Aren’t Irish White?

I think it cannot be maintained by any candid person that the African race have ever occupied or do promise ever to occupy any very high place in the human family. Their present condition is the strongest proof that they cannot. The Irish cannot; the American Indian cannot; the Chinese cannot. Before the energy of the Caucasian race all the other races have quailed and done obeisance.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote those words in the late 1820s or early 1830s (Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks, Volume 12). Someone asked, in response to that quote, “aren’t Irish white?” Well, to the younger Emerson, obviously the Irish weren’t white or rather weren’t Caucasian.

Another great American luminary was Walt Whitman, a close acquaintance of Emerson. From a personal letter, he called Emerson “dear Friend and Master” and the admiration was mutual, Emerson even having penned Whitman a letter of recommendation. In the following decade, writing about Catholics after St. Patrick’s Cathedral was attacked by a Protestant mob, Whitman echoed Emerson’s attitude in describing the Irish faith as a “horrible and beastly superstition . . . dregs of foreign filth” (from The New York Aurora). Beastly! That was once a common way of speaking of the Irish, not just their whiteness but their very humanity under the severest of doubt.

They both were writing at a time when the large waves of Irish immigrants were seen as one of the greatest threats by American WASPs. Think about it. In the decades prior, there had been several Irish rebellions, all of which failed. This had led to many Irish seeking to escape to other countries, most of them ending up in the United States. The English were more than glad to get rid of them. Those of English ancestry in the U.S., however, weren’t so glad to receive them. Just because Americans had fought a revolution against the British a half century before didn’t lead them to be any more sympathetic to the Irish cause, much less the Irish people.

I know it seems strange compared to the world now. But the US once was a far different place. It’s just a fact that the Irish, Scots-Irish, Italians, etc weren’t always considered white or Caucasian. There are entire books written explaining this history. One such book is The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter, in which she discusses the above Emerson quote, and a few paragraphs on she writes that,

After the failure of the Hungarian revolution in 1848 and Lajos Kossuth’s triumphant tour as a hero in exile, Emerson found a way to view the Hungarian situation through an Irish lens: “The paddy period lasts long. Hungary, it seems, must take the yoke again, & Austria, & Italy, & Prussia, & France. Only the English race can be trusted with freedom.” Emerson pontificated against Central Europeans as well as the Irish: “Races. Our idea, certainly, of Poles & Hungarians is little better than of horses recently humanized.”

Back in the day, whiteness as an idea was mixed up with nationality, ethnicity, and religion. The Irish (and other immigrant groups) weren’t English, weren’t of Anglo/Germanic stock, and generally weren’t Protestant. Although assimilating better than later immigrants, even the Germans early on were treated differently. Benjamin Franklin was prejudiced against Palatine Germans and perceived them as almost racially other—since they were shorter and darker-skinned, along with speaking a different language, having a different culture, and being of different religions (at the time, many were Pietists or Anabaptists, separate from the Protestant tradition).

All those who weren’t WASPs were perceived as foreigners and they indeed often looked different—different color of skin, different color of hair, different attire, etc. Italians, in the 1800s, were sometimes referred to as ‘niggers’ because of their dark skin and dark, curly hair. The Irish, despite their pale skin and lighter hair, were also compared to Africans and Native Americans, portrayed as ape-like and called gorillas, sometimes referred to as savages and their children in the cities dismissed as Street Arabs (Catholicism was seen as foreign as Islam). Painter, in The History of White People, states that,

AMERICAN VISUAL culture testifies to a widespread fondness for likening the Irishman to the Negro. No one supplied better fodder for this parallel than Thomas Nast, the German-born editorial cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly. In 1876, for instance, Nast pictured stereotypical southern freedmen and northern Irishmen as equally unsuited for the vote during Reconstruction after the American Civil War.

As with the Scottish and Scots-Irish, the Irish were seen as a tribal people, not quite civilized. In early America, poor ethnics (i.e., white trash) were associated with Native Americans, sometimes seen as below them—from White Trash by Nancy Isenberg, (pp. 109-110):

“Crackers” first appeared in the records of British officials in the 1760s and described a population with nearly identical traits. In a letter to Lord Dartmouth, one colonial British officer explained that the people called “crackers” were “great boasters,” a “lawless set of rascals on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia, who often change their places of abode.” As backcountry “banditti,” “villains,” and “horse thieves,” they were dismissed as “idle strag[g]lers” and “a set of vagabonds often worse than the Indians.”

The children of Irish-Americans and other non-English ethnics in Eastern cities were regularly gathered up and put on orphan trains to be sent off West to be adopted. But in reality it usually meant a form of indentured servitude as they were often used as cheap labor. This practice that began in the 19th century continued into the early 20th century. This played a role in the Irish becoming white, as I explained previously:

WASPs, in their fear of Catholics, intentionally placed Catholic children into Protestant homes. In response, Catholics began to implement their own programs to deal with Catholic children in need of homes. One such case involved nuns bringing a trainload of Irish orphans to Arizona to be adopted by Catholic families. The problem was that the Catholic families in question were Mexican-American. The nuns didn’t understand the local racism/ethnocentrism involved and were taken by surprise by the response of the local WASPs. The “white” population living there took great offense at this challenge to racial purity. Suddenly, when put into that context, the Irish children were deemed to be innocent whites to be protected against an inferior race. This is ironic because where those Irish children came from in the big cities out East they were considered the inferior race.

It still took a long time for the Irish to become fully white.

Consider another example: white flight and ethnic succession. This was in reality a lot more complex. Different groups were escaping various other groups over time. Those deemed most inferior, undesirable, and threatening was always shifting. Early on, into the 20th century, the Irish were focus of fear and derision—Prohibitionists often had the Irish in mind when they sought to enforce social control over the perceived drunken masses. Even other minorities, blacks included, sometimes thought it best to escape the Irish. Certainly, the more well off whites didn’t want them in their neighborhoods, not until the mid-20th century when the Irish had moved a bit further up the ladder of economic class.

It demanded centuries of struggle—from political disenfranchisement and economic oppression by the English in Ireland, not unlike slavery and sometimes worse (as during the mass starvation and deportation of the artificially created Potato Famine), to finally being assimilated into American whiteness. That path toward respectability and relative privilege wasn’t inevitable and wouldn’t have been obvious to earlier generations. It wasn’t obvious to 19th century WASPs such as Emerson and Whitman, two white men who thought Irish advancement implausible and Irish aspirations threatening.

It’s sad, of course, that Irish-Americans shoved down African-Americans and Chinese-Americans in their pushing themselves up. They defied the stereotypes of the Irish Paddy and Bridget, even as they promoted the stereotypes of others. This is the story of America. If Emerson and Whitman had lived longer, the Irish might have finally won over some grudging admiration in their joining the ranks of whiteness and defending the racial order. Or maybe those early American WASPs wouldn’t have recognized this broader notion of the white race, the American mutt—it’s not the country they had envisioned as their own.

* * *

Why did the English people previously see the Irish and Scottish Celts as racially inferior?
by samj234, Reddit

The Teen Who Exposed a Professor’s Myth
by Ben Collins, The Daily Beast

The Irish were persecuted in the American job market—and precisely in the overt, literally written-down way that was always believed.

Irish-Americans, Racism and the Pursuit of Whiteness
by Jessie Daniels, Racism Review

Like many immigrant groups in the United States, the Irish were characterized as racial Others when they first arrived in the first half of the 19th century. The Irish had suffered profound injustice in the U.K. at the hands of the British, widely seen as “white negroes.” The potato famine that created starvation conditions that cost the lives of millions of Irish and forced the out-migration of millions of surviving ones, was less a natural disaster and more a complex set of social conditions created by British landowners (much like Hurricane Katrina). Forced to flee from their native Ireland and the oppressive British landowners, many Irish came to the U.S.

Once in the U.S., the Irish were to negative stereotyping that was very similar to that of enslaved Africans and African Americans. The comic Irishman – happy, lazy, stupid, with a gift for music and dance – was a stock character in American theater. Drunkenness and criminality were major themes of Irish stereotypes […]

Simian, or ape-like caricature of the Irish immigrant was also a common one among the mainstream news publications of the day (much like the recent New York Post cartoon). For example, in 1867 American cartoonist Thomas Nast drew “The Day We Celebrate” a cartoon depicting the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day as violent, drunken apes. And, in 1899, Harper’s Weekly featrued a drawing of three men’s heads in profile: Irish, Anglo-Teutonic and Negro, in order to illustrate the similarity between the Irish and the Negro (and, the supposed superiority of the Anglo-Teutonic). In northern states, blacks and Irish immigrants were forced into overlapping – often integrated – slum neighborhoods. Although leaders of the Irish liberation struggle (in Ireland) saw slavery as an evil, their Irish-American cousins largely aligned with the slaveholders.

