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I'm Black Irish and I'm Proud

Yesterday I came into contact with a racist.

A table full of them to be exact. My contact with them could have gone much better on my part. But I'm cynical about this sort of stuff having grown up light-skinned enough to "pass". I come by that honestly. Now, my father, on the other hand, is much darker than I and his sister, one of my favorite aunts, is a lovely caramel color and if you were to see the whole family lined up you'd find every conceivable shade available. To me, this is a beautiful sight.

I could have politely interrupted their loud (no, really, this was ridiculously loud) conversation about all the "Pakistanis" and "Blacks" and "foreigners" that are taking over and how they're everywhere. There were plenty of hateful things that came out of their mouths and each time they said something I responded back. Loudly. But not directly. Only the woman heard me and she obviously got them to pay attention to the fact that they were bothering other patrons around them. Eventually, they left.

It is a terrible thing, this being able to pass. There is the strange position I've found myself in that shocks me, it always shocks me with a jolt, when someone starts speaking this code that they are sure you understand. They lean in, pull you into their circle of trust, and then betray it. They assume you agree with them. You must! You look white! So you probably totally understand their racism!

Mind you, these older people probably felt justified in being able to have their conversation in public because they've always talked like that. Before you go defending their bad behavior let me say this: It's 2010. TWO THOUSAND TEN. In the year of 2010 my President is Black and so is theirs. THE PRESIDENT. IS BLACK. (Or MIXED. MULATTO. Whatever.) The Civil Rights Movement happened in their lifetime. I sincerely hate it when people excuse them with, "But that's their generation. That's what they grew up with! They don't know any better!" Instead of doling out pardons for their racism let me suggest that they ought to be embarrassed that they've lived through all of that and still haven't learned anything from it. Let me propose that they've have multiple opportunities to learn from their lives in America and have managed to have their racism forgiven time and time again. Let's just all take responsibility for that.

One time when I was dating a guy in college he took me home to meet his parents. I was nervous because I was a 19-year old girl/woman who had a daughter by then and he was a single, college-aged boy so it concerned me that his family would be upset by that. Unfortunately, I was focused on the wrong thing. What they were upset about in regards to me was that I was Black. That is what bothered them about me when they first met me. From hearing this boy tell me about his family I was shocked because it didn't seem like they would be like that. I had to ask him, "Let me get this straight. Your brother is married to a Korean woman and your sister is a lesbian and your parents have a problem with ME?"

Before I digress too far let me just say I ended up marrying (and divorcing) him and that I gave his family the whitest damn grandchildren ever produced. Seriously. They're nearly transparent.

My father, also of the generation of people in question, is getting older. He's reached his 70s and doesn't like to live in the racism of his past. Rarely does he talk about it. But there are things about him that are so progressive and innovative and he's always, in my mind, been that way. His sister once recounted a story that made my sisters and I see him in an entirely new light and, in some ways, sort of explained him to us. He was young, maybe 10 or so, and he was going to get a new pair of shoes. Back in the day (it's kinder to use that then to tell you just what decade in which this occurred) that was a big deal. New shoes? That was luxurious! Normally, my dad wore shoes until the soles wore off and then put cardboard in them repeatedly until it was finally time for a new pair. His father was supposed to take him shopping and he went downtown to where he, my grandfather, was working at the time to meet him and be taken to the shoe store.

I never met my grandfather on my dad's side. He died before I was born, but I know enough about him to know that he "passed" for white in the early part of the century. He got jobs as a "white man" and was hired because he looked white enough. When my dad went downtown to get my grandfather that day he waited and waited for him to come out. He never did. Finally, he asked for someone to get his dad in the shop and another worker (a manager? an owner? I don't know.) brings my grandfather to the front of the store because this kid is claiming to be his son and he's been out there waiting.

This kid. My father. Who is dark. Who is Black.

"This nigger kid waiting out here says he's your son." That word, and you know which one, always jars me when I hear it told in this story.

