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Irish Diaspora Rough Draft


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Irish Diaspora Rough Draft

  1. 1. Irish Diaspora to the U.S. From Exile to Established
  2. 2. My father’s family came from County Cork Ireland, and settled in New York and Pennsylvania. There, they were domestic workers, coal miners, steel workers, railway men, and police officers. This is a common narrative in the Irish American story, and Irish Americans take pride in knowing that their ancestors helped build and mould the United States. But what is largely forgotten is that Irish Americans faced resistance in the New World, and for a time they were not considered white, making them socially subhuman. Faced with racism and social injustice, the Irish established themselves and gained “whiteness,” much as the Jews and Italians have done at other points in American history.
  3. 3. Out of Ireland There is no word for "emigration" in the Gaelic language and instead, the Irish considered themselves “exiles”. This fact plays heavy on how the Irish see the world around them.
  4. 4. Why exile? To understand this, we must first understand the history of Ireland and the factors causing them to leave their homeland.
  5. 5. The Famine The Irish potato famine started in 1845. Before then, Ireland was the most densely populated country in all of Europe, and because of this the poor were very dependant on the potato as a food source and income. When the famine hit, the English government largely dismissed the claims of starvation and was slow to intervene. When the government did act, they intended the Irish to work for the relief aid, which caused many people to die before they could collect paychecks for the canals they had been building as part of the relief plan. The government used this famine as an opportunity to repeal the corn laws, but this did nothing to help the Irish, as the government continued to export large quantities of food from Ireland. (Bloy)
  6. 6. The Famine The new English government of 1846 did not aid Ireland until the next year, and even then did so on loan only, putting already poor people into debt. When soup kitchens were set up, the starving population flocked to them in large numbers, which caused outbreaks of disease. “The 1841 census recorded an Irish population of 8.2 million. By 1851, this figure had been reduced to 6.5 million. These statistics give some indication of the scale of the disaster, but since many of those affected by the famine lived in remote and inaccessible places, it is more than possible that far more people died than has ever been thought.” (Bloy)
  7. 7. Other factors Irish people were facing discrimination in the United Kingdom based on their religion, increasing rents and evictions. Evictions only increased after the repeal of the British Corn Laws 1846 and the new Encumbered Estates Act being passed in 1849, as well as the removal of existing civil rights. There had been agrarian terrorism against landlords, which these new laws were to help crush. Any hope for change was squashed with the death of the political leader championing for Ireland, Daniel O’Connell, in 1847 and the failed rising of the Young Irelanders in 1848. (Wikipedia, Irish Diaspora)
  8. 8. A Letter from America A letter from farmer from Ulster who settled in Missouri wrote to a Belfast newspaper in 1821, in which he said: “In Ulster I could go to a fair, or a wake, or a dance, or I could spend the winter nights in a neighbour's house cracking jokes by the turf fire. If I had there but a sore head I would have a neighbour within every hundred yards of me that would run to see me. But here everyone can get so much land, and generally has so much, that they calls them neighbours that lives two or three miles off. I would sit down and cry and curse him that made me leave home.” (Irish Immigration)
  9. 9. This letter echoes the same sentiment other Irish immigrants all over America felt. The Irish faced such crippling poverty and brutalizing social policy for hundreds of years, it is no wonder they felt pushed out of their own lands. The British considered them an underclass, a different race, and this carried on into the United States, where Nativists were largely made up of people who had emigrated from England.
  10. 10. A Different Race
  11. 11. In this picture, you can see a comparison between an English woman, and an Irish woman. The Irish woman is barely recognizable as a woman and is unkempt and cave man like. The English woman is a lady, beautiful and lovely. This is how the U.S. viewed the difference between the “natives” and the incoming Irish population. The comparison between the Irish and apes was a way to dehumanize the Irish and lump them into the same category as Africans Americans, another group compared to apes. Because of this, the Irish and freed slaves lived in the same slums and worked side by side. “The Irish were often referred to as Negroes turned inside out and Negroes as smoked Irish.” A famous quip of the time attributed to a black man went something like this: “My master is a great tyrant, he treats me like a common Irishman.” (McDonald, Art)
  12. 12. If whiteness is not based on the colour of ones skin, then it must be a social construct, for if whiteness was based only on ones skin colour, the Irish would have most certainly been considered white. Yet if the Irish were once considered black, but are now considered white, that must mean that whiteness is not only fluid, but it is something that can be attained. Whiteness is not actual whiteness, whiteness is power. How did the Irish achieve this?
