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An unfortunate bout with racism at Georgia

| Friday, September 27, 2019

I do not know Samuel Jackson, other than that he is the primary Leprechaun this season for Notre Dame. Like many other Notre Dame fans, I was angered by Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy’s racist tweet during the Louisville game that suggested the leprechaun had to be a certain color, size and mold and that anything otherwise was aberrant. I was proud of the swift and vehement reaction from the Notre Dame family that called out Mr. Portnoy’s tweet for what it was and defended Mr. Jackson.

Unfortunately, that tweet was not, and probably is not, the last time we will hear thinly-veiled racism directed toward Mr. Jackson. While traversing Georgia’s campus this past weekend, I was stopped by an older gentleman hosting a Georgia tailgate.

He asked, as he was laughing, “Hey, what’s with your school’s black leprechaun?” His wife, sitting next to him, began to slap his hand exclaiming, “Oh would you please stop.”

But he continued. I pressed him, “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“It’s just that I’ve never seen anyone from Ireland who looks like that. I wouldn’t expect a leprechaun to look like that.”

I could honestly feel my blood pressure rising and simply said, “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m proud of my University,” and walked away. Approximately six other friends who were with me witnessed the whole thing.

To be clear, the Georgia fans were by and large kind and welcoming. They were gracious hosts, and I am not making a blanket statement on their fanbase whatsoever. However, I was taken aback that someone would make such an effort to stop me and my friends to comment about the color of our mascot’s skin. I thought the days in this country when your skin color mattered to what you did or who you are were over. I was wrong, and that interaction has yet to escape me. I thought about it during the game, after the game and I continue to think about now. I wish I could have mustered up something more courageous to say in that moment. I was just so stunned that it happened.

It is impossible for me to imagine ever having to encounter comments like that directed toward me. It has never happened. And yet, Samuel Jackson must face this simply because he loves his University. It is unfair and wrong.

To Samuel Jackson I say this: Thank you for having the courage to pursue your passion. Thank you for inspiring our entire fanbase. Thank you for representing our beloved University.

I am sure this is not the mantle you were expecting to assume when you tried out and won this position, but I cannot imagine another person handling it with such positivity and poise. Samuel, you are ND.

 

Johnny Soper

class of 2019

Sept. 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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