Until, of course, I hear the part where my grandfather shakes his head back and forth and replies: "I've never seen him before."

When my aunt told this story my dad was quiet and my hand flew up to my mouth and I searched my sister's faces and we all sat still and cried. And we've never really spoken of it and he might not like that I've shared that story in writing but it has to say something about our family and our place in this country that it's even an experience worth recounting. I think this is true especially since people's feelings on race are still not at a place where we can talk comfortably about it. Granted, the fact that my grandfather denied my father as his son so he wouldn't lose his job happened a long time ago and these old, white racists sitting at their table in a public restaurant next to me are from the same era. All parties lived through the same decades even though they lived vastly different lives.

Last week, my dad called me on St. Patrick's day to wish me luck and a good day. Come on. This Black man had a daughter with an Irish-German woman and named her Kelly and my sisters are named Tracy and Erin. We kind of have to celebrate, you know?

I'd like to think that there are more like me and my family. I'd like to think that I'm normal. Maybe even that people like me are taking over.

Whatever the hell that means.
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Reader Comments (150)

Great job on this one Kelly.

I was amused by the "transparent" comment, since I have in years past watched those boys swim in my pool with my summer tanned son. My son being way darker than them.

I know skin color and race are serious topics, but sometimes I just wonder what color of skin is it that we want to have? With all the stupid tanning booths it doesn't seem many of us are happy in the skin God gave us.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

I'm one of those 'boomers' and I've never understood the racist thing, either. One day in high school I drove a car full of my basketball team's members home because it was freezing and I was the only one with a car. Next day a friend sidled up to me and asked whether I was turning into a n*-lover now. I was stunned, shocked, took me a whole minute to pry my jaw off the ground gobsmacked. Am I turning into a *what*!?

As far as I'm concerned the only difference between a person of color and my lily-white self is that I'm the one who needs the sunscreen. What in the world goes wrong with people that makes them think anything else? It's crazy, I don't get it.

And oh, your poor Dad, and your poor grandfather. What an awful thing for both of them.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

I came by way of 'Slouching Past 40'. I want to say, I can't imagine what your father must of felt...sadly I can. Growing up with a hearing disability and as a halfbreed (derogative as can be). I understand all too well. My own mother used to make me stay out of the sun, so my skin would stay light afraid someone would know I was Indian in Redneck country.

When I first got Pickles my working dog for the deaf, I never imagined I would be made to feel the way I did growing up. My husband and I had stopped at a popular restaurant that had been recommended to us. Usually we ask for a corner table or a booth if that kind of seating is available. It makes it easier for Pickles to go under the table where she remains the whole meal. Many times the waitresses themselves are not aware she's even there until we leave and walk by with her, she's that quiet, that well behaved.

We were a little taken aback when we were led past several open booths into a back room. You could see the rest of the patrons through a glass door and the booths we had been led by from where we were sitting. It hit home - when other diners arrived and where seated in those same seats. We began to understand they didn't want the dog in their restaurant. She was clean, brushed and more mannered than most kids. I didn't choose to be deaf, she's an extension of me, my working dog. My husband made sure to point this out, when we left rather loudly.

I wish I could say that was the last time that happened. It happens all too often. I remember telling Paul, why does this feel like segregation, why am I or my dog who has a legal right to be here being shut up in a back room? If we don't get seated out of sight, we get treated coldly or rushed to get us out of there. Just as the color of your skin is who you are, my deafness, a part of me that won't change.

Racism still happens in it's own way, even today. The difference is now I'm no longer quietly led to that back room, I'll make a scene, object and refuse to be ostracized.

Thank you for sharing your story with heart and compassionate. (Hugs)Indigo

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIndigo

[...] applies to so much and I just couldn’t get it out of my head after reading the comments on my writing about race. In fact, every time I even think about issues of race and realize the lengths we have to go for [...]

