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RE: How the Irish Became White

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  • tlbaker
    This was great, David, thanks for sharing this. I have heard the saying that Irish are blacks whom are inside out before long ago. Lynne ... From:
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 20, 2007
      This was great, David, thanks for sharing this.
      I have heard the saying that Irish are
      "blacks" whom are inside out before long ago.

      Lynne

      -----Original Message-----

      From: Generation-Mixed@yahoogroups.com
      On Behalf Of Daivd
      Sent: Sunday, February 18, 2007 10:36 PM
      Subject: How the Irish Became White

      How the Irish Became White


      Several weeks ago I participated in a
      three day anti-racism training workshop
      which was conducted in Pittsburgh.

      The facilitators were Rev. Joe Brandt, Executive
      Director of Crossroads Ministry, and Ms. Barbara
      Jordan, a community organizer and educator from
      the Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond,
      a New Orleans' based organization.

      Besides providing a very excellent and intense
      experience of just how systemic racism is in
      our society, on a more personal level it was
      a very rich reunion with these two highly
      skilled and committed trainers .

      We learned and talked about
      all of our mutual friends.
      What a treat for me.

      Early on in the workshop there was an
      exercise which focused on "cultural
      racism and white cultural identity."

      Whites in the workshop were
      asked to talk about white culture.
      Most couldn't or wouldn't.

      The expression meant nothing to me.

      Nevertheless, we all struggled with it.

      As time went on we discovered that,
      in a sense, it was a trick question.

      The facilitators wanted the whites to
      struggle and to discover that the
      expression did have little or no content.

      Racial designations, 'White' and
      "black", are totally social constructs.

      "What then," they asked,
      "would you say about your culture?
      How would you define your culture
      and your relationship to it?"

      Though most of the whites had a difficult time
      talking about her/his culture - some resisted pretty
      strenuously - the trainers took a clear stand: if whites
      are to come to the Multi-cultural table, they - we -
      must reclaim our individual cultural backgrounds .

      In a sense, the exercise wasn't as
      tough for me as for some others.

      I immediately thought of Boston, Irish and Catholic.
      It was clear to me that's where this had to start; the
      music, the humor, the food - as limited as the menu
      is - the faith, the working class, it was all there.

      I was having a good time; it
      felt very good on many levels.

      In a conversation later in the workshop,
      Joe mentioned a recently published book
      entitled "How the Irish Became White."

      It's a book about Irish emigration,
      race, class and U.S. labor history.

      I knew immediately I had to get a
      copy and find out just what it was about.

      It was a tough read.

      It was a story of primarily Irish emigration
      before and after the potato famine - roughly
      1840 to the Civil War - and that people's
      struggle to survive in this White, world.

      It's a sympathetic yet tragic story of how race
      has been a defining characteristic in U.S. culture
      and how the race question has also plagued
      the white working class in this country.

      One might say that it is a story of how the Irish
      exchanged their "greenness" for "whiteness", and
      collaborated with the dominant White culture to
      continue the oppression of African Americans.

      Ironically, Irish Catholics came to this country as an
      oppressed "race" yet quickly learned that to succeed
      they had to in turn oppress their closest social
      class competitors, free Northern "blacks".

      Back home these "native Irish or papists"
      suffered something very similar to
      American slavery under English Penal Laws.

      Yet, despite their revolutionary roots as an oppressed
      group fighting for freedom and rights, and despite
      consistent pleas from the great Catholic emancipator,
      Daniel O'Connell, to support the Abolitionists, the
      newly arrived Irish-Americans judged that the best
      way of gaining acceptance as good citizens and to
      counter the Nativist movement was to cooperate in
      the continued oppression of African-Americans.

      Ironically, at the same time they were collaborating
      with the dominant culture to block Abolition,
      they were garnering support from among Southern,
      slaveholding democrats for Repeal of the
      oppressive English Act of the Union back home.

      Some even convinced themselves that Abolition
      was an English plot to weaken this country.

      Upon hearing of this position on the part of so
      many of his fellow countrymen now residing in
      the United States, in 1843 O'Connell wrote:
      "Over the broad Atlantic I pour forth my voice,
      saying, come out of such a land, you Irishmen;
      or, if you remain, and dare countenance the
      system of slavery that is supported there,
      we will recognize you as Irishmen no longer."

      It's a tragic story.

      In a letter published in the Liberator in 1854,
      it was stated that "passage to the United States
      seems to produce the same effect upon
      the exile of Erin as the eating of the
      forbidden fruit did upon Adam and Eve.

      In the morning, they were pure, loving,
      and innocent; in the evening, guilty ".

      Irish and Africans Americans had lots in common
      and lots of contact during this period; they lived
      side by side and shared work spaces.

      In the early years of immigration the poor Irish and
      "blacks" were thrown together, very much part of
      the same class competing for the same jobs.

