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What Would Irish People in Ireland Say About a Tall, African-American Leprechaun Mascot for Notre Dame?

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Derek Warfield, founder of The Wolfe Tones & The Young Wolfe Tones

Musician, Composer, Musicologist, Historian, Wit, and Amazing Performer

The concepts of height and ethnicity have come under scrutiny related to the newest mascot of Notre Dame who is both tall and African-American.  The school, associated with the phrase, “The Fighting Irish,” has been brought into the backlash, or is it ‘blacklash,’ by ‘purists’ who believe that the school’s mascot should be a white redhead whose size is diminutive.

It’s funny that the much loved Irish-American, who played an over-six-feet tall elf in the film, “Elf,” broadcast about 1000 times on TV during the Christmas holiday season, is totally accepted and beloved as a huge elf, a word, by its definition, connotes a very small being. I have never heard anyone challenge Farrell’s judgment besmirching efldom by being ‘too damn tall!’

I often find that people who do not, and never have, lived in Ireland and, maybe, have never even visited or spent more than a week or two at that destination, have opinions related to Irish issues and Irish thought that are diametrically opposed to what the born-bred-lived-in-Ireland-all-their-lives folks believe.

Which brings me to the open-mindedness of Irish people: I’m sure you’ve heard tell in the recent past, from very high places in US government, that Frederick Douglass is “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.” If you have read the first part of the autobiographic trilogy by Frederick Douglass, as I have, you learn that he was doing for slaves in America what Daniel O’Connell was doing for the Irish who were, in essence, enslaved by the Brits. And after a pen pal relationship developed, the abolitionist Douglass went to Ireland to meet O’Connell. Douglass remarks that his arrival in Ireland in 1845 was unique or him because it was the first time he felt he was greeted as a man, and not as a black man.

There is something about the Irish, who have been, prior to the creation of the Republic of Ireland barely 100 years ago, suppressed, oppressed, repressed, starved, chased from their ancestral lands and homes. . .and castles. . . by people whose skin was the same color as their own, who have learned to judge people by their actions, their values, their skills and talents, their human virtues and not by the color of their skin!

While the question of whether Samuel B. Jackson, tall African –American leprechaun mascot for Notre Dame, is worthy of being the school’s mascot because may be more about the color of his skin than his size, given what I know about the very core and nature of “real” Irish people, the ones born and raised and still living in Ireland, I can’t think of a person I know anywhere on the island that is Ireland from Malin Head to Bushmills, to Belfast to Kinsale, who would object to Samuel B. Jackson being the leprechaun mascot for the school.  I can think of quite a number of transplants from Ireland living in the US  promoting tourism to Ireland who find the whole concept of connecting Ireland with leprechauns “diddle-didle-dee” music an “embarrassment,”  to them and hope that no one in tourism promotes “that sort of  thing,” and for that I say, “Shame on you!  You have so missed the point and the value of leprechauns and faeries, fiddlers’ tunes that make you smile, laugh, want to find the end of the rainbows, dance with the faeries, and drift into the magic and the mystical that is truly Irish and gets those who indulge through the worst of times!”

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Malachy McCourt moments after the unveiling of the bust of his brother, Frank McCourt, at the entry of what was the Leamy National School in Limerick where the McCourt children went to school. Today, it is the site of the Frank McCourt Museum.

My very dear, and very unusual, friend, actor, author, wit and all around very goofy fellow, Malachy McCourt often refers to the illnesses that befall specific ethnic groups resulting from centuries of intra-group breeding. Among those illnesses Malachy refers to are Cooley’s Anemia which afflicts Greeks, Sickle Cell Anemia which afflicts  African descendants, and Tay Sachs Disease which a afflicts the Jewish population. But he’s always quick to add that there is a disease that afflicts the Irish and that, as he explains, is, “Respectability!”

Clearly, that remark also reflects another inbred trait of the Irish and that is a sense of humor! My audiences on radio and TV and those who follow my blogs, stories and public appearances are well aware of my unique need to visit Ireland with some regularity as a place to replenish my spirit and draw on the resilience of the people, their passion for everything they do, the creativity and genius that they bring to every art  form and their persistence, perseverance in the face of obstacles, prejudice, persecution, and demons of all kinds which they have overcome and blown though with humor, faith, and unswerving focus to attain whatever goals they set for themselves.

But one of the things I find, which may be linked to the concept of the “Disease of Respectability,” is that many Irish, particularly Irish-Americans, and particularly those Irish living in the US promoting tourism to Ireland, project themselves as a bit embarrassed, even annoyed, that Americans find leprechauns and music they describe as “Diddle-dee-dee, Didle-dee-dah” tunes charming, alluring, and part of the magnetism of the mystique of Irish lore.

You Rock, Samuel B. Jackson! Lad, you make a fine leprechaun! Exude enthusiasm and stay on the One Road. And while  you’re at it, sing the chorus of Celtic Symphony with emphasis on “Ooh, ah, up der Arse; ooh, ah, up de RA.” (Be sure  to click on the link to hear Celtic Symphony and notice in the first seconds, and throughout, the black-white-Irish-connection. . .and check out the visual of the Queen! Bravo to my great friend Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones!).

Slan Agus Beannacht


Your Personal Travel Expert,

--Gotta Fly Now!sm
Your Personal Travel Expert
Nationally syndiated radio show host
Stephanie Abrams

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