I happen to be of the baby boomer generation and have never been a racist—ever. However, I so related with you in reference to some of my redneck friends comments to me (actually just bar friends) It kills me every single time they pull me aside and smack me in the face with something racist and assume I feel the same way because I am white. Don't they feel like an ass when I inform them that I don't appreciate racism as I was married to a black man and my son is bi-racial. They always say "Oh, I didn't know that! Well, what fuckin difference does it make whether you knew that or not! I am always shocked at the amount of racism that still remains in this country. I guess I shouldn't be amazed, but it just baffles me! My son has experienced prejudice because of his skin color, and was often teased in school when the other kids would see me, they would tease him that he must be adopted or that I was not his real mother. Kids are cruel, but they grow up to be cruel adults! Just wanted to add my little two cents. Thanks for listening.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJodi

I too, had family that passed for white. One uncle asked us to use the back door of his home when we visited so that his neighbors would think we were hired help.

It was mindblowing because my mother and her siblings looked as while as he did. Needless to say, we stopped visiting, but the emotional scars that denial can leave last forever. Your father had to endure a very painful event.

Yes, in a perfect world, we will be all mixed up. I think it is better that way.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

[...] I love this woman. [...]

Wow, that hits you like a punch in the stomach. I haven't witnessed much racism, so it's hard to imagine sometimes how the world was just a generation or two ago. It was hard to picture my grandmother's life, living on a farm during the depression and begging for food because she was constantly afraid she would starve to death. She literally had to eat dirt some days because that's all she had, as strange as that sounds. I guess her parents thought they had to leave her on that farm the way your grandfather thought he had to protect his job at all costs for the sake of his family, and maybe both of them were right. It's hard to decide what should have happened when the social, political and economic climates wouldn't be recognizable today. Just thinking about it makes you appreciate everything you see around you.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLS

Check out this" rel="nofollow">opinion piece. Towards the end he addresses the changing demographics. Things are changing faster in this country than ever before. Some people just aren't aware of it yet. Or they don't want to be aware of it. And already my kids grow up in a way more multi-ethnic society than I ever did. By the time they are grown-up, God willing, these things won't be such huge issues any more.

Do you know the song Teach Your Children Well by Crosby, Stills, and Nash? Check it out.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

An incredibly moving story. It is so sad that there are still so many ignorant and hateful people in the world.

Thank goodness that there are still plenty of people who stand by you and judge not by appearance but rather by words and deeds.

Your words are inspiring and heartfelt and you've just found another subscriber.

Stay strong, stay proud.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjaspio

I just found your blog through the Bloggess' site, and I have to say that you are incredible. Issues of race and gender are two of my hot buttons. I come from a very conservative Republican family, so you can imagine how often I have to bite my tongue. The latest topic of debate has been how wonderful the urban ethnic neighborhoods used to be, and how racism became exponentially worse when people were forced to integrate with other races. For crying out loud! The original settlers were immigrants, and our own history books proudly describe the United States as a great melting pot. You can't consider yourself a proud American, yet be hateful of every other culture that chose to make this country their home and gave up EVERYTHING in the exact same pursuit of freedom and opportunity. Many of our ancestors came here with absolutely nothing and had to build their way up from scratch, and for that alone we all deserve respect.

Thank you for writing with such intelligence, eloquence, and raw honesty. Your story makes my heart ache and soar at the same time.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTame the Beast

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It's amazing - I'm so glad I stumbled upon you.

Yeah, I get it. Your grandfather did what What he had to do. I'm horrified for your father, but a little horrified for your grandfather's sake too as I have to imagine that that wasn't done out of malice and he died a little inside doing it. Probably a lot.

It always amazes me how much racism still exists. I look at my daughter who is 13 months old and therefore not at all prejudiced yet and sometimes fear for what the world will throw at her. How do I protect her? Especially when I know that there are people in my own family who are... just from that generation.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMy Baby Sweetness

I loved your words and sympathize with that feeling of confusion on WHY anyone would be racist in todays world. My only experience with it was when I moved to Texas after marrying a military man based there. Being from Los Angeles area I grew up with every race and got along (or not) with people based on themselves not their race. So racism always confused me.

