Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Friday, August 01, 2008

How Black People Became Irish

It is 1960 and morning at Parochial School. The normal orderly routine of prayer then lessons has been suspended. We are in celebration. An Irish Catholic American has been elected president. There has always been an undercurrent of "We are the better Americans, first to serve in war, yet not really accepted." Now, the validation.

Never mind that a Mick mayor and WASP Texan had done a bit of fancy footwork. That won't come out until it is irrelevant. Forget that Kennedy is not the rosary saying family man as portrayed. That also can wait till it does not matter. Nous sommes arrivé.

Sister Lucille, our teacher had been given a bit of tchotchkes as a gift. A little letter holder in the shape of a dachsund. Gushing, she told us that in celebration of the day, she would call it JFK.

Now, in 2008, in our current quadrennial search for a fuhrer, another ethnic group has their man in the battle for chief executive. And it is their man. They had plighted their troth to another family and it had been expected their support would descend on that pretender. The crown princess had been pandering for years. Yet, when someone entered the fray who bore at least superficial similarities, they abandoned their old patrons in a trice.

There is no praise high enough for Obama. The man is being likened to a deity. Yes, it's silly, but no sillier than JFKmania of my childhood. James Collier of the blog Acting White is pretty level headed even for someone who has an affinity for Nascar and weird bounty hunters, still extrapolates, "It may be that because he was born of two ancestries, one black, one white, he reached a harmony of the two that aides his leadership ability, and just maybe the country's too." Wow, the man is one with the gods. Hey, maybe he is right, maybe not.

When Kennedy won, we celebrated in the burbs, not inner city "Dawchestah"* where I was born. Our postwar dads had moved up a lot of ladders. Vatican II was making the Catholic Church into, "Unitarianism with a Pope."** Assimilation is complete enough to make the whole thing irrelevant.

So will an Obama election change things. Don't know. Is the Black American population on the verge of assimilation? Living in exurbia in self employed and under employed Swamp Yankeeness, I would not be able to say. It is over twenty years since I had any connection to an urban professional environment. People in professions tend to get along because the consequences of non cooperation are obvious. When I was mispending my youth and driving a cab, I would observe a sea of black faces and though not universally unfriendly, hardly palsy walsy. To be fair, in the old white neighborhoods, there was oft a left behind by life ambience. How much has changed?

I doubt the cleansing effect of an Obama presidency. Yeat's line at the beginning of Easter 1916, "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart" may not have the same import as for Israel/Palestine, Sunni/Shia, or Hutu/Tutsi, but maybe it's close enough for government work.

If he wins, he has one thing going for him. Coming after GWB is not the hardest act to follow.

*English translation, Dorchester.

**D. Keith Mano


Black Sea said...

I've been wondering for years about the origins of the expression "black Irish." I suppose I'm no closer to an explanation than before, but at least I've now got a living, breathing example. One might say that Obama is the Phil Lynott of American politics.

tvoh said...

Though I've heard the expression time without number, I can't say I have a definition. However, if someone points out someone and says they are "black Irish," I know what they mean without knowing.

If a dictionary definition were required of me I would give this,

1. Someone Irish or of descent who, when put in the sun will eventually get at least a slight tan.

2. Brooding personality (i.e.someone who does not meet another persons stereotype of an Irish personality)

3. Whatever one wants it to mean.

I had to look up Mr. Lynott. I had heard of Thin Lizzy but could not remember any of their music. I listened on youtube. Can't say it's completely forgettable, though I'm trying.

Black Sea said...

I have run across the legend that the black Irish are descended from Spanish sailors washed up on shore after the armada was sunk by the British in 1588. This always seemed to me to be particularly implausible explanation.

I suspect it's just a nicer way of saying " mean son of a bitch," but I could be wrong.

tvoh said...

Funny you should mention that. There may be slight possibility of a tiny drift of Armada dna.

My family's legend is that my Kinsale relatives took in and hid Spanish soldiers from the 1601 battle. They stayed on and married in, we supposedly are descended from them.

So far, I have not been able to translate this into a claim for a scholarship for a kid due to Hispanic ancestry.