      In the census of 1850, the term 'Mulatto' appears
      for the first time due primarily to inter-marriage
      between Irish and African-Americans.

      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."

      Free "blacks" and Irish were viewed by the
      Nativists as related, somehow similar,
      performing the same tasks in society.

      It was felt that if amalgamation between
      the races was to happen, it would
      happen between Irish and "blacks".

      But, ultimately, the Irish made the decision to
      embrace 'Whiteness', thus becoming part of the
      system which dominated and oppressed "blacks".

      Although it contradicted their experience
      back home, it meant freedom here
      since "blackness" meant slavery.

      An article by a "black" writer in an 1860 edition
      of the Liberator explained how the Irish
      ultimately attained their objectives:
      "Fifteen or twenty years ago, a Catholic priest in
      Philadelphia said to the Irish people in that city,
      'You are all poor, and chiefly laborers, the "blacks"
      are poor laborers; many of the native Whites are
      laborers; now, if you wish to succeed, you must
      do everything that they do, no matter how degrading,
      and do it for less than they can afford to do it for.'

      The Irish adopted this plan; they lived on less than
      [most other white] Americans could live upon, and
      worked for less, and the result is, that nearly
      all the menial employments are monopolized by the
      Irish, who now get as good prices as anybody.

      There were other avenues open to American
      White men, and though they have suffered much,
      the chief support of the Irish has come from the
      places from which we have been crowded.

      "Once the Irish secured themselves in those
      jobs, they made sure "blacks" were kept out.
      They realized that as long as they
      continued to work alongside "blacks",
      they would be considered 'no different'.

      Later, as Irish became prominent in the
      labor movement, African Americans
      were excluded from participation.

      In fact, one of the primary themes of
      'How the Irish Became White' is the way
      in which left labor historians, such as the
      highly acclaimed Herbert Gutman, have not
      paid sufficient attention to the problem of "race"
      in the development of the labor movement.

      And so, we have the tragic story of how one
      oppressed "race", Irish Catholics, learned how
      to collaborate in the oppression of another
      "race", "blacks" 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.

      Imagine if the Irish had remained "green" after their
      arrival and formed an alliance with their fellow
      oppressed co-workers, the free "blacks" of the North.

      Imagine if they had chosen to include their "black"
      brothers and sisters in the Union movement to wage
      a class battle against the dominant White culture
      which ruthlessly pitted them against one another.

      Oh that there had been other Irish Americans such
      as the soldiers from St. Patrick's Battalion who fought
      on the side of Mexico in the War of 1848, who did
      remain "green" and fought against oppression.

      So perhaps we Irish in America must
      reclaim our "greenness" and, perhaps,
      our anti-racism trainers are right that we
      all must 'reclaim our cultural heritage'
      and bring it to the Multicultural table.

      The only stipulation is that we do it
      in a decidedly anti-racist manner and in
      solidarity with oppressed classes of people.

      Maybe we can all share in the sentiment proclaimed
      in the 1991 movie about Dublin, "The Commitments,"
      when it was stated that "The Irish are the blacks
      of Europe, so say it loud, I'm "black" and I'm proud."
    • Heather Stimmel
      Hi, David! Welcome! Nice to have you here. To say your post was interesting is a complete understatement!!! I did not know that about the Irish, particularly
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 21, 2007
        Hi, David!

        Welcome! Nice to have you here.

        To say your post was interesting
        is a complete understatement!!!

        I did not know that about the
        Irish, particularly the Catholics.
        As I was reading the post, I, too, had to wonder
        what it would have been like if the Irish "blacks"
        would have joined forces with the American "blacks."
        I do wish that would have happened.
        Well... ideally, no one group of people would
        have suffered as the Irish and "blacks" have.
        That sure would have showed those whites who
        thought their way was the only way, though!
        Makes you wonder why, though, as you said,
        more Irishmen didn't stand up and just
        flat-out refuse to concede to the whites.
        We can only imagine how difficult that must
        have been, having to make that pitiful decision.
        Sad. Very sad.
        I do agree that, in order for things in America
        (the world?) to ever be different, many different
        people, from all cultural backgrounds, must
        come together and "reclaim" their God-given
        rights to be free ... freedom from hate, prejudice
        denial of the things that happened /
        are still happening to the oppressed.
        Regrettably, I don't believe
        this will happen in our lifetime.
        Don't get me wrong... I think there are many,
        many people, like us, who truly DO want a
        change, but I think the way the world is today
        (the people in it)- things are just too far "gone."
        As a person of deep faith, I believe God is the
        one who will put an end to all this nonsense and
        confusion, and he will be the only one who will do so.
        Just my 2 cents=)

        Thanks, again for such a touching post!