Then in Texas I got a temp job in a company. I was 1 of 4 temps. We were a mixed group of males and races and most of the regular employees were polite but kept to themselves. I got a little attention being 7months pregnant from the other ladies but mostly we were ignored.

Then one temp left and was replaced by a black woman. ALL the Black permanent employees came over to her, welcomed her and fawned all over her.

I called my best friend back in CA and whined, "Charlene! None of the Black girls will play with me!"

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Barton heart just broke a little with that story. I do understand what you're saying though. My mom is gay and I live in hicksville's kinda rough sometimes. I just remind myself that not everyone feels that way...I certainly don't. You and I and people like the ones that have commented and my friends and your friends and lots and lots of people aren't like that. Lots of us were raised to value the content of a persons character instead of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religion, and so mother taught me those words "content of character"...she expressly taught me those words. They were words spoken by a man she admired. She didn't see the color of his skin even when her family did. She was raised by racist people, but she herself managed not to be racist. It's not "oh it's their generation" it is HATE, plain and simple...Thank you for sharing.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesseJo

I found this post from The Bloggess' weekly wrapup (seriously, Jenny, it's TUESDAY already!) and I am really glad she linked it.

Its heartbreaking that we still see racism today. I've never understood the point of needing to feel superior to someone else because they look differently or speak a different language or have a different culture. My dad is a retired firefighter and was also a marine in his younger years. He has always lived the value of acceptance, and was given a lot of grief when they integrated the department in the 60's. I remember him telling me about his trip to boot camp in Norfolk Virginia from Seattle. Once they had arrived in the deep south, he'd gotten off one bus and gotten on another. He went to sit in the back seat and was told by the driver that he could not sit there -- because that's where the "------s sit." To this day he gets choked up about it, because like me, he cries when he is angry. I would think that years later we should be less ignorant as a society, but continue to be shocked and disappointed in the way some people choose to behave.

I don't believe in excusing people for their racism because of their age, their culture, or for any reason. I believe people are making a choice to be ignorant despite the evidence right in front of them that every person has value, every person has the same right to dignity. I despair at what those kinds of people are teaching their children to think about other human beings.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary P (Barnmaven)

The Bloggess sent me too. This is amazing. Thank you for sharing.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess

For the record, I'm still taking in all these comments and reading the new ones.

That Bloggess has a big mouth and man, oh, man do I love her for it.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

Thanks for writing this. I just dealt with a similar situation in my life. I went to visit my boyfriends parents for the first time. I heard horrible racist shit the whole time about Mexicans and immigrants. My Mom is Mexican and my Dad is white. I felt like they were attacking my family. Thanks again for sharing.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEli

Here from The Bloggess -

Wow. Amazing story. Thanks for writing it. Here is my purge:

Grew up in Nebraska with a racist father whose family are Mennonites and the kindest, most inclusive people ever. He somehow ended up angry, racist, and alienated from them. My sister and I didn't end up that way, but that doesn't make it all good. My sorority in college about blew a gasket when I went to a frat house party with the one black guy in the house - a pre-law student, great guy, and everyone liked him - but Julie, he's BLACK. We were just going as friends, but I have to admit that by the time the party rolled around, I did have that voice in the back of my head, "What are people thinking?" I've since become I'm ashamed I ever thought it. He was a really terrific guy, and I would've been lucky to date him.