And, following the end of slavery, the Irish and African Americans were forced to compete for the same low-wage, low-status jobs. So, the “white negroes” of the U.K. came to the United States and, though not enslaved, faced a status almost as low as that of recently-freed blacks. While there were moments of solidarity between Irish and African Americans, this was short lived.

by Michele Walfred, Thomas Nast Cartoons

The Irish-as-ape-stereotype frequently surfaces, as a popular trope, with the English in the mid-nineteenth century. But, In Nothing But the Same Old Story, researcher Liz Curtis provides plentiful examples that establish anti-Irish sentiment as a centuries-long tradition.

Dehumanizing the Irish by drawing them as beasts or primates served as a convenient technique for any conqueror, and it made perfect sense for an English empire intent on placing Ireland and its people under its jurisdiction and control. The English needed to prove the backwardness of the Irish to justify their colonization (16). When the Irish fought back against English oppression, their violence only perpetuated the “violent beast” prejudice held against them.

English artist James Gillray had drawn the Irish as an ogre – a type of humanoid beast – in a reaction to the Irish’s short-lived rebellion against England in 1798. Even before English scientific circles had begun to distort Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species later in the century, the English had favored the monkey and ape as a symbol for Hibernians.

After the Irish had made great social and political gains in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the view that they were of a different race than white people continued to persist…

by Michele Walfred, Thomas Nast Cartoons

In America, Highman distills this down to three themes that ran through nativist sentiment in the early nineteenth century: Reformation and the hatred of Roman Catholicism, fear of foreign radicals and political revolutionaries, and racial nativism, which led to the belief America belonged to people of the Anglo-Saxon race. The United States was their domain. The Irish were viewed as a different race and this belief continued to permeate long after the initial Protestant-driven nativist sentiment had considerably weakened. […]

“American writers, cartoonists, and so-called scientific experts hammered away at Irish violence, emotional instability, and contentment in squalor” (Meagher 217). In the eyes of Protestants with ancestral ties to England, the Irish were no better than animals. The Irish presented a triple threat. Their growing numbers, allegiance to strong, organized religion ruled by a foreign monarch, and political gains within Tweed’s Democratic Party, all posed a serious concern to the Protestant elite.

Protestant nativists fought for their survival and painted the Irish as “others.” They eagerly adopted and repeated the British trope of the Irish as unsophisticated, violent-prone animals, a lower being on the evolutionary scale. The Irish’s faith, and in particular their blind allegiance to a foreign pontiff, unsettled nativists. Protestants Americans remembered the hard-fought revolutionary history of their young nation. During the peak years of the potato famine migration (1845-1855) nativists portrayed the Irish in invasion terminology. Nativists predicted the American way of life would end.

By 1880, by and large, the Irish successfully pulled themselves out of their “lowlife” status in a number of ways. They gained respect through their service in the Civil War on behalf of the Union, and in New York City, through political positions awarded by William M. “Boss” Tweed in return for their loyalty and vote. With these gains in respectablility and power, the Irish emerged as a sought-after voting bloc. But politics alone was not enough to counter nativist prejudice. Most significantly, the Irish fought hard to define themselves as white. To do so meant practicing their own brand of nativism. and align with other xenophobes. The Chinese were a convenient target.

In assessing the work of several “whiteness” studies, historian Timothy Meagher asserts that self-identification as “white” went beyond skin color. “It was not clear that the Irish were white” (217).

America’s dark and not-very-distant history of hating Catholics
by Rory Carroll, The Guardian

Demagogues in the nativist movement incited fury and fear about the huge numbers of impoverished German and Irish Catholic immigrants, many barely speaking English, who spilled off ships.

Newspapers and Protestant clergymen, including Lyman Beecher, co-founder of the American Temperance Society, swelled the outcry, warning the influx would take jobs, spread disease and crime and plot a coup to install the Pope in power.

In 1844 mobs burnt Catholic churches and hunted down victims, notably in Philadelphia where, coincidentally or not, Francis will wrap up his week-long visit.

Abuse from Protestant officers partly drove hundreds of Irish soldiers to defect from the US army to the Mexican side before and during the 1846-48 war with Mexico. The deserters obtained revenge, for a while, by forming the San Patricio battalion and targeting their former superiors in battle, only to wind up jailed, branded and hanged after Mexico surrendered.

The growth of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century gave a new impetus to attacks – mostly verbal – on Catholics.

Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America
by Julie Byrne, NHC

Many members of other faiths—Jews, Protestants, and even some Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists—arrived in the successive waves of massive immigration to the United States between the 1840s and 1920s. But Catholics from various countries were the most numerous—and the most noticed. In 1850 Catholics made up only five percent of the total U.S. population. By 1906, they made up seventeen percent of the total population (14 million out of 82 million people)—and constituted the single largest religious denomination in the country.

Immigration in the 1920s

The New Immigrants were distinctive from earlier migrants in that most didn’t want to stay. These immigrants, mostly male and mostly young, hoped to earn enough money during a temporary stay in America to be able to afford an increased standard of living upon returning to their homeland. Something between 50% and 80% of the New Immigrants are believed to have eventually returned to their countries of origin. The exceptions were Jews (who mostly came from Russia, and only 4% of whom repatriated) and Irish (9%), two groups that tended to stay in America permanently because they faced religious persecution, political oppression, and economic privation back home.

Free Speech, World War One, and the Problem of Dissent
by Michael O’Malley, RRCHNM

World War One pitted England, France and Russia against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was difficult, at the beginning of the war, to determine who was the worst of the warring paries, and Americans faced the conflict with divided loyalties. For many Americans of English descent, England seemed like our natural ally. Many American political leaders, most prominently Woodrow Wilson, felt a strong sense of “anglophilia,” or love of England. But Germans and Irish were the two largest immigrant groups to the United States in 1917. Irish immigrants carried bitter memories of English oppression, while German Americans, not surprisingly, tended to favor their homeland, or at least not to regard it as an enemy.

Wilson worried about this division and regarded it as dangerous. Regarding Italian-Americans, German-American, Irish-Americans as suspect, he once declared “Any man who caries a hyphen around with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of the republic.

The Visibility of Whiteness and Immigration Restriction in the United States, 1880-1930
by Robert Júlio Decker, Critical Race and Whiteness Studies

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Western definition of whiteness underwent several significant changes. Scientific racism, understood here as the “language, concepts, methods and authority of science [which] were used to support the belief that certain human groups were intrinsically inferior to others, as measured by some socially defined criterion” (Stepan 1987: IX), provided the methods to not only construct a black/white racial binary, but also to distinguish between several European races. Scientific racism was often augmented by discourses centred on the supposed cultural traits inherent to racial composition. In Britain and the United States, Irish immigrants were racialised as putatively inferior up to the 1880s (Ignatiev 1995: 34-59; Jacobson 1998: 48-52; Knobel 1996). From the 1860s, however, the definition of Englishness slowly began to include all inhabitants of the British Isles and the term Anglo-Saxon was established as generic racial referent for this group (Young 2008: 140-187).

A “Perverse and Ill-Fated People”:
English Perceptions of the Irish, 1845-52

by Ed Lengel, University of Virginia

…the emerging racialist conception of Irish difference, which became dominant in the second half of the nineteenth century. In a sense, the products of Liberal and racialist interpretations of the Irish problem were the same. Idealistic Liberal dreams of an “intimate” marriage between Hibernia and John Bull did not challenge the essentially paternalistic and colonial Anglo-Irish relationship. Indeed, Liberal faith in the improvability of men contributed to a restrictive famine policy intended to teach the Irish to adopt middle-class standards of thrift and morality. It is worth emphasizing in any case that Liberals and racialists agreed on the basic qualities of Saxon and Celt; but while Liberals explained this difference in a gendered discourse of moral inequality, racialists insisted that the ineradicable boundaries of biology would forever separate the two peoples. In both instances, Britain would forever be the master and Ireland the subject.

