A few days ago a rather clueless John McCain told a standard joke about Irish Americans and drunkenness. In response, Seamus Boyle, the National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, sent him this September 23, 2008 letter:
Dear Senator McCain, Thank you for meeting with us on Monday September 22 in Scranton Pennsylvania to discuss our issues concerning the Irish American community. You did address the seven issues which we had given to you on a previous occasion and we were generally satisfied with your answers and your ideas to implement action on our behalf should you be elected in November. It was a great meeting but when you began your speech with a joke about the Irish, I and many of our fellow Irish Americans in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, were shocked. It was really an insult to a whole nationality to be stereotyped as drunks. The Irish are a jovial people who enjoy life, work hard, help the needy, support our community and our country yet get depicted as drunkards and partiers. As you stated in your speech yesterday the Irish have a great education and work ethic. Senator, I was not the only one offended and I received numerous complaints from a variety of people throughout Pennsylvania and other parts of the country. On behalf of these people, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and myself and my family, I wish you would refrain from demeaning the Irish or any other ethnic group by telling such jokes in the future. I think an apology is in order to those millions of Irish in the United States who were offended by your joke.
As an Irish American, I have had this response for years now to all such Irish stereotyping and joking, and I think it is well beyond time to take all such widespread ethnic and racist stereotyped joking out of the U.S. communication system in public frontstage settings and in the private backstage.
It would be particularly good too, in my view, if powerful national organizations like this would take on all racist and ethnic joking as hurtful, inappropriate, degrading of this society, and stimulative of discrimination, as they hint at in the next to last sentence, and make it a major organizational cause to press for national education about such racist and ethnic joking and stereotyping.
Indeed, we need to start teaching Stereotyping 101 at all levels of U.S. education. It is odd that almost no US school system anywhere that I know of has even 6 weeks of Stereotyping 101 required of all children at any grade level. Why is that? I welcome your thoughts and comments on that, and how to change this reality.
I think classes might help, but I’m not entirely sure. Students most often just learn the information long enough to pass their tests and move on. I think the best remedy is getting to know people who they make stereotypes about. Perhaps in this society at this point in time, it would be good for Americans to become more familiar with people who are of the Muslim faith for example. However, McCain is an example of why my idea doesn’t hold. And even myself having fun with the stereotypical NRA republican gun culture down here in Texas…not nice…but I do know there is a general gun culture down here in Texas…soOOO…although not all Texan’s are necessarily pro-gun and they have fun with it too. But is not McCain himself Irish? But I am not really sure how to fix stereotypes….
I suspect that many of these racially and culturally outraged Irish aren’t so offended at being characterized as drunks that they won’t support the offender, John McCain come election day.