We were talking about St Patrick’s Day at work and a couple of us mentioned that we don’t celebrate it. I gave my usual snobbish, lofty, Lace-Curtain Irish explanation that it is because it celebrates the worst Pig-Shit Irish stereotypes, but I was surprised by the reason given by a black woman, who said that she used to celebrate it until she heard the origin of the term, “paddy wagon.” According to her, the South’s slave patrols were recruited from the Irish population because they were the only white people willing to touch the beat-up, bloody escaped slaves. They then brought them back to their plantations in wagons called “paddy wagons” because they were driven by the Irish patrollers, called “paddy rollers” because they were Irish.
I tried to explain that the slave patrols were, by law, made up of all of the white males, not just the Irish; that if there were many Irish is was because of Scots-Irish immigration, not immigration from Eire; that the Scots-Irish don’t count because they weren’t really Irish and, besides, they were Protestants (there are no rules against trolling IRL! ); that beating up on black folk was a Southern white birthright, enjoyable by all; paddy wagons were likely named for their cargo of drunken Irish brawlers; and that the attitude was that the uppity slaves shouldn’t get to ride in the “lap of luxury,” but should walk, dammit.
She said she will bring in the book where she read about this. I look forward to reading it. But what struck me is how casually she explained to a person of Irish ancestry why she hates all the Irish, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to paint us all with this pseudo-historical calumny. It reminded me of listening to a white-supremacist, but without the self-awareness, and the more I read about Afrocentrism the more I see some people playing a zero-sum game, in which blacks lift themselves by pushing down whites, to the point of making shit up. I wish people didn’t do that.