Dear President Biden,
Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day to you – I know you are super proud of your Irish roots so I hope you enjoyed the holiday yesterday.
You probably know this, being both Irish and Catholic, but just in case you don’t, I learned yesterday morning that Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents and kidnapped at age 16 by Irish raiders who enslaved him in Ireland for six years before he escaped. Can you imagine being violently wrested from your family and your home country at 16 and taken away to do others’ bidding with no hope of ever having self-agency or seeing loved ones again? If those of us who identify as White could park the “Luck of the Irish” and silly Leprechaun stuff and dig into Patrick’s story, it might help us build empathy with the millions of people of African descent who have never had the option of ignoring their history and the fact of their people’s violent enslavement.
Some might point to Patrick having been able to escape his captors and maybe give him (his memory) props for that – brave, plucky, etc. It’s important, though, that we be clear that Patrick would have almost certainly been able to blend in with the Irish people around him; he wouldn’t have stood out, physically. Also, his enslavement sounds like it was not part of a huge money making system like enslavement in the Americas was where slavery was a machine with all sorts of layers of enforcement keeping enslaved people in their places, very literally. So when Patrick left his captors, he probably simply walked away from the sheep he was tending and pretended to be just another Irishman on a long trek to the sea (where he got passage back to Britain). Even if slave catchers had gone after him, they would’ve had a hard time spotting his white skin self in among all the other white skin selves.
Back in Patrick’s time in the 5th century CE, slaves were largely the spoils of wars and raids; race wasn’t a factor (see Nell Irvin Painter’s book The History of White People). We seem to have honed the race angle to the sharpest knife edge nearly single handedly and very quickly with all the eugenics crap and biblical manipulations engineered to “prove” that White people are superior to everyone else, but most especially to Black people. To aid and abet this monstrous profit-driven system, poor White men (and by proxy “their” White women) were convinced that they had far more in common with wealthy White men than any Black man and that while they might be poor, at least they weren’t Black. It’s really one of the most powerful, diabolical, well-entrenched examples of brainwashing ever.
And, we’ve got to break free of it or die – it’s killing US.
You know, you said yesterday that the murders of those eight people – and significantly, six Asian women – in Atlanta Tuesday was un-American. Well, I must go on record to say that I think you are absolutely wrong about that – those killings were exceedingly American, they’re about as American as it gets. Yes, there are wonderful, loving, kind people here, but our culture is sick – it’s racist, misogynist, homophobic, ageist, able-ist, toxic, and primitive. Nowhere else in the world do these targeted mass murders happen as frequently and thanks to our sick, lax gun laws, nowhere in the world are such attacks as deadly. So please, get real about US – we can’t afford to have you not get these fundamentals.
May we be safe.
May we be willing to face our realities.
May we be strong and steadfast in our pursuit of the truth.
May we accept that America needs a hard reset.