AND just a couple of months ago, I was at a friend's house for a dinner. There were about eight adults there, all white, and a bunch of kids. At one point, it was just the host couple and me in the room, and the husband said, "You have to hear "Ryan's" jokes - you'll think they're funny." He calls in this boy. The boy, who was NOT their son, came into the room and, with their encouragement, started telling racist jokes. Apparently, since I write a sort-of funny blog, the husband thought I would get a kick out of it. I looked at the kid in disbelief, and then said, "Wow. I can't listen to any more." and got up and left the room. The couple was taken aback. The boy, who is 13, nervously came into the kitchen after me and said, "I'm sorry, I'm really a good kid." I said, "I know you are." He knew it was wrong, he knew he had offended me, and he felt bad. But my relationship with the host couple is forever changed. I was shocked and appalled that people today, FRIENDS, would think that way, and ENCOURAGE a child to do that. But did I verbally call them on it? Not yet. It's one thing to leave the room. The right thing to do is to say, out loud, "You are racists". How terribly sad.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

So many stories...

I grew up in central western New York State, a very rural and agricultural area. Every fall the migrant workers would come to harvest the potato crops on the local farms. The "housing" they were offered was slightly better than your average pig pen. Usually little or no running water, no toilets (outhouses, I think), certainly no showers.

Local people referred to the workers as "tran-shunts" (the word transient, pronounced in a very ugly, disdainful way). And held them responsible for smelling bad, for their body odor. After they worked in the sun all day and had nowhere to bathe or shower, even to rudimentarily wash up at night.

You know, of course, nearly all of the workers were black, brought by the crew leaders in buses from the South - some may have been Latino. Their children had to attend school, by law, for the month or so they were in the area, and they were usually crammed into the school gymnasium at makeshift desks. During that time we couldn't have our regular phys-ed activities (gasp! poor us!) and of course were encouraged by parents and teachers to think we should blame those kids.

I can still hear the sound of that word and remember the smell of all those little bodies, all these decades later. With a very great deal of shame.

I always hope I would be brave enough to confront those attitudes, as you did, if (when!) I heard them. Thank you!

This was an amazing post!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRhonda

That is a sad story about your Grandpa. Wow! But I understand it in some ways. But to have to make that choice between your dignity and your job?! Wow!!! And what do you say to your kid later?

This country seems to have progressed, but when I hear people talk like the way you describe those people talking I'm shocked. Then I think, maybe we're just the same as we've always been. You handled it well!

My father is Indian.(From the country) I haven't experienced much racism in my life, even though I'm darker. But one time when I was in Florida with my Irish and totally white girlfriend, I got pulled over because I looked like some guys who had stolen a car or something. The cop actually said to me, "We pulled you over because you look like the guys....etc." Um, excuse me, but isn't that profiling MF!!

He let us go and we were both real quiet. Finally my girlfriend said, "I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard it with my own ears.

Nicely written post by the way.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOne of The Guys

i just got wind of your blog while reading the blog clean shavings. i'm so happy to have found you! you're an extremely good writer and i think this post is very pertinent.

i can't tell you how many times i've been "a part" of conversations with a racist rant. everyone thinks i'm the whitest white girl there is (because, well, i too am transparent lol) but i'm a 1/4 mexican and when people talk that way it makes my skin crawl. it's a horrible thing, this hatred. and i wish people would just stop it.

plus, in my opinion, there's no one creepier than the good looking, quiet white guy. who knows what kind of crap is going down in that spooky basement of his ;)

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterericka @ alabastercow

since you commented you were still reading comments :) (here from bloggess too) just wanted to add my opinion of what a wonderful post this is. I hope people like you are taking over. It bugs me that people make excuses as it was "their generation." It also bugs me when people assume there is no more racism because we have a black president. We have to talk about it, we have to educate our kids, and sadly they will likely have to educate theirs too.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

This was both crushing and uplifting to read. Even though I know better it still floors me when biggots come seething out of the shadows. I'm white and my husband is mixed (Black/White/Cuban/Puerto Rican/Native American). His skin is dark, mine is light. We have two sons. We've encountered racism in my family too. People I thought I knew. What's funny is that my dad's wife is Chinese, my brother is gay, and in our case too, the problem was my husband's skin. Thank you for talking about this, for bringing the conversation to so many. There's real power in that.

