Kiss Me, I'm One-Sixteenth Irish

Generic image (Thinkstock Images)
Generic image (Thinkstock Images)

Theodore Johnson, writing at the Huffington Post, reflects on the common experiences of "hyphenated Americans" as he plans his St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Years ago, I spent Saint Patrick's Day in an Irish pub singing ditties with a restaurant full of my newest friends — and left feeling a little green with envy. The Irish-American traditions and fare were in full swing and exposed me to a culture I'd never really considered while growing up in a sleepy North Carolina suburb. This year I find myself brewing a homemade dark beer and casually searching the Internet for "Kiss me, I'm 1/16 Irish" buttons. As an African-American, this feels a bit weird …

Like most Americans, my existence is more hyphenated than any bubble on a census form or application could ever capture. Aside from my Irish and African origins, my family has Native American and Caribbean blood as well — and that's just the branches of the tree we've uncovered. And because I'm American, I am all of those things together, and each of them separately, with freedom to express them in a nation that appreciates its cultural diversity and national loyalty. The military uniform I proudly put on every morning leaves no question as to my allegiance, and it also protects my right to hyphen as I so choose.

That said, without question, I am African-American. Identifying as such does not deny or denigrate the Irish, Native American or Caribbean roots; it only speaks to the name that best captures my American experience.

On this Saint Patrick's Day, though, I feel like recognizing my Irish-American heritage for the day. While I don't have plans to sing at a pub all night or even append a shamrock to my clothes, I will drink a pint of my home-brewed porter and better educate myself on the Irish experience. As it turns out, porter was first brewed in Ireland in 1776, the same year the Declaration of Independence was signed. That's American enough for me; no buttons necessary.


Read Theodore Johnson's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Theodore R. Johnson III is a former White House fellow. His writing focuses on race, society and politics. Follow him on Twitter.