By Neil Cosgrove
As I write this with the threat of a snow storm hitting the New York area, I must report that the first sign of Spring has been cited. It is not the first robin or the crocuses sprouting, but the sighting of the first defaming “St. Paddy’s Day” [sic] shirts at the local mall.
From all reports this years’ crop looks to plum new lows. Among the shirts spotted were: ”Want to Get Lucky With an Irish Girl?”, “ Irish Food Stamps” (depicting chits with beer mugs on them) and “Did you hear the one about an Irishman who left a bar?…Nah, me neither”. Of course there were also the repeat offenders: “Irish Drinking Team” and “Drink till you’re Irish” shirts also. Note that these were observed at two kiosk, habitual defaming recidivists Spencer’s and Urban Outfitters have yet to be heard from and their “St. Paddy’s Day” materials usually make what is on the kiosks look complimentary by
Brother’s how much longer must the heritage we love, the very reason we became Hibernians, suffer with this defaming depiction? No other group is asked to accept the “it’s only a joke” defense when their heritage is defamed. No one in the media questioned the outrage of African Americans when they were incensed by the “Boyz on the Hood” TShirts (shirts depicting African Americans being arrested) or when Cuban Americans protested (and successfully stopped) Mercedes Benz using images from the brutal Castro regime as part of its “revolution” marketing campaign. Yet Irish Americans are asked
yearly to accept bigoted and defaming stereotypes as humor. Why?
Brothers, it is time to put our oaths not to countenance the defaming of our proud heritage into action. When you see a local mall retailer selling bigoted and defaming merchandise, first address the store owner, if you get nowhere address the Mall management and then finally if that does not work address your members, their families and the broader community through the newspaper and your local government representative. Make sure to express your outrage that the heritage that gave us signers of the Declaration of Independence and hundreds of awardees of the Medal of Honor should not be so shamelessly
treated. It would also be worthwhile to point out that March is both Irish American Heritage Month and Women’s History Month and that many of these shirts not only offend our heritage but highly offensive and degrading to women irrespective of ethnicity.
Do not be put off by “free speech” arguments: Shopping malls invariably have regulations and covenants in their lease agreements that allow them to evict tenants they find objectionable or to ask patrons to leave who wear apparel they find in questionable taste. If a mall refuses to take action that sells defaming, obscene and stereotypical material it is because they chose to allow it and they are complicit with the vendor. Consider a “Day of Action” where your members, family and friends boycott the mall. Again, make sure the public is aware of it in advance and try to involve your local government leaders. In
particular, let the big anchor stores at the malls know that you are not shopping with them because of the offensive products that another tenent is being allowed to sell. They will likely not be too happy with the mall management that they are losing sales because of other classless, ignorant merchants and will likely also pressure mall management to take action against said tenant.
Finally Brothers, as we enter the joyful celebration of our Heritage and Culture and march or watch our St Patrick’s day parades let us look in the mirror. Are we or our children wearing any of this objectionable apparel? Are we being good ambassadors of our Heritage and Culture . Perhaps we should consider leaving the green and white “Cat in the Hat” hat, face paint and Mardr Gras beads at home.
As always, if you become aware of any defamation of our heritage, or more positively if you and your division take action to defend it, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org