  13. 13. The American Experience The picture above depicts the popular stereotypes for Irish men at the time. Stereotypes depicted the Irish men as lazy, drunkards, stupid, and criminals. The women were depicted as hard workers and model minorities, but this did not protect them from the same racism that the men faced. They competed for jobs with freed slaves, often doing labourious tasks in unsafe conditions, if they could get hired. Some employers, so tired of the many Irish seeking jobs, or just flat out racist against them, refused to hire them
  14. 14. No Irish Need Apply Those that did not want to hire the Irish simply placed a NINA sign in their shop window, or in the employment ad. In response to this the Irish turned the phrase “No Irish Need Apply” into a famous balled. There is some contention about whether or not the NINA signs existed.
  15. 15. Richard Jensen claims in “No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization” that although the Irish remember being oppressed, and that there is a common idea that the Irish were discriminated against, the No Irish Need Apply signs often mentioned were extremely rare or not even existent in America. He says the signs originated in England, and although Irish people heard about them, they simply did not exist to the extent that is believed.
  16. 16. He says that the Irish established themselves through legitimate means, politically and through law enforcement, and yet despite this there is still a feeling of oppression from Irish populations. After all of this he goes on to say that he found a dozen instances of No Irish Need Apply uses in the New York Times. He also stated the No Irish Need Apply song, created out of the discrimination the Irish faced, encourages “bullies” because of the change in lyrics from a maid that cries at the sight of the sign to a lad that fights back at the sign users discrimination. (Jensen)
  17. 17. Jensen claims that the anti-Irish sentiment was actually anti-catholic, but if that were the case, why make it a race issue? Although Catholicism was a factor in the Hibernaphobia of the U.S. at the time, it does not explain away the fact that racism against the Irish was a real thing, recorded by popular political cartoons. Although Jensen would like to dismiss the struggles the Irish faced in society, the fact still remains that employers did discriminate against the Irish, twelve instances of which he himself finds. Employment ads were not the only way employers found workers, and he fails to take into account the use of signs in windows or doors. Many Irish men worked hard labour jobs, travelling from place to place, not relying on newspaper advertisements to find their work, but word of mouth or, better yet, showing up to the company themselves.
  18. 18. He is dismissing the collective memory of thousands upon thousands of Irish immigrants.
  19. 19. Achieving Whiteness Art McDonald in “How The Irish Became White” states that the Irish gave up their greenness to become white. That is to say that to become white, the Irish sided with their oppressors against the African Americans in the U.S. “And so, we have the tragic story of how one oppressed "race," Irish Catholics, learned how to collaborate in the oppression of another "race," Africans in America, in order to secure their place in the white republic. Becoming white meant losing their greenness, i.e., their Irish cultural heritage and the legacy of oppression and discrimination back home.” (McDonald, Art)
  20. 20. “I don’t see no Americans, I see trespassers” This quote is said in the film Gangs Of New York (Caution: NSFW language at the link) by Bill the Butcher, the Nativist of the film. A similar sentiment is seen to this day, not in regards to the Irish, but other racial groups, particularly Hispanic immigrants. Since the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, Nativist rhetoric has hardly changed. Today, instead of being blatantly racist like they were in the mid 1800’s, they hide it under the term “illegal,” a term used dehumanize a population.
  21. 21. Rarely does one who holds these Nativist views take into account the contribution of the “illegal” immigrant to our society, and rarely do they see the immigrants as actual people, working as hard as they can to make a living the same way our ancestors did. They don’t see them as exiles, heartbroken to have to leave their home land because of brutal poverty and systemic corruption. They also do not see their own countrymen bringing them over to exploit their labour, or the other mistreatments that take place.
  22. 22. For the Hispanic immigrants of all nations, becoming legalized in this country does not save them from racism, nor the “illegal” label. The passing of Arizona SB 1070 made it legal to racially discriminate against the Hispanic population. Although the bill was later modified to take out some of the more controversial provisions, the message was sent. Facing all of this racism, can the Hispanic population ever be considered white, that is to say, can they ever achieve the same power that whiteness brings?
  23. 23. I believe they can. We have already seen it happen to other groups such as the Jews and the Italians, and of course the Irish. But the Irish way of becoming white as cited by McDonald certainly was the wrong way. They sacrificed their “greenness” to become the oppressors, and that is not a proud legacy to leave to future generations. Instead of oppressing others to gain power, power can be attained through other means. Not every Irish person was an oppressor, and some went on to become a part of the privileged class through other means such as politics, the arts, law enforcement, and being a valuable member of their community.
  24. 24. There is a saying that the people with the most power and privilege recognize their power and privilege least. While privileged Americans repeat the rhetoric that illegal immigrants/too much immigration will cause the destruction of America and cause other privileged Americans to suffer, they do not see how much power they really hold.
  25. 25. They only see the threat The threat to “their” jobs. The threat to “their” economy. The threat to “their” 1950’s nostalgic way of life. A way of life that never really was. They do not see the threat of THEIR way of thinking and what their way maintaining privilege does to America.
  26. 26. Nativists held these same beliefs about the Irish, and the Irish responded by helping to build America into the great Nation that she is. Hispanic immigrants are helping us continue to make America even better.