Racism and Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England
by Anthony S. Wohl, The Victorian Web

In much of the pseudo-scientific literature of the day the Irish were held to be inferior, an example of a lower evolutionary form, closer to the apes than their “superiors”, the Anglo-Saxons . Cartoons in Punch portrayed the Irish as having bestial, ape-like or demonic features and the Irishman, (especially the political radical) was invariably given a long or prognathous jaw, the stigmata to the phrenologists of a lower evolutionary order, degeneracy, or criminality. Thus John Beddoe, who later became the President of the Anthropological Institute (1889-1891), wrote in his Races of Britain (1862) that all men of genius were orthognathous (less prominent jaw bones) while the Irish and the Welsh were prognathous and that the Celt was closely related to Cromagnon man, who, in turn, was linked, according to Beddoe, to the “Africanoid”. The position of the Celt in Beddoe’s “Index of Nigrescence” was very different from that of the Anglo-Saxon. These ideas were not confined to a lunatic fringe of the scientific community, for although they never won over the mainstream of British scientists they were disseminated broadly and it was even hinted that the Irish might be the elusive missing link! Certainly the “ape-like” Celt became something of an malevolent cliche of Victorian racism. Thus Charles Kingsley could write

I am haunted by the human chimpanzees I saw [in Ireland] . . . I don’t believe they are our fault. . . . But to see white chimpanzees is dreadful; if they were black, one would not feel it so much. . . .” (Charles Kingsley in a letter to his wife, quoted in L.P. Curtis, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, p.84).

Even seemingly complimentary generalizations about the Irish national character could, in the Victorian context, be damaging to the Celt. Thus, following the work of Ernest Renan’s La Poésie des Races Celtiques (1854), it was broadly argued that the Celt was poetic, light-hearted and imaginative, highly emotional, playful, passionate, and sentimental. But these were characteristics the Victorians also associated with children. Thus the Irish were “immature” and in need of guidance by others, more highly developed than themselves. Irish “emotion” was contrasted, unfavorably, with English “reason”, Irish “femininity” with English “masculine” virtues, Irish “poetic” attributes with English “pragmatism”. These were all arguments which conveniently supported British rule in Ireland.

A British Ireland, Or the Limits of Race and Hybridity in Maria Edgeworth’s Novels
by Kimberly Philomen Clarke, Georgetown University

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as Roxanne Wheeler discusses in The Complexion of Race (2000), race was seen as mutable and had a complex relationship to religion. Racial difference was not only dependent on a fixed categorization of skin color, but also on clothing, religion, and culture.19 Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Britons defined themselves according to their Protestantism, clothing, and climate, among other characteristics, and as the nineteenth century arrived, whiteness finally became a marker of Britishness as “skin color emerg[ed] as the most important component of racial identity in Britain during the third quarter of the eighteenth century” (Wheeler 9).

Race became the determinant of culture and history, a common “principle of academic knowledge” in the nineteenth century (Young 93). The correlation between whiteness with Englishness developed in the 1720s and 1730s with the assumption that racial blackness signified one’s intellectual and spiritual inferiority (Wheeler 98). Historian Winthrop Jordan has argued that in the mid-seventeenth century, colonists in confrontation with the Other went from calling themselves Christian to calling themselves English, free, and “white,” a term that came to symbolize a moral and intellectual superiority against blackness and non-Britishness (Wheeler 74). Against this darker, inferior other among the nonwhite British colonies in Africa, the West Indies, and India, Britishness became emblematic of a white empire that would not be culturally or racially muddied by foreign influences (Colley 312).

[…] for the Irish to be British. Primarily, they have to sacrifice their symbolic blackness, that which symbolizes their peasantry class, cultural otherness, and religious differences, and particularly that which marks their contentious history and centuries long colonization by England. To forfeit this darkness symbolizing the history of suppression and difference, however, is also to surrender a part of a collective Irish identity in Britain. […]

Throughout the nineteenth century, the Irish were seen as a symbolic manifestation of a biracial, Caucasian/African hybridity. There are stereotypes that confirm the outsider status of the Irish both before and after the 1801 Act of Union, some of which continue to paint the British as white and the Irish as nonwhite, or at least not white enough to be British. Richard Lebow’s White Ireland and Black Ireland (1976) mentions the “racist attitudes toward the Irish in Victorian Britain” (14). He argues that “racist expressions were merely the age old anti-Irish prejudice couched in the jargon of the day” (15). In The Times in 1836, Benjamin Disraeli claims the Irish “hate our free and fertile isle. They hate our order, our civilization, our enterprising industry, our sustained courage, our decorous liberty, our pure religion. This wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain, and superstitious race has no sympathy with the English character” (quoted in Lebow 61). Andrew Murphy quotes Charles Kingsley, who visited Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, writing to his wife that, “I am daunted by the human chimpanzees I saw along that hundred miles of horrible country…to see white chimpanzees is dreadful: if they were black, one would not feel it so much, but their skins, except where tanned by exposure, are as white as ours” (Murphy 12). Furthermore, disgusted at Irish poverty and how it contradicts his British image of whiteness, Kingsley writes, “Can you picture in your mind a race of white men reduced to this condition? White men! Yes the highest and purest blood and breed of men” (Murphy 44). These quotations demonstrate both the racial whiteness and “otherness” or non-whiteness that Irish identity connotes in Edgeworth’s literature. Irish otherness was fueled stereotypes of racial, cultural, and intellectual differences that “the Irish” as a generalized group endured before and throughout the nineteenth century and onward. […]

Edgeworth associates Irish peasantry with physical blackness in a letter to her Aunt Ruxton in which she expresses her fears of the sort of Irish rebellion that was frequent in the late eighteenth century and which her family twice before had endured.27 Edgeworth confesses, “All I crave for my own part is, that if I am to have my throat cut, it might not be by a man with his face blackened with charcoal” (Egenolf 849-50). She later says that she “shall look at every person that comes here very closely, to see if there be any marks of charcoal upon their visages” (850). This blackness results from working with charcoal and other materials associated with manual labor. However, in these lines, Edgeworth is not commenting on Irish working class life but rather the threatening gaze of those faces blackened with charcoal and the fear that blackness represents for Edgeworth and her family as the Irish rebel, reclaiming his own agency, destabilizes the power of the upper class families in Ireland. Therefore, keeping in mind the Africanist image of the danger associated with Irish blackened faces, one may read Christy’s physical blackness as not a result of work but some inherent racial trait the Irish were thought to have and that reflected anxieties about the power native Irish against middle and upper class whiteness (859-60).

Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race
by Bruce Nelson
pp. 34-35

A month later the Bristol Mirror charged that “the Indians with their tomahawks and scalping knives are a much nobler set of savages than the murderers of Limerick and Tipperary.” 16

The comparison of the Irish with the “savages of America” was familiar enough; it dated from the seventeenth century. But there was a dramatically new development in the second half of the nineteenth century, a time when Darwinian science posited an evolutionary chain of being in which humans were descended directly from African apes. In this context, British commentators created a “simianized,” or apelike, Paddy whose likeness to the “backward” races of Africa was inescapable. Perry Curtis has traced this development in Apes and Angels. He notes that the Rising of 1798 led British cartoonists to develop images of a preternaturally ugly Paddy whose appearance was far more ominous and repellent than that of the bumptious but relatively harmless stage Irishman who had predominated for much of the eighteenth century. Some of these cartoon characters were given porcine features, but until the 1860s the cartoon Irishman remained largely human. It was with the coming of Darwinian evolution, and the reemergence of violent Irish republicanism in the guise of Fenianism, that the transformation of the stereotypical Paddy really took off with the publication of cartoon caricatures such as “The Irish Devil-Fish” (a massive octopus with simian facial features) and the even more notorious “Irish Frankenstein,” with his dagger dripping blood. According to Curtis, “In a biological sense, Paddy had devolved, not evolved, from a primitive peasant to an unruly Caliban, thence to a ‘white Negro,’ and finally he arrived at the lowest conceivable level of the gorilla and the orangutan.”

pp. 38-45

Even in regard to France, the citadel of Celtic achievement, he observed that the country’s “vast Moorish population” was “superior in all respects to the lazy, worthless Celt.” 24

Knox’s elevation of the dark-skinned Moor above the Celt is a vivid example of the slippage that often occurred in racial discourse about the Irish. Even relatively sympathetic observers resorted to characterizations of Irish Celts that linked them to darker races and, sometimes, to apes. […]

