Where We Live: Irish Identity In The U.S.

Irish representations from Nike's "Black and Tan" shoe to Huck Finn.

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Christopher Dowd
Photo:Chion Wolf
Where We Live: Irish Identity in the U.S.
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Where We Live: Irish Identity in the U.S.

Hartford and New Haven held their St. Patrick’s Day parades last weekend...but the holiday is actually this weekend. It’s a time when we’re supposed to honor and celebrate the rich Irish culture and history.

But - if you look at the way most Americans celebrate - it’s just another excuse to go to the bar.

For instance, Nike came under fire for its sneaker called “The Black and Tan.” It was named after the half stout, half pale ale drink that Americans call by the same name.

But in Ireland...the Black and Tan was a feared British paramilitary group.

Brian Boyd of the Irish Times was on NPR’s All Things Considered to weigh in on the Nike controversy and he spoke about the wider problem of honoring the Irish in America:

"It's how the Americans view Saint Patrick's Day and view Irish culture and history. And it's the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.

"It's how the American treat St. Patrick's Day. So we're using this story to say, look, it's the silly Americans, stupid Americans, look what they're doing again. They've got it all wrong."

The history of Americans distorting Irish culture goes way back. It goes back to the days of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. We’re joined in-studio today by Christopher Dowd, he’s an assistant professor of English at the University of New Haven and author of The Construction of Irish Identity in American Literature.