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March 14, 2007

Proof That Barack Obama is Black

As I mentioned earlier there are those who insist that as Barack Obama is, while of African descent, not of African American descent, he is not black given the meaning of the word "black" in American politics. Indeed, the day after I mentioned this someone claimed exactly that.

Interesting news has reached me though that as well as his Kenyan ancestry, Obama is also, from his mother's side, descended from an Irish immigrant, one who came over to flee the potato famine. There is of course only the most coincidental connection between this news arriving now and the upcoming St. Patrick's Day drinking and vomitfest on the 17th of this month.

Which leads me, at least in the argot of this particular Anglo-Irish family, to be able to prove that Barack Obama is indeed black. For, you see, he is a Protestant, and that makes him Black Irish.

March 14, 2007 in Politics | Permalink


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Umm, "Black Irish" does not refer to Protestant Irish.

Black Irish is typically referred to Irish people with dark features. Many people in my Irish family do have dark features and family lore attributed it to Spanish sailors who washed up on the shore of Galway and Mayo after the wreck of the Spanish Armada.

Posted by: Jim Foley | Mar 14, 2007 7:08:58 PM

Actually, I've heard it used both ways in my family. My parents were Catholics from the North and used (well, only my father, my mother would never use such language) "F--king Black Irish Bastard" for someone like the Reverend Dr. Paisley; but my mother's family also claimed that the family of my father, who had brown eyes and black hair, were Black Irish descendents of Spanish sailors from the Armada. We lived in a mixed neighborhood of Dorchester, and my brother and I had African-American friends with Irish names. My father referred to them as "smoked Irish". So, I guess you could call Obama, smoked Irish for his skin color and Black Irish for his religion.

Posted by: James J Linnane | Mar 14, 2007 8:34:03 PM

Black Irish definately is not about religon, but about color. My Irish family, from Galway, had members with black hair, pale blue eyes and very white skin, and also a couple of blue-eyed blondes.

Posted by: annie | Mar 14, 2007 8:38:32 PM

Irish Blacks are found in Knightsbridge barracks

Posted by: anoneumouse | Mar 14, 2007 9:00:06 PM

I'd always understood the phrase to apply to complexion and hair colour -- that's the way it's used by my relatives back in County Clare, at least. I think the confusion comes from the unrelated phrase 'the black North,' referring to the Six Counties, which I've always understood to mean the North's an ill-omened, ill-fated sort of place because of all the Protestants there.

Posted by: Not Saussure | Mar 14, 2007 9:42:23 PM

ARGGGHHHH!!!! "Black Irish" are from the Northwest (mostly Mayo), but are NOT descended from the sailors of the Spanish Armada. Few of those wrecked on the Irish coast survived the ordeal.

Ireland has been inhabited for thousands of years. There have been many waves of invaders, including the Celts (Gaels). The original inhabitants were pushed to the northwest. They became culturally Gaelic, but the genes survive. There were Viking influences that spread north from Galway, and a good number of Irish driven northwest by Cromwell, but no major plantations of English.

Posted by: MikeShearn | Mar 14, 2007 10:20:01 PM

I've heard the expression "black catholics" used to describe the catholics of the Outer Hebrides. The implication was that they were black-hearted - that the nasty, mean-spirited, joy-fearing religion they espoused was reminiscent of some of their Minuscule-Free neighbours.

Posted by: dearieme | Mar 14, 2007 10:52:59 PM

uhhh O'Bama? NOW I know why he's so popular in Chicago!!!!!!

Posted by: E9 RET | Mar 14, 2007 11:40:24 PM


Posted by: Charles O'Connor | Mar 15, 2007 5:18:00 AM

Who is the shouty person above?

Anyway what I was going to say, in the argot of a another part of these Islands, is that no doubt when Hilary Clinton finds out about this she will be Black Affronted.

So then there will be two of them in the, um, race.


Posted by: andrew duffin | Mar 15, 2007 4:31:01 PM

Clearly the shouty person is not familiar with the way residents of the United States, the country with the vast majority of people with Irish heritage (to say nothing of the volunteer Irish for the day), observe the feast day of Ireland's patron saint.

I wonder if he's upset that the most famous Catholic university in the US calls its sports teams the Fighting Irish and has a mascot that appears not to be sober.

Posted by: freelunch | Mar 15, 2007 7:01:33 PM

The black Irish are not just from the Northwest, all one has to do is go to the tip of the Dingle peninsula (which is West or Southwest Ireland) to find black Irish in Ballyferriter or surrounding communities.

Posted by: Michael Keyes | Mar 15, 2007 8:40:37 PM

'Black'- originating perhaps from the Royal Black Percerptory offshoot of Orangeism - is a phrase I've heard used in the border counties of Ireland to describe hardline Loyalist/Unionist areas in the north e.g Broughshane or Larne are as black as your boot, Ballymena is a black hole etc. Only in Ireland could 'black bastard' be used as a non-racist epithet.

Posted by: Neilo | Mar 19, 2007 2:33:58 AM

Just to update this. I'm told that the phrase "black protestant" would be correct, but "black Irish" would not, to describe a protestant. The latter is indeed about skin colour, while the former is about religion.
My family seems to have mixed up the words in our private lingo.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | Mar 24, 2007 9:29:25 AM

The over-riding and dominant hair colour in Ireland is dark (brown and dark brown or black). The dominant eye colour is blue.

"I'd always understood the phrase to apply to complexion and hair colour -- that's the way it's used by my relatives back in County Clare, at least. I think the confusion comes from the unrelated phrase 'the black North,' referring to the Six Counties, which I've always understood to mean the North's an ill-omened, ill-fated sort of place because of all the Protestants there."

That's a particularly bigoted point of view. Presumably by "the Six Counties" you actually mean Northern Ireland.

"Black bastard" is indeed a derogatory phrase used, as someone else pointed out, to denote an Irish Protestant, and it does refer to the Royal Black Preceptory.

"Black Irish" refers to complexion and/or hair colour.

Tim, I have never heard the phrase "black Protestant", and would only ever assume this would refer to skin colour (re ethnicity) AND religion.

Certainly, here in Ireland, "black Protestant" wouldn't be used to describe Protestants. In the sense of the Black Preceptory reference, the use of the word "black" before would be overkill. To be a member of the Black Institution, you *have* to be a Protestant. So the word "black" in the phrase "black Protestant" would be superfluous (more correctly, the word "Protestant" would be superfluous in the given context).

Any time one is describing a Protestant as being "black", it is always with a negative connotation, unless one is specifically referring to *actual* membership of the Black Inst. That being the case, the term "black bastard" is used on a par with the (opposing) phrase "fenian bastard": the object of ire need not necessarily be actually a member of the Black Preceptory or the Fenian Brotherhood.

In conclusion then, Obama is not "black" in the sense of the Black Preceptory, unless he is a member, or unless you were wanting to insult him.

However, he could very well fit the expression "black Irish" in the sense that he has dark hair and dark complexion!

Posted by: Himself | Feb 22, 2008 7:37:54 PM