Being a Black Irish woman in America
Today, St. Patrick’s day 2021, in a post-pandemic world, my six year old son -- still giddy about the fact that he actually goes into physical school two days a week -- woke up yelling, “Mommy, it’s our Irish Day … I’m Irish … I’ve got to wear green for all of the school to see!” I smiled, remembering my Dad wearing his bold green ties when I was a kid, and colorful pins
with the phrasing, “I’m Irish and I’m proud!” “Well, I exclaimed, of course you’ve got to wear green today, and yes, feel proud about being Irish. You’re Black Irish!”
So what is “Black Irish” you might be thinking? Are they a class of people? Some claim they were a group of dark invaders that settled into Irish society in the 1100’s. Some claim they were descendants of Spain in the 1500’s, who assimilated into Irish culture.
For me, it means being a Black woman with a White/Irish-American father, and a Black/African-American mother. A child born in the 70’s, my Southern Black Mom and Southwestern White Dad met far away from their U.S. homeland, on a military base in Japan. Both of my parents grew up in a segregated America, and entered into their union not long after the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in the case, Loving v. Virginia, legalizing interracial marriage. Choosing each other, uniting, and creating a Black Irish child at that time took courage. Their choice to create our lineage of the “O’Dells,” has always stood as my guiding light to walk through fear, and blaze new trails, especially when everyone else is walking the other way.
Present day, as multiple generations and races deal with racial and economic transformation, I think about the power of choice, a power we all have. Some folks have been forced to deal with the racial turmoil that is bubbling at the surface for black and asian communities. Most BIPOC men and women have never had a choice, because it is their life.
Being Black Irish creates an internal juxtaposition for many mixed race people that inevitably requires a multitude of choices all linked to pushing through and past “isms.” As a diversity leader in the field of social justice, I talk about “choice” a lot. In my trainings, I remind individuals that in order to be a part of the change they wish to see in this world, as we think about dismantling racial hierarchies, we must actively choose to be bias interrupters. We must walk against norms, and push through actions that feel uncomfortable. Choosing to be a bias interrupter is not a check the box action that happens one time. Interrupting biases is a perpetual practice -- a life-long commitment. What do you choose?
Natasha O’Dell Archer, J.D.
CEO & Founder
Archer aDroit LLC