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterangelynn

Here via miss britt. Kelly, this is an a-ma-zing post. Thank you for posting it. I think all of us over a certain age could tell some stories. I, also, wish I could hug that little boy that was your dad.

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNanna

This hits home because I have been filling out too many government forms lately. I am half Hispanic and half white but I'm very fair. I've heard the comments; seen friends treated differently (I was expected to go college and they were expected to have babies. What?!); I've gotten slack from my community because I am not dark enough. In general, I've been told that my experience doesn't count because I am too light. But what's always driven me nuts are the forms... Hispanic (Not White) or White/Not Hispanic. Those are the choices. In California where it is so diverse. In 2010.

There are SO MANY of us of mixed ancestry, it's time our country caught up. We can't all be put in the boxes they've been using for 40 years.

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterthe weirdgirl

First time reader. What a great post.

Living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, we are in the most ethnically diverse Canadian city/area outside of Toronto. A recent news story on tv/radio was that in the year 20whatever (maybe 2020?) white people will no longer be the majority in our Lower Mainland. I almost spat out my coffee. I'm sorry, but that's news? That's worth reporting? Hello, what are you trying to imply by that? We should roll up camp and head to some small town where we can be assured that we are surrounded by white faces?! I've always been proud to be Canadian, but honestly, at that moment, I had to shake my head and wonder. Because really, what are we saying if we are concerned about "being outnumbered". *sigh*

(ps Have you ever read Nora Zeale Hurst's Quicksand and Passing? Excellent, moving novellas.)

April 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

The line where your Grandfather says he's never seen his son before in his life brought tears to my eyes.

Sometimes it feels like we should be able to say things like, "Look how far we've come," when in reality the amount of people in this world who can remember hateful times like that in clear and vivid detail remind me how fresh these wounds still remain.

Thank you for telling your story.

Beautiful post. Oh, how far I like to think we have come. As a mother of three mixed children, I have been asked if I am the nanny by strangers. my respond is not always the nicest. But I can tell you nothing gives me greater joy than picking up my first grade daughter and seeing all those beautiful mixed faces.

April 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkris

"It's their generation, they don't know any better" is *not* true. They *do* know better. My parents are both in their 70's. I and my brother were raised (coincidentally or on purpose?) in an all-white town, but my dad had co-workers/aquaintences of all races and my mother had friends who were different races. Until I was 16, I had no clue they were racist-apparently, 16 was the "right" age that my dad could "let me into the club".

We were fishing, as we often did, on the company lake in a row boat. We passed a guy fishing from shore and he and my dad exchanged a greeting and a few comments. My dad rowed a bit, then said something about him being "one of those lazy Ones the company *has* to hire and because there's a union, can't fire". As I got older, comments like that increased. My mother also made racist comments as I got older. I was completely baffled-still am to some degree. I still can't understand why it was only wrong when I was young, but it is "okay" (in their twisted way of thinking) now that I'm an adult...

Shortly after my oldest was born (I was 33 or 34), my dad started relating racist jokes to my husband and I! At first, I just looked away, unsmiling. Then, I tried walking out of the room. Finally, I looked my dad square in the eye and said, "That's not funny." and paused to make sure he knew I was dead serious, then walked away. I haven't heard a racist joke and very, very few comments since then.

My husband grew up in a very vocally racist family. He can also pass as a redneck, appearance-wise, especially when he was doing factory work. He often got that "inner circle of trust" crap and at one place, it was horrible and he complained repeatedly to the management (to which his supervisor questioned if he was a "n___er-lover"!!!) to no avail. Finally, he started either walking away once there was even a hint of it going in a racist direction or saying, "You've never met my wife, then? Did I tell you she's black?" (I'm not, but he wasn't actually saying I *was*, just asking a question-and it sure got people to shut up and got them thinking.)

Thank you for sharing your story. I plan on sharing it with my husband and 2 young sons tomorrow. I, too, hope that some day we live in a world where biggotry is extinct, but I also believe that we need to let our children know all the details of the atrocities of the past, so they know to watch out for them and not let them happen again.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDe Smith

What a powerful and gut-wrenching post!

