St. Patrick in America: Green with Privilege

by Beauchamp Art

Given the British-Irish-American history, surely this sort of garb is just more cultural caricaturing? I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to compare the image of a Leprechaun to a Gollywog, given the historical precedents behind them both being quite considerably different, but both this grotesque of the Irish and St Patrick does also share a joint history of slavery.

“In the early 5th century the Romano-Briton Saint Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland.” Perhaps the Saint would not be supportive of such depictions, and such unavoidable comparisons. And needless to say, the British demonisation of the Irish still persists, to a lesser extent, with the persecution of Irish Traveller communities, and the stereotype of the ‘stupid Irishman’ that was still being used in popular English media until fairly recent, including on the BBC.

Not to say the mocking of one nation and group of peoples is comparable to another, but dressing up in cartoon depictions of those people as a celebration of their traditions seems an incredibly insensitive, and frankly stupid thing to do; irrespective of a common white skin stretch between the countries in question. Whether that’s dressing in green with fake ginger beards, or donning an NAI style feather head-dress, or blacking up; such actions do not aid a cohesive mixed society, but caricatures and mocks cultures as style to be colonially appropriated; the pickings not only for historical White Privilege, but for the wealthy, upper class and dominant culture to make a banner of pride from the skin of the underdog.