Every March the IrishCentral team receives several messages complaining about the offensive “Irish” products being sold for St. Patrick’s Day. We asked our readers if it’s time for the sale of these products to stop and their answer was a near unanimous “yes.”
From a t-shirt decorated with Donald Trump’s face calling on (presumably the Irish) to “Make St Pattie’s Day Great Again” to a clover bedecked shirts with “Today’s a good day to get drunk” the Irish have had enough.
We asked our readers “It is time to stop the sale of offensive St. Patrick’s Day merchandise?"
From the 1,870 readers polled the results were as follows:
78% - Yes! It needs to stop now
5% - No. Live and let live
13% - People are too sensitive
4% - Don't care
Just some of the 500+ comments we received on the story include:
- Neil Ryan: To all those who say we're being too thin skinned, tell us what's important/sacred to you and let us insult it all the time.
- Judith Powers: I've been fighting this battle, loudly, for decades. Four leaf clovers, St. "Patties" Day, calls to drunkenness, stupid green hats - everything. I don't know how we can end it once and for all, but I'll keep fighting it the rest of my life.
- Bill Lynch: How about the St Patrick's Day drink special, an "Irish Car Bomb"? Now that is truly reprehensible.
- Kevin Ahern: As an Irish-American, I say who cares about goofy stereotypes? We are proud of our heritage and some stupid tee-shirts won't change that.
- Daniel Bendig: It's offensive...not just to Irish. It's offensive to anyone who's had their culture debased and reduced to stereotypes.
Clearly people are annoyed so what’s next?
Last year, famously, Kevin Westley, a radio host and Irish dance instructor from Long Island, bought over $400 worth of offensive t-shirts from his local Walmart and then returned them after St. Patrick’s Day. This year he found that his local stores in East Meadow and Uniondale weren’t stocking the “joke” St. Patrick’s Day products.
This is one small victory but the other big stores such as Target nearby continue to stock them, according to Westley’s wife, Joan.
In 2014 Bed, Bath & Beyond, the national houseware chain, apologized to the Irish community and confirmed that they had removed from sale items deemed insulting to customers of Irish heritage.
This was after IrishCentral and our sister publication, The Irish Voice, wrote about the Ancient Order of Hibernians, America’s largest Irish group, protest against the many items carried in their Christmas Tree stores which insulted the Irish.
Finally an email from the houseware store Customer Service Manager Raj Chandan to Neil Cosgrove, National Anti-Defamation Chairman of the AOH, stated that offensive items would be immediately removed from their sister chain, Christmas Tree Shops.
Chandan’s mail read, “Be assured that Bed Bath & Beyond meant no disrespect to your organization, nor to others of Irish heritage, and we apologize.”
Although there have been small victories, the problem remains. Amazon’s selections for example, the aforementioned Donald Trump T-shirt and the main image above. On their site they define “Examples of Prohibited Listings” as “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.”
Seems to fit!
Following the horrific massacre of nine African Americans inside a Charleston, SC church in June 2015 major retailers Walmart, Amazon, Sears and eBay stopped selling Confederate flag merchandise. The only suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, was photographed with the flag and white supremacism views he had shared online.
OneNewsNow.com reported that the retailers' reasons for pulling the products were similar. eBay said the flag has become a symbol of "divisiveness and racism." Walmart, meanwhile, said, "We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer."
So what is and isn't divisive and or offensive to someone? Offensive is defined as something "causing someone to feel hurt, angry or upset."
While we’re in no way saying “joke” t-shirts for St. Patrick’s Day are in anyway the same, the definition of “offense” remains the same.
If you spot a t-shirt or piece of merchandise why not let us know where you saw it? Email us at email@example.com.
More importantly, let your local store, and their headquarters, know that you do take offense and that Irish America has had enough.