I live in the same county as the golf Mecca, Pinehurst, NC; lots of retirees, lots from up North. Since I'm a native, I get "assumed to be part of the club" a lot. Older people especially will say the most horrible racist things about African Americans and Mexicans, as well as nasty homophobic things, expecting that I'll giggle and join right in. So I get that in addition to those *actual" Southern bigots who also figure I'm "part of the club".

My parents were both raised in 40s-50s rural South in very racist homes. They both did their best to ensure that my brother and I did not receive the same upbringing, that we valued every person on the basis of their character and deeds, not their outward appearance. I am thankful that they rose above what they were taught and gave us better.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Malaguti

Hey folks using the term "Black Irish!" That term actually means something very specific:

If you call yourself "Black Irish", people will think you mean
1. That you are using the term for its traditional meaning (iow, you are white)
2. That you are using the term in a new way to mean you are part white, part African, NOT American, and living (or have citizenship) in Ireland.

It took me about twenty minutes to figure out that MM is American and living in the States. I actually thought at first the racists she was complaining about were Irish people who didn't want to be colonized.

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy L

Amy, most of the readers here already understood me to be American and this post was linked to several times with some similar comments like yours. I know what Black Irish truly means, but I was simply using some literary license here and pairing it with a line from a song by James Brown.

Hopefully, after you read the entire post there were other things that stayed with you besides the title. Because that was way back there in the beginning.

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma

As far as I am aware neither my parents nor my grandparents ever had a racist thought (at least not out loud). I have children of my own now and my eldest girl had many friends of all colors and both sexes as a pre-school kid. It never occurred to me that I had to teach her that racism was bad. In fact, I never talked to her about it at all….then we moved to Atlanta (can you see where this is going?). While I was busy not teaching her, the kids next door were giving her quite the education. One day she calmly announced that she didn’t like a particular little boy in her kindergarten class and I asked her why. I nearly fell over when she replied ‘because he’s black’. We had a really long talk that night. She is in 5th grade now and is still friends with anyone she feels a connection with regardless of sex or race (her best friend is a Moslem whose parents came from Pakistan). This could so easily have turned out to be a story with a bad ending.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterveryanniemary

[...] Mocha Momma with I’m Black Irish and I’m Proud [...]

[...] Mocha Momma with I’m Black Irish and I’m Proud [...]

I thought you guy's in the States had solved your racism problems and were front runners to a perfect, fair, just society of whom everyone else follows.

Seems asthough the British racists have poisioned the minds of the Americans.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterandrew s

[...] blog entry that was nominated was “I’m Black Irish and I’m Proud” and it might be weird to say, but it’s one of my favorite posts that I’ve written and [...]

Thank you for posting this. I'm half Chinese, and I'm all too familiar with the concept of 'passing.' The history of Chinese-Americans is in some ways very different than the history of African-Americans in the States, obviously, but I recognized some glimpses of my own family's story in what you wrote.

But how heartbreaking. How devastating for your young father. My heart breaks.

I just posted about something kind of similar (a visit with a racist great-uncle last week:

Wonderful post. Thank you.

This is a thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing your story. I'm Irish, probably transparent white, as you describe your children. Should that fact alone implicate me in the racist agenda? Certainly not! But, my new neighbor must think it does. In telling a story the other day, he referred to one of his co-workers as "the colored guy" and then another as "that damn Hassidic." What?! I guess he doesn't care that I have a black sister-in-law, an Asian Hawaiian sister-in-law and a Jewish brother-in-law. And, I love them all. Won't my neighbor be surprised when I say, "guess who's coming to dinner?!"

July 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMo

Thank you for writing this honest post. I found you via BlogHer, and I'm so glad I did. I'm the single mom to a biracial daughter (I'm white -- Irish/Polish -- and her father is black). It has been quite a journey so far with my amazing kid -- both in my family, and in society.