        Sincerely,

        Heather


        Related Link:
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/2459
      • Gaius Domitius Cato
        Very interesting article. Looking at the census data Irish are now the most numerous ethnicity in the US. Numbers of Anglo-Saxons have declined and even those
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 21, 2007
          Very interesting article.

          Looking at the census data Irish are now
          the most numerous ethnicity in the US.

          Numbers of Anglo-Saxons have declined and even those
          who claim to be 'English' are very rarely pure Anglo
          Saxon - 'WASPs' with significant Irish heritage like
          Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have become president.
          Even remaining pure WASPs like Jeb Bush often marry non-WASPs

          It is only a matter of time before we see pure WASPs largely
          disappear, the only way the culture they once represented will
          continue is to incorporate the Irish, Italians and Slavs.

          Of 'white culture' there are varied and interesting stories
          if one bothers to look, the Irish is the biggest but not the
          only oppressed group, there are the Poles and the Italians
          (who were often no better off then the Irish they replaced).

          Because the majority of people in North America 'look white'
          people do not think of themselves as having any sort of culture.

          In Southern Africa and the few parts of Asia where
          'white people' settled and remain a minority,
          they definitely see themselves as having a culture.

          Eurasians in the Straits Settlements (now the Republic of
          Singapore and the Malaysian Federation) keep their Dutch,
          English and yes Irish names and some of the heritage too.

          Afrikaners most definitely keep there culture and
          language, Anglo South Africans and Rhodesians keep
          distinct cultures despite some mixing and a massive
          diaspora from 1980 (Rhodesia) 1994 (South Africa) to present.

          It is important to call attention to cultural identity for
          'white people' - they are by no means a homogenous group and
          all ethnicities whether they be historically dominant or
          formerly oppressed have cultures make valuable contributions.

          Not acknowledging that contribution would be paramount
          to reverse racism and can be as destructive as the
          historical oppression that we revile today.



          In Generation-Mixed@yahoogroups.com,
          "tlbaker" <tlbaker@...wrote:



          This was great, David, thanks for sharing this.
          I have heard the saying that Irish are
          "blacks" whom are inside out before long ago.

          Lynne



          -----Original Message-----



          From: Generation-Mixed@yahoogroups.com
          On Behalf Of Daivd
          Sent: Sunday, February 18, 2007 10:36 PM
          Subject: How the Irish Became White



          How the Irish Became White


          Several weeks ago I participated in a
          three day anti-racism training workshop
          which was conducted in Pittsburgh.

          The facilitators were Rev. Joe Brandt, Executive
          Director of Crossroads Ministry, and Ms. Barbara
          Jordan, a community organizer and educator from
          the Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond,
          a New Orleans' based organization.

          Besides providing a very excellent and intense
          experience of just how systemic racism is in
          our society, on a more personal level it was
          a very rich reunion with these two highly
          skilled and committed trainers .

          We learned and talked about
          all of our mutual friends.
          What a treat for me.

          Early on in the workshop there was an
          exercise which focused on "cultural
          racism and white cultural identity."

          Whites in the workshop were
          asked to talk about white culture.
          Most couldn't or wouldn't.

          The expression meant nothing to me.

          Nevertheless, we all struggled with it.

          As time went on we discovered that,
          in a sense, it was a trick question.

          The facilitators wanted the whites to
          struggle and to discover that the
          expression did have little or no content.

          Racial designations, 'White' and
          "black", are totally social constructs.

          "What then," they asked,
          "would you say about your culture?
          How would you define your culture
          and your relationship to it?"

          Though most of the whites had a difficult time
          talking about her/his culture - some resisted pretty
          strenuously - the trainers took a clear stand: if whites
          are to come to the Multi-cultural table, they - we -
          must reclaim our individual cultural backgrounds .

          In a sense, the exercise wasn't as
          tough for me as for some others.

          I immediately thought of Boston, Irish and Catholic.
          It was clear to me that's where this had to start; the
          music, the humor, the food - as limited as the menu
          is - the faith, the working class, it was all there.

          I was having a good time; it
          felt very good on many levels.

          In a conversation later in the workshop,
          Joe mentioned a recently published book
          entitled "How the Irish Became White."

          It's a book about Irish emigration,
          race, class and U.S. labor history.

          I knew immediately I had to get a
          copy and find out just what it was about.

          It was a tough read.

          It was a story of primarily Irish emigration
          before and after the potato famine - roughly
          1840 to the Civil War - and that people's
          struggle to survive in this White, world.

          It's a sympathetic yet tragic story of how race
          has been a defining characteristic in U.S. culture
          and how the race question has also plagued
          the white working class in this country.

          One might say that it is a story of how the Irish
          exchanged their "greenness" for "whiteness", and
          collaborated with the dominant White culture to
          continue the oppression of African Americans.

          Ironically, Irish Catholics came to this country as an
          oppressed "race" yet quickly learned that to succeed
          they had to in turn oppress their closest social
          class competitors, free Northern "blacks".