But Jackson also ruminated on the “Iberian character” of the Irish peasantry, raising the familiar specter of southern origins, Moorish blood, and intimations of darkness and savagery. Referring specifically to the peasants of the west and south of Ireland, he reported that “an absolutely negroid type has been occasionally detected by keen observers,” which meant that “inferior and non-Aryan racial elements are clearly perceptible in the population of the sister isle.” 26 Jackson’s fellow anthropologist Hector MacLean concurred and identified a racial type, also with Iberian characteristics, that was “very prevalent in the west of Ireland. . . . The stature is generally low,” he claimed, “with dark skin and complexion; the head is long, low, and broad; the hair black, coarse, and shaggy; the eyes black or dark brown, or grey, with fiery lustre; forehead receding, with lower part of face prominent.” 27 To those who were predisposed to believe them, reports of this kind served to reinforce elite and popular perceptions of the Irish as akin to “the negro,” “the savage,” and even “the ape.” […]

To locate the “real” Irish, then, one had to go to the west and southwest of the country, where there had been less immigration and therefore less mixing of blood. To be sure, in fishing villages on Galway Bay and in the Aran Islands, Beddoe found significant examples of intermarriage, and thus of racial hybridity. But for the most part, the west was the home of “swarthy” and “dark-complexioned aborigines,” many of whom had dark eyes and even darker, sometimes “coal-black,” hair. By themselves, hair and eye color did not indicate skin color, and for the most part Beddoe acknowledged that he was dealing with whites, although he did record that in the mountains between Sligo and Roscommon he had encountered “the swarthiest people I have ever seen.” He also created an “Index of Nigrescence” to measure the range of hair and eye color from one racial type to another, and like virtually all of the anthropologists of his generation, he could not help but speculate on the relationship between racial classification and intelligence and temperament. “There is an Irish type . . . which I am disposed to derive from the race of Cro-Magnon,“ he reported. “In the West of Ireland I have frequently seen it. Though the head is large, the intelligence is low, and there is a great deal of cunning and suspicion.” He also discovered a tendency toward “prognathism” among people in England, Wales, and Ireland, with Ireland as its “present centre.” Venturing onto very slippery terrain indeed, he speculated that “most of its lineaments are such as to lead us to think of Africa as its possible birthplace, and it may be well, provisionally, to call it Africanoid.” 30

Beddoe did not always follow the apparent logic of his own conclusions. He argued in The Races of Britain that “the points of likeness to the anthropoid apes are distributed variously among the different races of mankind, . . . [and] none of them can be taken in themselves to imply intellectual or moral inferiority.” But by creating an index of nigrescence, and constructing a prognathous physical type in Ireland that he identified as “Africanoid,” he provided openings for others who were far more determined to assert the racial inferiority of the Irish and to see them as a race that had not achieved the salient characteristics commonly associated with “whiteness.” In the early twentieth century, especially in response to the polarization and violence of the Irish War of Independence, a new generation of scholars and pseudoscholars was determined to portray the Irish as a people whose many negative attributes were rooted in a suspect racial past. In 1919 two Harvard geneticists claimed that the Irish were “principally the product of the mingling of two savage Mongolian tribes,” and in 1922 two equally zealous Hibernophobes found a “strain of negro blood” in the Firbolgs, or Attacotti, the ancient race that had invaded Ireland and allegedly waged a war of extermination against its “fair-haired and clean-skinned” rivals on the island. 31

These developments in the realm of science were reflected in a wider, more random discourse through which elite and popular commentators linked the Irish with black Africans and African Americans in a shared stereotype that alleged laziness, irrationality, and an incapacity for self-government as essential characteristics of both races. By the mid-nineteenth century or soon thereafter, the tendency to portray the Irish as apelike creatures who were laughably crude and lamentably violent was becoming a commonplace in the United States as well as Britain. In a meditation on the “Celtic physiognomy,” the American magazine Harper’s Weekly commented on the “small and somewhat upturned nose [and] the black tint of the skin,” while Punch characterized the “Irish Yahoo” who populated “the lowest districts of London and Liverpool” as “a creature manifestly between the Gorilla and the Negro,” a “climbing animal [who] may sometimes be seen ascending a ladder with a hod of bricks.” 32 […]

What comes through in so many of these observations is the racial “in-betweenness” of the Irish in the eye of the beholder. 34 Although Harper’s Weekly did comment on the “black tint of the [Irish] skin,” few observers were willing to argue that the Irish were “black” or “coloured,” no matter how high they registered on Beddoe’s index of nigrescence. Instead, in the age of Darwin, Irishmen and -women were portrayed as “white chimpanzees,” as “creature[ s] manifestly between the Gorilla and the Negro,” and as “more like a tribe of squalid apes than human beings.” Charles Kingsley, an Anglican clergyman and regius professor of modern history at Cambridge, was “haunted by the human chimpanzees” he encountered during a holiday in Ireland in 1860. “To see white chimpanzees is dreadful,” he confided to his wife; “if they were black, one would not feel it so much, but their skins, except where tanned by exposure, are as white as ours.” Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer and polemicist, did not doubt that the Irish had “a white skin” and even “European features,” but they were “savages” nonetheless. “The Celt[ s] of Connemara,” he wrote in the 1840s, “are white and not black; but it is not the colour of the skin that determines the savagery of a man” or of a race. “He is a savage who in his sullen stupidity, in his chronic rage and misery, cannot know the facts of this world when he sees them; [who] . . . brandishes his tomahawk against the laws of Nature.” Carlyle exempted the “Teutonic Irish” of Ulster from his censure, but he charged that the chronic laziness of the Celtic Irish, and their refusal to accept that for the foreseeable future their role must be to labor for others, made them akin to the black ex-slaves of Jamaica, for whom he recommended a return to the “beneficence” of involuntary servitude. As for Kingsley, he informed a friend that the “harsh school of facts” had cured him of any illusions about equality between the races. “I have seen,” he wrote, “that the differences of race are so great, that certain races, e.g., the Irish Celts, seem quite unfit for self-government.” 35

Other observers also believed that the racial characteristics of the Irish made them seem more like blacks and less like bona fide “white men.” When James Bryce wrote of the Negro that “his intelligence is rather quick than solid, and . . . shows the childishness as well as lack of self-control which belongs to primitive peoples,” he could just as easily have been describing the Irish as far as many readers were concerned. 36 During the Great War, it was not uncommon for those who witnessed or worked with Irish recruits in the British army to characterize them as “hardy and brave,” but also as prone to “displays of unnecessary bravado” that resulted in excessive casualties on the battlefield. Even a British officer who had “great sympathy” for the Irish troops he led confided to his wife that “his men came from ‘an extraordinary and inexplicable race’ and that Ireland must be an ‘island of children with the bodies of men.’ ” These are nearly the same terms that French observers applied to the black soldiers who were recruited from France’s West African colonies. They too displayed a “wild impulsiveness” and “fierce ardour for hand-to-hand combat” that made them ideal “shock troops.” But there were also frequent allegations that they lacked discipline and cohesion, that, like the Irish, they were a race of “children,” albeit “wonderful children, with generous hearts.” 37

For the Irish, racial in-betweenness was a condition they could ill afford at a time when European and American conceptions of race were narrowing, from the belief in a “multiplicity of nations, races, and religions” to the fulsome embrace of a simple binary division between “white” and “nonwhite.” […]

Dilke was a graduate of Cambridge, where he studied with Charles Kingsley. He was also a Liberal politician, a widely published author, and a racial imperialist whose main concern was not the supremacy of British capital but the triumph, on a global scale, of English institutions and values. The great impediment to this accomplishment, he believed, was the migration of the “cheaper races” to English-speaking countries such as the United States and Australia. “In America,” he wrote in Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867, “we have seen the struggle of the dear races against the cheap— the endeavors of the English to hold their own against the Irish and the Chinese.” But the threat these races posed was not only to the standard of living of the Saxons and their descendants but to civilization itself. He warned of “the danger to our race and to the world from Irish ascendency.” For if the Celt, his religion, and his “fierce” temperament prevailed, then the Englishman and his way of life would be eclipsed and the “freedom of mankind” would be jeopardized. 40

In tracing the evolution of anti-Irish stereotypes and polemics, then, from the sixteenth century through the nineteenth and into the twentieth, one comes face to face with a process of racialization rooted in conquest, colonization, and Anglicization. It was a process that sometimes engendered violence on a horrific scale and one that by means of the stage Irishman, the cartoon caricature, and the condescension and ridicule inherent in the “Paddy joke” did enormous damage to Irish self-esteem. 41 We have seen how the native Irish were portrayed as heathens, savages, and even wild animals; we have seen, too, how Paddy was constructed as feckless, lazy, riotous, and, sometimes, dangerous to the peace and tranquillity of England as well as Ireland. Perhaps by way of summary it is appropriate to turn to the Kentish Gazette, which in February 1847 sought to identify the essential ingredients of the Irish character and to offer up a solution to the Irish Question. During one of the most devastating months of the Great Famine, the Gazette commented editorially that “the system of agitation, of midnight plunder, of open-day assassination, of Hottentot ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and indolence must be eradicated, removed, abolished by the strong arm of the law.” 42 “Idolatry” and “superstition” were, of course, code words for Catholicism; indolence was, allegedly, the preferred pastime of the Irish people; assassination and midnight plunder were the staples of Irish politics; and Hottentot ignorance linked the Irish to African people who were widely regarded as primitive and backward, thus completing the process of racialization.