August 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSingle Mom Seeking

[...] Kati Sellers, an artist whose work, I believe is found at this website, chose my piece entitled “I’m Black Irish and I’m Proud” to watercolor paint. Here is one of [...]

August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMocha Momma » New York S

So, I found you on Twitter and then just checked out your site. I then saw this post and I am so happy I did because I saw that painting at BlogHer and it moved me even though I didn't know the backstory at the time.

As everyone has already said, that story is shocking and heart wrenching. It is also something people should hear and hold onto as they go on with their lives. Thank you for taking a private, family story and sharing it with the world. This is one that can make a difference.

And as far as being let into the secret racist circle because you pass, I am white myself but still have a moment of shock every time this happens to me, as well. I once went on a date with a guy from Ireland. I taught in Baltimore at the time and as we were driving through town at one point he said "Lock your door, we are going through n***er-town." I told him he was a jacka** and to take me home immediately. He was in disbelief and told me I was making him feel "like a monster or something." I told him his feelings were correct-he was a monster. He told me that all white people feel the same way he does, whether they are honest about it or not. I told him he was wrong and kept arguing back and forth, as he drove me home.

Looking back, I guess that could have gone much worse since I was alone in a car with an angry racist and started a fight with him, but thankfully, he did take me home.

I am now the mom of two beautiful, bi-racial boys and I am actually thankful that The World's Worst Date happened to me. The people I surround myself with daily are very open-minded, but it is important to remember that there are still plenty of people like that guy out there. I need to teach my children to look for the best in people, but also to be prepared to encounter some hateful, angry people during their lives. I hate that this is the reality, but as parents, especially, we need to be aware and realistic.

And thankfully, you are right: Children of mixed backgrounds are going to take over this country soon a good way.

August 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

Amen to the first part!

And, thanks for sharing that story. It touched me deeply.

I'm fairly new to your blog and have loved reading your writings about skin color and racism. It's hard to find someone who talks about these things, and when I find them, they are usually ranting and raging. You speak with passion and logic which I love and find very different from most others who dare to talk about these real issues.

Thank you very much.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

Amen to the first part!

And, thanks for sharing that story. It touched me deeply.

I’m fairly new to your blog and have loved reading your writings about skin color and racism. It’s hard to find someone who talks about these things, and when I find them, they are usually ranting and raging. You speak with passion and logic which I love and find very different from most others who dare to talk about these real issues.

Thank you very much.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBüyü

I am Black Irish. My DNA results said that I was Native American. Can anyone else out there tell me if you are Native American also or does Black Irish mean different things to different people? I would like to learn more about it. Please email me.

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersusan

There's Equal amounts of racism in every country Andrew.
If you spent a decent amount of time in Britain you'd realise that actually, people are very, very accepting of different races and cultures. It's one of the most culturally diverse countries and If you say racist things you get put in your place very quickly; at least in all of the places I've lived. I can only think of racism being more prominent in Ireland but it is still a minority of people.

If anything, America is worse in a lot of ways. They have deep rooted stereotypes which are wider spread and far more common than in Britain. I've never met any racists living in England all my life; Everyone I know is open minded and have no problem whatsoever with different races. I think you made yourself sound extremely Ignorant and generally unintelligent in that comment.
And if you do live in the UK, you really should know better.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie

I just found you through the Babble top 100. Congrats! I love the honesty and directness of this post, and appreciate how well you handled the topic. I am the Irish/German half of a partnership much like your parents' and we have a very light-skinned Black Irish daughter, who I'm sure will "pass" like you do. I am excited to begin following your blog! Thank you!

December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Your not black Irish,you are a black American that has African America and Irish heritage. Only very specific last names from Ireland like Doyle which meant dark stranger, are black Irish. This doesn't mean anything though you are still a beautifully woman and we are all one people from the same place long age, the Doyle's where Viking invaders even from who knows where so they aren't even truly Irish either. Bless you sister.

November 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterT minus

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