWildGeese.com, an extensive dialogue ensued. It was suggested that we, as a community, should formulate a response to these stereotypes which seem to always show up even more in the days leading up to St. Patrick's Day.
We've decide to craft a Wild Geese community editorial for publication on the site and for widespread distribution to local, regional, national, and even international media outlets. It is hoped that these efforts will raise the profile of the Irish (and Irish-Americans in particular), showing that the double standard which currently exists with regard to disparaging remarks and attempts at humor when it comes to people of Irish heritage are not only inappropriate, but also largely unrepresentative of the vast majority of Irish people throughout the world.
We're asking all members of The Wild Geese community to read through the thoughts that have already been collected by a small panel of fellow members, and then to add any additional remarks in the comments section. In this way, we will be able to circulate an editorial which can truly be said to represent the consensus of the Wild Geese community. On Monday, February 24th, we'll compile all input and craft a final editorial which will be published here at TheWildGeese.com, and distributed for publication to media outlets throughout the world.
You can read the original discussion by clicking on the following link:
Address negative stereotypes (e.g. drunkenness, fighting, etc.)
Highlight positive aspects of Irish culture / heritage (work ethic, hospitality, etc.)
Flood media (i.e. online, print, radio, television, websites) with our concerns, but accentuate positives in so doing
What are the negative stereotypes we want to address?
Drunkenness (“Irish Yoga” t-shirts; “Irish Drinking Team” t-shirts)
Laziness as portrayed through the above and through other media
Our desire to continually be brawling and bullies
Our cognitive abilities as being slow or utterly lacking
Why is it important to expose these stereotypes as potentially harmful?
Not healthy to “normalize” binge drinking (cf. http://bit.ly/1iZkSCY)
Distorts view of the Irish in American society to young people, both of Irish descent and non-Irish
Our rich culture suffers from the above stereotypes
Inform others of our rich history and what we as a culture and nation have brought to others
These stereotypes can cause harm to the self-image of young Irish Americans and can affect hiring decisions by non-Irish who believe them.
What are the positive aspects of Irish culture / heritage we want to highlight?
Work ethic (canal diggers, coal miners, policemen, firefighters, etc.)
Strong family ties
Patriotism, from the American Revolution to current wars. Examples: (Fighting 69th from Civil War to the present, leadership from Commodore John Barry to astronaut Mark Kelly)
Faith-based values (faith, tolerance for others, contributions to charities ... both domestic and international)
I think the ads and PSAs (public service announcements) that highlight little known facts about black Americans are very effective in presenting a continuous history of African-American contributions to U.S. society. Could we do the same thing for the Irish. For example, I believe that there are more Irish-American winners of the Medal of Honor than any other group. If that’s correct, that would be a fact to be highlighted.
Come March the media will arrive at any pub that calls itself “Irish” (that is, they have a picture of Michael Collins on the wall), take photos of the people drinking at the bar but the voices of those who attend cultural activities such as plays, GAA events, lectures, concerts are not heard and certainly don’t make the papers. While these events are not meant to attract reporters, it’s a shame that they will descend on the bars. We must persuade the nation’s cultural elite that there is a very talented, vibrant group of Irish Americans out there that has nothing to do with the stereotypical Irish drunk. Impress on people that our story is far more complex and infinitely more interesting than they have been led to believe.
The Sober St. Patrick’s Day event in NYC has gotten tremendous publicity in its first two years, I suspect because of the work of its organizers. In fact, the Sober St. Patrick’s Day movement has grown to include other cities, including Belfast. That’s the kind of idea that should steamroll through the country and world. Others have been held in Casper, Wyoming (go figure) and Richmond, Virginia. A Sober St. Patrick event will be held in Cleveland, Ohio this March for the first time.
Take a look at the image below and decide if these stereotypes are a problem. This cartoon was plucked from a blog (which we will not name here) on March 17, 2011 with the accompanying comment, "The streets will run green with puke tonight!"