Who Built America, Volume II
pp . 146-149

American nativism often took the form of anti-Catholicism. In 1887 the American Protective Association (APA) organized to drive Irish Catholics out of American politics and soon claimed a half-million members, all of whom took an oath never to vote for a Catholic. The APA explicitly blamed the depression on Catholics, asserting that immigrants had taken the jobs of native-born Americans. It endorsed political candidates in 1894, but it broke apart when its members could not agree on establishing a third party or supporting the Republican ticket in 1896.


by Erik Wong, Stanford University

The early part of the 19th Century was relatively quiet in terms of religious conflict in America. The religious conflict that stands out in this period involves tensions between Catholics and Protestants, culminating in violence directed at Irish Catholic immigrants. The surge in immigration from Europe during the 19th Century coincided with and influx of Catholics and the rise of activist Protestantism in the U.S. As strong Protestant values permeated the country, immigrants who were Catholic also became viewed as outsiders and undemocratic. These views are separate from, but on top of, the harsh anti-Irish sentiment that also spread during the period.

In the 1830s and 1840s, anti-Catholic violence broke out in the Northeast and elsewhere. In 1835, one incident was ignited by a speaking tour by Lyman Beecher, who published Plea for the West, a book about a Catholic plot to take over the U.S. and impose Catholic rule. After Beecher’s speaking tour passed through Charlestown, Massachusetts, a mob set fire to the Ursuline convent and school.[3] In Philadelphia in 1844, pitched gun battles broke out between “native” Americans and mostly Irish Catholics. Martial law had to be declared in order to end the violence.[4]

The Divide Between Blacks and the Irish
by Noel Ignatiev, The Root

The Irish who immigrated to America in the 18th and 19th centuries were fleeing caste oppression and a system of landlordism that made the material conditions of the Irish peasant comparable to those of an American slave. The Penal Laws regulated every aspect of Irish life and established Irish Catholics as an oppressed race. Anticipating Judge Roger B. Taney’s famous dictum in the Dred Scott decision, on two occasions officials with judiciary authority in Ireland declared that “the law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic.”

When they first began arriving here in large numbers, the Irish were, in the words of Mr. Dooley (a character created by journalist Finley Peter Dunne), given a shovel and told to start digging up the place as if they owned it. On the rail beds and canals, they labored for low wages under dangerous conditions; in the South they were occasionally employed where it did not make sense to risk the life of a slave. As they came to the cities, they were crowded into districts that became centers of crime, vice and disease.

They commonly found themselves thrown together with free Negroes. Blacks and the Irish fought each other and the police, socialized and occasionally intermarried, and developed a common culture of the lowly. They also both suffered the scorn of those better situated. Along with Jim Crow and Jim Dandy, the drunken, belligerent and foolish Patrick and Bridget were stock characters on the early stage. In antebellum America, it was speculated that if racial amalgamation was ever to take place, it would begin between those two groups. As we know, things turned out otherwise.

How the Irish Became White
by Art McDonald, University of Pittsburgh

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.

How Housing Discrimination Created the Idea of Whiteness
by Whet Moser, Chicago Magazine

Note that Irish and Germans are at the top of the list. Had Hoyt’s book been written fifty, or even twenty years before, they likely would have been lower. As Lewinnek described to me, German and Irish immigrants were relegated to the periphery of the city after the Great Fire by the “fire limits,” prohibitions on the construction of inexpensive wooden houses that effectively pushed working-class homeowners out of the city center; Chicago Germans were at the forefront of briefly successful protests against the fire limits.

Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City
by Antero Pietila

Harlem exemplifies racial succession, which is the sociologists’ term for ethnic, racial and economic neighborhood transition. In the space of four decades between the 1870s and 1910s, that section of New York City went from a white upper-class community of American-born residents to one populated by recent Irish, Jewish, German, Italian and Scandinavian immigrants.

American Pharaoh
by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor
Chapter 1

If white Chicago as a whole turned a cold shoulder to the new black arrivals, Daley’s Irish kinsmen were particularly unwelcoming.

The Irish and blacks had much in common. Ireland’s many years of domination at the hands of the British resembled, if not slavery, then certainly southern sharecropping — with Irish farmers working the land and sending rent to absentee landlords in England. The Irish were dominated, like southern blacks, through violence, and lost many of the same civil rights: to vote, to serve on juries, and to marry outside their group. Indeed, after Cromwell’s bloody invasion in the mid-1600s, not only were Irish-Catholics massacred in large numbers, but several thousand were sent in chains to the West Indies, where they were sold into slavery. But these similar histories of oppression did not bring Chicago’s Irish and blacks together. Much of the early difficulty stemmed from rivalry between two groups relegated to the lowest levels of the social order.

Ethnic America: A History
by Thomas Sowell
pp. 277-279

Today’s neighborhood changes have been dramatized by such expressions as “white flight.” but these patterns existed long before black-white neighborhood changes were the issue. When the nineteenth-century Irish immigrants flooded into New York and Boston, the native Americans fled. With the first appearance of an Irish family in a neighborhood, “the exodus of non-Irish residents began,” 2 According to a contemporary, property values “tremble” as “fear spreads,” and panicky flight ensues. 3 As “the old occupants fled to the outskirts of town,” 4 in the mid-nineteenth century when immigration increased, New York City grew northward about one mile per decade. The built-up area extended only as far north as Fourteenth Street in 1840, but it grew to Thirty-fourth Street in a decade, and to Forty-second Street by I860.5

“White flight” is a misleading term, not only because of its historical narrowness, but also because blacks too have fled when the circumstances were reversed. Blacks fled a whole series of neighborhoods in nineteenth-century New York, “pursued” by new Italian immigrants who moved in. 6 In nineteenth-century Detroit, blacks moved out of neighborhoods as Polish immigrants moved in. 7 The first blacks in Harlem were fleeing from the tough Irish neighborhoods in mid-Manhattan, 8 and avoided going north of 145th Street, for fear of encountering more Irish there. 9

As the relative socioeconomic positions of ethnic groups changed with the passage of time, so did the neighborhood flight. In nineteenth-century nieghborhoods where Anglo-Saxons had once fled as the Irish moved in, the middle-class Irish later fled as the Jews and Italians moved in. […]

Ethnic succession did not end with neighborhoods. Early Irish immigrants were often used as strikebreakers and were hated and kept out of unions as a result. Later, the Irish were unionized and Italians, Negroes, and many others were used as strikebreakers, encountering in turn the same hostility and resistance to their admission to unions. Still later, the Irish were union leaders, while Jews or Italians were rank-and-file union members. Today, there are unions where Jews are union leaders and blacks and Puerto Ricans are members. Similarly, in the schools, the Irish immigrant children in the mid-nineteenth century were taught by Protestant Anglo-Saxon teachers. Half a century later, Jewish immigrant children were far more likely to be taught by Irish Catholics than by Jewish teachers. A generation later, Negro children in Harlem were far more likely to be taught by Jewish teachers than by black teachers. Few children of rising ethnic groups have had “role models” of their own ethnicity. Some of the most successful— notably the Chinese and the Japanese— almost never did.

While various ethnic groups succeeded each other in neighborhoods, schools, jobs, etc., the country as a whole was also changing. The installation of underground sewage lines and indoor plumbing in the late nineteenth century meant that no other urban ethnic group had to endure as primitive and dangerous a set of living conditions as the Irish had in the mid-nineteenth century. Subways, trolleys, and eventually bus lines made it feasible for working people to spread out and still get to work in a reasonable time. The incredible overcrowding on New York’s lower east side in the nineteenth century was never to be approached again in modern slums. Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican Americans today live in crowded housing conditions, compared to their contemporaries, but in no way so crowded as the conditions among Jews, Italians, or the Irish in the nineteenth century. “Overcrowded” schools today may have perhaps half as many students per class as in nineteenth century schools on New York’s lower east side. The problems of today are very real, and sometimes severe, but they are by no means historically unprecedented.

