My First St. Patrick’s Day/My First Racism!

Wow! Boston really likes St. Patrick’s Day! I was on the T earlier, and there was nothing to be seen but green and Guinness memorabilia! Green glitter wigs, green headbands, green everything. It makes sense in a city with a historically substantial Irish population, though I doubt most of the yelling college kids I saw today were themselves Irish.

Anyway, this St. Paddy’s day vortex of colleges and pubs that is Boston has inspired me to type up my first St. Patrick’s Day memory.

One Friday, long ago, when I was a little first grader, my teacher reminded all of us kids to wear green the following Monday in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. I relayed this information to my Grandmother (with whom I lived) once I got home. She was NOT pleased. She explained that we were SCOTS (she was, at least) and that wearing green showed support for the IRISH. Not only was my grandmother of Scottish descent, she was a solid anglophile (the house contained lots of miniature English cottages, Britain-themed tea towels, etc, that she got visiting England). Honestly, I had never even heard of the IRISH. But the message was clear: whatever the IRISH were, no grandchild of hers would be condoning their holiday!

On Monday, I arrived at school wearing all ORANGE, in a sea of green peers–I don’t even know how my Grandmother managed to get so much orange on one little girl–I felt very conspicuous, but proud. My favorite favorite teaching assistant came up to me and exclaimed, “Why Anna! You’re not wearing any green! Did you forget it was St. Patrick’s Day today?”

I stood tall and declared, “I’m a SCOT, and we HATE THE IRISH.”

“Oh..but Anna…I’m Irish.” Tears appeared in her eyes!

I could have died right there–I don’t know if I had ever felt so awful as I did then. I would never have guessed Irish was a type of PERSON, much less wonderful Miss O’Brian (name changed because I don’t recall her name at this point).

“I–I’m sorry! I don’t hate you at all! I promise! I didn’t know what Irish was!!!” now I cried, but she hugged me to show she wasn’t mad, and then I made some shamrock-themed arts-and-crafts.

My grandmother was an overall awesome and admirable woman (for example, she was a Woman’s Air Service Pilot in WWII), but whenever St. Patrick’s day comes around, I wear green and remember that awful experience. I learned to take what she said with a grain of salt for the first time that day, as she was clearly uninformed on the whole Irish issue, and had made me into a jerk by mistake.

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2 responses to “My First St. Patrick’s Day/My First Racism!

  1. Haha, I feel so terrible for baby, racist Anna! You learned a valuable lesson.

    I saw some people wearing all orange on the escalator today, and people were BOOING them! Still a sensitive issue, clearly.

  2. I hear a little echo. Kermit the Frog was right. Sometimes it’s hard being green…at least it was in that household on St. Patrick’s Day. Wear your green with pride, as I do mine, knowing that it signals the end of a sad, misguided, and hurtful attitude.

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