          Back home these "native Irish or papists"
          suffered something very similar to
          American slavery under English Penal Laws.

          Yet, despite their revolutionary roots as an oppressed
          group fighting for freedom and rights, and despite
          consistent pleas from the great Catholic emancipator,
          Daniel O'Connell, to support the Abolitionists, the
          newly arrived Irish-Americans judged that the best
          way of gaining acceptance as good citizens and to
          counter the Nativist movement was to cooperate in
          the continued oppression of African-Americans.

          Ironically, at the same time they were collaborating
          with the dominant culture to block Abolition,
          they were garnering support from among Southern,
          slaveholding democrats for Repeal of the
          oppressive English Act of the Union back home.

          Some even convinced themselves that Abolition
          was an English plot to weaken this country.

          Upon hearing of this position on the part of so
          many of his fellow countrymen now residing in
          the United States, in 1843 O'Connell wrote:
          "Over the broad Atlantic I pour forth my voice,
          saying, come out of such a land, you Irishmen;
          or, if you remain, and dare countenance the
          system of slavery that is supported there,
          we will recognize you as Irishmen no longer."

          It's a tragic story.

          In a letter published in the Liberator in 1854,
          it was stated that "passage to the United States
          seems to produce the same effect upon
          the exile of Erin as the eating of the
          forbidden fruit did upon Adam and Eve.

          In the morning, they were pure, loving,
          and innocent; in the evening, guilty ".

          Irish and Africans Americans had lots in common
          and lots of contact during this period; they lived
          side by side and shared work spaces.

          In the early years of immigration the poor Irish and
          "blacks" were thrown together, very much part of
          the same class competing for the same jobs.

          In the census of 1850, the term 'Mulatto' appears
          for the first time due primarily to inter-marriage
          between Irish and African-Americans.

          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."

          Free "blacks" and Irish were viewed by the
          Nativists as related, somehow similar,
          performing the same tasks in society.

          It was felt that if amalgamation between
          the races was to happen, it would
          happen between Irish and "blacks".

          But, ultimately, the Irish made the decision to
          embrace 'Whiteness', thus becoming part of the
          system which dominated and oppressed "blacks".

          Although it contradicted their experience
          back home, it meant freedom here
          since "blackness" meant slavery.

          An article by a "black" writer in an 1860 edition
          of the Liberator explained how the Irish
          ultimately attained their objectives:
          "Fifteen or twenty years ago, a Catholic priest in
          Philadelphia said to the Irish people in that city,
          'You are all poor, and chiefly laborers, the "blacks"
          are poor laborers; many of the native Whites are
          laborers; now, if you wish to succeed, you must
          do everything that they do, no matter how degrading,
          and do it for less than they can afford to do it for.'

          The Irish adopted this plan; they lived on less than
          [most other white] Americans could live upon, and
          worked for less, and the result is, that nearly
          all the menial employments are monopolized by the
          Irish, who now get as good prices as anybody.

          There were other avenues open to American
          White men, and though they have suffered much,
          the chief support of the Irish has come from the
          places from which we have been crowded.

          "Once the Irish secured themselves in those
          jobs, they made sure "blacks" were kept out.
          They realized that as long as they
          continued to work alongside "blacks",
          they would be considered 'no different'.

          Later, as Irish became prominent in the
          labor movement, African Americans
          were excluded from participation.

          In fact, one of the primary themes of
          'How the Irish Became White' is the way
          in which left labor historians, such as the
          highly acclaimed Herbert Gutman, have not
          paid sufficient attention to the problem of "race"
          in the development of the labor movement.

          And so, we have the tragic story of how one
          oppressed "race", Irish Catholics, learned how
          to collaborate in the oppression of another
          "race", "blacks" 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.

          Imagine if the Irish had remained "green" after their
          arrival and formed an alliance with their fellow
          oppressed co-workers, the free "blacks" of the North.

          Imagine if they had chosen to include their "black"
          brothers and sisters in the Union movement to wage
          a class battle against the dominant White culture
          which ruthlessly pitted them against one another.

          Oh that there had been other Irish Americans such
          as the soldiers from St. Patrick's Battalion who fought
          on the side of Mexico in the War of 1848, who did
          remain "green" and fought against oppression.

          So perhaps we Irish in America must
          reclaim our "greenness" and, perhaps,
          our anti-racism trainers are right that we
          all must 'reclaim our cultural heritage'
          and bring it to the Multicultural table.

          The only stipulation is that we do it
          in a decidedly anti-racist manner and in
          solidarity with oppressed classes of people.

          Maybe we can all share in the sentiment proclaimed
          in the 1991 movie about Dublin, "The Commitments,"
          when it was stated that "The Irish are the blacks
          of Europe, so say it loud, I'm "black" and I'm proud."
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