Many of the problems of the poor and powerless remain the same, whatever group fills that role at a given time. The Jewish Daily Forward commented in 1907: “police in the Jewish quarter of New York are the most savage in America.” 19 An Italian immigrant writer complained in the early twentieth century about his experiences with the “rudeness” and “inconsiderateness” of government officials, which he found “disgusting.” 20 Many of the complaints against poor ethnic groups were also similar to those today— that “children are born with reckless regularity” among the Jews and Italians, 21 that murders are a result of “the wanton brutality of the moment,” 22 and that raising the immigrants to a decent level “implies a problem of such magnitude and such distant realization” that it can only be imagined. 23


34 thoughts on “Aren’t Irish White?

  1. Reblogged this on Illustrating Chinese Exclusion and commented:

    An excellent essay on the history of racial attitudes in America. When we discuss “white privilege” today, a term which rankles many white Americans, one can find the origin of that attitude in our nation’s immigration history. An excellent recap with a thorough list of citations and quotes! I am proud my work is included.

  2. An excellent essay! I’ve reblogged it on my site. Your presentation and analysis provides a comprehensive look at the history of our nation’s attitudes on race and “otherness,” and clearly, as we continue to struggle with race in our country, this look back is a gift to those struggling to find the answer. Thank you for the nod in my direction, or I might’t’ve missed this! One favor, I noticed a typo in mine (uh oh!) in Nativism -an extra “h” in the word “with” and corrected on my end. Could you remove it there for me on your copy?

    • I’m glad you appreciated it. This is a topic I visit on occasion.I’m not Irish or Catholic nor, as far as I know, were any of my ancestors. But American and ethnic history always fascinates me. Besides, race is a strange thing that touches upon so many other important issues.

      It’s hard for us living now to imagine race meaning something entirely different in the past. In it’s earliest meaning, it more had to do with kinship, clannishness, and ethno-nationalism (at a time when nations were typically small, in terms of both geography and population). Race as a vast general category is a fairly recent notion, not fully taking form nor popularly supported until the mid-20th century. Ethnicity, culture, and religion was a lot more important before modern whiteness came to dominate.

      As per your request, the typo has been corrected.

  3. I dunno, you know. That bit of Neanderthal skin and hair they found in that cave at Gibraltar was ginger, red hair and freckles. Could be this perceived racist schism is a hangover of a specist one, somehow a part of that old battle. That’s not serious, tongue in cheek, but it’s possibly a sort of theory as to why certain traits are viewed as animalistic. Perhaps the dominant races – whites in the west – think they’re the Homo Sapiens and assign all other appearances of humanity to the Hairy Man of our nightmares. Of course, all Sapiens would have the race memory sort of thing, we would all pit ourselves against the Hairy Man, no Sapiens takes on the Neanderthal role – but perhaps the subordinate groups are assigned it. It also contains a hint about racist fear, that the ‘beasts’ are bigger and stronger, more dangerous, thinking about it this way does seem to explain some of the more irrational claims of the racists.

    Just spitballing . . .

    • Many people have speculated about such things, going back to past centuries.

      It’s interesting that, Bruce Nelson in one of the excerpts above (Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race), discusses how earlier in history the focus was on the dark-haired and dark-eyed population supposedly in southern/western Ireland. This racial thinking perceived these people as the real Irish, the undiluted race. Appearances on average, I guess, vary from region to region.

      I’m not sure where red hair and freckles are most common or what early race thinkers thought of such features. I did notice the association some made between the Celt and Cro-Magnon. I have wondered what shared memory might exist of other hominid species such as Neanderthal. Many ancient myths can be interpreted as possibly describing other hominids.

  4. You know, reading Anglo North American history…
    LMAO Anglos are some of the most insecure and easily threatened people ever

    Also alt righters have skin that makes tissue paper look thick

    They treated french and Ukrainians like shit but they treated the asian migrants way worse. They wanted to assimilate the french and Ukrainians and other white ethnics and were prejudiced against their culture but the Asian migrants and Mexicans were killed, expelled, excluded, segregated away, etc.

    And why? Because despite the cultural and language differences all of these groups have, the Asians and Mexicans are the ones that look more obviously different

    Fuck humanity, da?

    Hey, Anglos invented the idea of race based on skin color and the one drop rule and exclusion of anyone who failed it. Other cultures were ethnocentric but moden racism, social Darwinism, eugenics, one-drop, was Anglo made

    The southern euros in Latin America and French colonists were shitheads in a different way. Mainly they had the same white supremacy hierarchy but they lacked the one drop rule, “purity” idea that excluded anyone who happened to be born a different skin tone. Instead the different skin tones were made to marry in and assimilate.
    Shitty in a different way

    • The other group that Anglo-Americans have always feared is Eastern Europeans. The prejudice against Slavs is much greater than toward the Catholic Irish and Southern Italians.

      Even today, because of the memory of the Cold War, Eastern Europeans are looked upon as different and associated somewhat with Asia. But before the Cold War, Slavs were always questionable as being white in the Anglo sense of the word. I’m not sure how well later generations of Slavic-Americans are able to assimilate. Do people who look stereotypically Slavic experience prejudice? I’ve never heard of any research about it. Along with Arabs, Eastern Europeans are regularly used for the role of stereotypical bad guy in American entertainment, even though both Arabs and Slavs are technically Caucasian.

      The other groups that have always been treated a bit differently are those of French and Spanish descent. They are both European groups, but like Southern Italians they also tend toward darker skin and darker hair. Being European doesn’t automatically mean being perceived as white or as fully white. It’s odd how those of Spanish descent aren’t thought of as being European by Americans, maybe most especially Anglo-Americans.

      Assimilation does happen, although sometimes slowly. Slavic-Americans and Spanish-Americans will eventually be assimilated entirely into generalized American whiteness. I think even Asian-Americans will be assimilated, as interracial marriages become more common. As for the French, at least in Canada, they haven’t assimilated to Anglo culture and maybe neither Anglo racial identity.

      Many part Asian actors are already perceived as white (or else as black). Keanu Reeves father is mixed race (including Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, and English) and, even though Keanu is seen as white, his ethnic ancestry is far from clear. Racial perception of whiteness and blackness tends to overpower any Asian characteristics. As Asian-Americans intermarry more with whites and blacks, their descendants won’t be seen as Asian-American.

      That is how assimilation happens. But in the process, what people think of as ‘white’ is transformed to mean something new. What goes for white today would not be thought of as white in the past. And possibly what will go for white in the future would not be thought of as white in the present. Whiteness is a vague and shifting category. Like porn, people simply know it when they see it and yet it’s hard to precisely define. It’s about subjective perception, not objective reality.

      In the American racial order, there is only one group that can’t ever assimilate. That is blacks, those of supposed African ancestry, although one in twenty blacks have no detectable African genetics. Whiteness isn’t defined by anything specific. It simply means not being black. That is why Asians and Hispanics will inevitably be assimilated into whiteness. Give it a few generations and the discussion we’re having right now will seem strange, as that assimilation would already have happened and become normalized.

    • Assimilation is strange.

      I have maybe a tiny percentage of English ancestry in me. My ancestry is mostly Prussian, German, Palatine German/French, and Scottish. Those are the main ethnicities and ethno-nationalities in my family tree. I have to go back a couple centuries to find an individual who might have been of English ancestry.

      Yet I’m perfectly assimilated into Anglo-American whiteness. I have the advantage that my immigrant ancestors have been in America for a long time, many family lines going back to the colonial era.

      My family has had the time to assimilate. Most Irish-Americans at this point have also had the time to assimilate, as the main wave of Irish immigrants happened mid-19th century.

      But other European immigrants arrived in more recent history and so probably are less assimilated. I wonder how well assimilated are, for example, Eastern European immigrants who came after the fall of the Soviet Union. Or consider Spanish refugees from Franco Spain. Another example are the often light-skinned Cubans who escaped revolution.

      Are such people perceived as ‘white’ Americans? Do they think of themselves as white or do they still primarily identify with their ethnicity/nationality?

    • Here is another interesting example. The Spanish Basque.

      They’ve been in North America, the present United States territory, in many cases for longer than the British colonies existed. In the past, they thought of themselves as a distinct people (their genetics show that they are unique from other Europeans, sharing some genetics with the Irish) and they have been proud of their Basque ethnicity.

      They originally came to the Americas because of the Spanish Empire. But would most Anglo-Americans perceive them as ‘white’ American or Hispanic other? And how do they perceive themselves?

  5. Iirc the redhead, freckled look occur at a higher frequency among celts (Irish, Scottish) than English. Especially redhead and freckles combined.

    Slavs do look different, with different facial structures. “Slavic babyface” is a real phenomena :p But today my dad had to pick up two russian grad students he never met from convention and he easily picked them out from a sea of white faces, lol. Their facial structure is different from Western Europeans, perhaps. But in my experiences Russians are easy to spot.

    And yeah, southern euros look different, sometimes they pass for middle eastern or Hispanic. Actually, you’re right. Just look at abbey d’agostino. That’s not a wasp! Still from my POV, I’m used to seeig that “look” as ‘white’ which in hindsight is somewhat weird since these people are often literally “not white” in complexion. But it dosent change that today, the “Mediterranean” look is included in white.

    Rita Hayworth was a half Mediterranean, born margarita cansino. She dyed her dark hair red and went by her mom’s Anglo surname to appeal to mainstream Americans at the time.

    Still, dosent change that mediterreaneans and slavics never had laws passed against them, and anti-miscegenation laws never applied to them. Much of their separation was cultural rather than institutionally mandated like (legal segregation, Jim Crow, anti miscegenation laws, etc)

    • I would make several points.

      First, I was putting the quote in context. At the time Emerson was writing, there were English laws politically disenfranchising and economically oppressing the Irish. Some Anglo-Americans sought to create such laws in the US as well. But most prejudice in the US was private, systemic throughout Anglo-American society. It wasn’t primarily laws that forced so many early ethnic immigrants to the frontier and other rural areas, as they were escaping private prejudice that made life extremely difficult for them.

      In the decades following Emerson’s writing of those words, millions of Irish would die of starvation and millions others escape only to find yet more prejudice and impoverishment in countries like the US. It wasn’t a good time to be Irish. The specific point being there was a historical context for why so many English and Anglo-Americans didn’t perceive the Irish as white or as fully white.

      Second, I was never arguing that Asians didn’t face worse oppression. That is irrelevant to the quote. Emerson wasn’t writing about Chinese. To someone like Emerson, the Chinese were far less of a threat than the Irish, if only for the simple reason there were fewer Chinese in the US and specifically on the East Coast.

      Chinese weren’t a particular threat to Anglo-American whiteness, in the way that the Irish were. Before the ‘hordes’ of Irish (as they sometimes were described), there had never before been such a mass wave of ethnic immigration to the US. All of a sudden, it became a clear possibility that the majority population of the US could become that of non-English ancestry.

      Most of the oppression against ethnic whites was private. The Second KKK was mostly in the North and mainly targeted ethnic European-Americans, not blacks or Chinese, although they also targeted those as well. Prohibitionists were also mainly targeting ethnic European-Americans. Like the earlier Whiskey Tax, Prohibition was primarily about those ethnics who weren’t Anglo-Americans and so whose racial position was questionable and threatening. So, there were laws involved, including immigration restrictions later on.

      “The first federal law in U.S. history to limit the immigration of Europeans, the Immigration Act of 1921 reflected the growing American fear that people from southern and eastern European countries not only did not adapt well into American society but also threatened its very existence. […]

      “According to federal officials scattered throughout European consulates, literally millions of Europeans hoped to emigrate to the United States in the aftermath of World War I (1914-1918). Some of these would-be immigrants could be considered as coming from the “desirable” classes of western and northern European nations, but it appeared that the vast majority of the potential immigrants would be coming from southern and eastern Europe.

      “Many Americans held the perception that individuals from southern and eastern Europe could not be assimilated properly into the culture of the United States. Their languages, customs, and religions were thought to be too different from those of preceding generations of immigrants for fullscale integration into American culture. The fear was that these newer immigrants would always be “hyphenates,” or citizens who would call themselves, or be called by others, by such hyphenated names as “Polish-Americans,” “Greek-Americans,” and “Italian-Americans.” […]

      “Based on the 1910 population figures, the bill effectively limited emigration of northern and western Europeans to approximately 175,000 individuals. As this figure reflected almost precisely the numbers of immigrants from these regions during the years leading up to 1921, the bill had little impact on northern and western European immigration. The bill imposed no limitations on immigration from the Western Hemisphere. […]

      “The bill was intended to be in effect for only a single year; however, it was not replaced until 1924. The significance of the 1921 bill lies in the fact that it was the first time Americans had actively and legally sought to limit European immigration.”

      “In operation, the quota system “materially favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe because the great waves from Southern and Eastern Europe did not arrive until after 1890.” Congress enacted the quota system in the wake of passing the literacy test in 1917; this test excluded “[a]ll aliens over sixteen years of age, physically capable of reading, who can not read the English language, or some other language or dialect, including Hebrew or Yiddish.” In operation, the test, as intended, restricted the immigration of non-English speakers, including Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asians. […]

      “The racial hierarchy endorsed by proponents of the national origins quota system was entirely consistent with the academic literature of the day, which viewed the “races” of southern and eastern Europe as inferior to northern European ones. In effect, southern and eastern European immigrants, commonly thought of today as white ethnics, were “racialized” as non-white, and therefore unworthy of joining the national community. […]

      “Despite persistent criticisms, including claims that it adversely affected U.S. foreign policy interests, the Anglo-Saxon, northern European preference in the immigration laws remained intact until 1965. […]

      “In sum, the national origins quota system reflects this nation’s preoccupation with its ethnic balance. The system was based on the desire to limit the immigration of inferior “races” from southern and eastern Europe. Domestic discrimination accompanied the exclusion in the laws. Long-standing anti-Semitism, as well as prejudice against other immigrant groups, existed in the United States.

      “The life of the national origins quota system spanned a period when domestic racial minorities enjoyed some improvements under the law. While domestic minorities gained formal legal rights, noncitizens at best remained in the same rightless place in American society. Many noncitizens lost rights with the INA, which besides maintaining the quota system, also included some draconian provisions punishing noncitizen political minorities in the name of fighting Communism.”

      “Proponents of the Act sought to establish a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Jews, Southern Europeans, and Eastern Europeans in order to “maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population”. Reed told the Senate that earlier legislation “disregards entirely those of us who are interested in keeping American stock up to the highest standard – that is, the people who were born here”. Southern/Eastern Europeans and Jews, he believed, arrived sick and starving and therefore less capable of contributing to the American economy, and unable to adapt to American culture.

      “Some of the law’s strongest supporters were influenced by Madison Grant and his 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race. Grant was a eugenicist and an advocate of the racial hygiene theory. His data purported to show the superiority of the founding Nordic races. Most proponents of the law were rather concerned with upholding an ethnic status quo and avoiding competition with foreign workers. […]

      “In the 10 years following 1900, about 200,000 Italians immigrated annually. With the imposition of the 1924 quota, 4,000 per year were allowed. By contrast, the annual quota for Germany after the passage of the Act was over 57,000. Some 86% of the 155,000 permitted to enter under the Act were from Northern European countries, with Germany (including Poles; see: Partitions of Poland), Britain, and Ireland having the highest quotas. The new quotas for immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe[where?] were so restrictive that in 1924 there were more Italians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Portuguese, Romanians, Spaniards, Jews, Chinese, and Japanese that left the United States than those who arrived as immigrants.”

      • It limited white ethnic immigration, but barred Latin American, asian, and non white immigrants entirely.

        Even in that hierarchy, southern and Eastern European immigrants were still above non-whites

        • I’m just not a fan of victimization Olympics. It’s utter bullshit to argue about who suffered more.

          In order to gain the benefits of white privilege, would you choose to change places with a severely impoverished white in rural Appalachia, with an unemployed homeless white in a post-industrial inner city, or a disadvantaged white in prison? Of course not. Almost anyone, if somehow given the choice, would rather be a middle-to-upper class minority than a lower class white.

          It simply sucks being poor in a class-obsessed society like the US. Both liberals and conservatives are telling poor whites that at least they aren’t minorities, but that is little comfort when dealing with the real problems of desperate poverty. Such desperate poverty isn’t simply a thing of the past, such as the Irish in the 19th century. Most poor Americans and most incarcerated Americans are white, and their white privilege means almost jack shit.

          Sure, the poor will seek anything to be take pride in. Poor whites take pride in being white, just as poor blacks take pride in being black. When you poor, you have to take what you can get as there is little to be proud in when the rest of society looks upon you as the scum of the earth. Even so, I doubt poor whites actually feel much pride in being white or pride in much at all. They’re too busy simply surviving to worry about pride. Besides, they already know society considers them worthless and many come to believe it about themselves.

          About the topic of this post, it wasn’t exactly an easy life being an Irish in the 19th century, whether back in Ireland or in the US. The only advantage to having been a poor white at that time was that you had lots of company surrounded by vast numbers of other poor whites. It didn’t make you any less poor or your life any easier. You still were forced to work yourself to an early grave, if you were lucky enough to find work at all. I guess you could count your blessings that at least you weren’t enslaved, but that is like counting your blessings that you have potentially treatable cancer instead of AIDs.

          White privilege is awesome, when combined with class privilege. Otherwise, it doesn’t do poor whites much good.

          • I am speaking historically; not in modern day or current cases. Historically poor whites occupied high position than poor nonwhites, who were pretty much the only minorities

            In past minorities who climbed the ladders were also often backlashes against and usually by poor whites as well. See: Tulsa race riots.

            In modern day, it is relatively new phenomena to see minorities “rising up” while many whites are falling behind, or feel as if they are.

            Gentrification is often seen as wealthier whites replacing poor minorities for example, but cases of nonwhites replacing whites who were poorer than them are increasing

          • In my post and many of my comments here, I was also speaking historically.

            It utterly sucked being Irish in the 19th century. Sure, it also sucked to be black and Chinese at that time in America. But that doesn’t change the historical reality that many English and Anglo-Americans didn’t consider Irish to be white or fully white. Nor change the historical reality that this led to political disenfranchisement, military oppression, indentured servitude, economic disadvantage, severe poverty, and even mass starvation.

            The early protests that were put down (Shays’ Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion, etc) were directed at poor whites, typically non-English. Daniel Shays was Irish and his movement was put down by George Washington, a rich white Anglo-American. The rich white response was to disenfranchise those poor whites which was why they replaced the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution, leaving only a few percentage of white men with the right to vote or run for office.

            Emerson’s quote expresses a common view of the time, whether or not you can comprehend it with your 21st century racial thought. This entire post and the comment section was in response to that quote. Victimization Olympics remains bullshit and doesn’t change that historical reality.

            I seriously doubt you’d have wanted to have been one of those poor Irish whites in the 19th century. If you escaped with your life from the potato famine and violent oppression and if you found yourself in near hopeless poverty in America, it wouldn’t be much comfort to think that at least you weren’t black or Chinese. Poor whites at the time had few rights and little political representation. They often found themselves doing the hardest and most dangerous work, right alongside other disadvantaged groups.

            Judging such historical underprivileged populations as you’re doing from your position of relative privilege in the present is a pointless activity. Your life as an Asian-American right now is amazingly better than the life of an Irish-American even a century ago. And some of the poor whites right now who are living worse lives than you could ever imagine are part of families that have been severely poor continuously for centuries or longer.

            Be humble in your judgments and have some compassion. It sucks to be poor and disadvantaged, no matter your race and ethnicity. Meaningless games of identity politics aren’t helpful. I’m really not in the mood to play such games.

          • I’m sorry to respond that way. It really does put me in a bad mood. Identity politics is one of the worst things about US politics. It’s just so inanely stupid.

            I write about poor minorities as much as I write about poor whites. But ultimately suffering and struggle are the same. No one with a lick of sense would think that poor whites or poor anyone have been fortunate in any kind of way. The average poor white in centuries past were lucky to live past childhood. It was a harsh, often short life with little hope of betterment. Most poor whites in past centuries died as desperately poor as they were born.

            It was not a good life. But I’m sure you understand that. I know you mean well. And I know so much about American society sucks, including the treatment of Chinese-Americans. My point is simply that one horrible thing doesn’t lessen another horrible thing. It isn’t a competition, a zero sum game of suffering, as if we are forced to ignore some people’s struggles in order to focus on the struggles of others.

            That kind of divide and conquer politics depresses me to no end. It’s why I despise partisan politics and mainstream media, along with so much standard identity politics activism. I just can’t participate in it. If the only positive thing I can do is refuse to participate, then that is what I’ll do. The one and only thing that matters to me is taking everyone’s suffering seriously and treating it with compassion. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

            Suffering in the world bothers in me to an extent I can’t begin to express. I will never dismiss the suffering of another. We live in a shitty world and few people have the opportunity to do much with their lives beyond just getting by. I honestly don’t care who a person is. Suffering doesn’t give a shit about demographics. Poverty, imprisonment, mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness, etc—it all sucks. Suffering has a way of overwhelming people.

            The only thing that matters in the world is what lessens suffering in the world.

  6. Well, Latino isn’t a race as you know and come in all “races”

    But Hispanics are literally western. They are mostly Christian / catholic, and speak a European language. Many have European ancestry, some predominantly or completely so.

    I think Latinos will “become white” before Asians due to their closer culture and many Latinos being partially to fully white themselves. However I suspect this “becoming white” May only tend to white-passing and the lighter mixed ones, rather than the very Amerindian or African looking ones. Basically Colorism: which is endemic in Latin America anyway. Latin America dosent practice one drop rule but it does favor more European look

    I suspect the USA may relax one drop rule a bit in future. However “whiteness” remaining on top of hierarchy may remain .

    • Race is a meaningless category. Technically, black and whites aren’t races any more than Latino. Race only exists in the imagination, demented and distorted by bizarre ideology. It seems pointless even trying to have an intelligent discussion about a topic that is inherently non-rational.

      In terms of the racial imagination, I agree with you. Latinos will become white fairly quickly. Many Latinos already can pass as white without Anglo-Americans noticing. Whiteness has already expanded quite a bit. The fact that dark-skinned, dark-haired Italians and Sicilians have mostly assimilated has paved the way for Latinos, as they’re all of Southern European ancestry.

      For Asians, it will require more continued immigration and intermarriage. It will be a slower process, but it probably is inevitable. The change could happen quite quickly, once the older generations die and their older notion of whiteness die with them.

      Colorism will become the bigger issue. It won’t be as simple as race and ethnicity. There will be a process of negotiation in how dark is too dark to be considered white. That has already shifted fairly far toward the dark end, as those darker-skinned Southern Europeans have been assimilated to whiteness. White-passing over time simply becomes white.

  7. I was thinking, ever notice that most Scandinavians and Germans themselves don fit “nazi Aryan” ideal that well? Facial structure I mean.

    • I hadn’t thought too much about it, actually. It does make sense. There is a fair amount of diversity of appearances in most countries and regions. Northern European taken as a whole includes a great mix of populations, including a variety of genetics.

      I have much German and related ancestry. I can’t say that I or anyone in my family particularly fits the “nazi Aryan” ideal. I was quite blonde as a child, but I now have brown hair like the rest of the family. There aren’t any blue eyes in the family, as far as I know.

      What exactly is the basis of the “nazi Aryan” ideal? Where did that come from? Why was it the ideal? Simply because it was perceived as the opposite of Southern European and African appearances?

  8. There is lots of distrust among poor Americans based on race. Many poor blacks for example distrust poor whites due to history. They often see them as liking to punch down at them historically, see the MLK quote.

    I suppose in a fantasy world poor should be united in sticking I to the man, but in reality that’s been somewhat hard. And everytime it looks like a movement like that rises up, it seems to get quashed

    • Even among minorities, they will punch down.

      Middle class blacks punch down at poor blacks, just as middle class whites punch down at poor whites. Heck, if you go far enough up the class ladder, minorities also will punch down on poor whites, since class privilege can trump white privilege.

      US-born Blacks punch down at Latino immigrants, as immigrants have always been a favorite target for Americans.. As such, Latino US citizens often will punch down at undocumented immigrants.

      Punching down is easy and so attractive, allowing for an easy way to manipulate populations by those above. Many people in every demographic group identity will look for those who are perceived as below them. It’s a sad part of human nature.

  9. “I lived in the Midwest and this place truly encompasses the American culture of lazy, ignorant, and entitlement.
    The stereotype about Chinese being rude / uncultured, the white trash behavior overshadows that by far. These Chinese “nouveau riche” came from a poor background so often they are not very educated. The older generation of peasants had to go through Cultural Revolution. They are starving all the time so I am sure they care more about having their basic needs fulfilled. Developing proper social etiquette would be the last thing on their mind. Last week I was in this Chinese Buffet, some old fat white guy complained and bitch to the poor waitress for a whole 20 minutes about wanting to sit in a table that was already reserved, despite plenty of other seats, because he wanted be closer to the food stations. What excuses do these white trash have? I am sure he had an easier life growing up compare to my parents and most likely have the opportunity to attend college, and thus should be far more educated, but it sure as hell didn’t make him more cultured.
    The complain about China and India polluting the environment, pretty sure that the US emits a lot more per capita. The lazy fat fucks here drive to get to anywhere. If you bitch about pollution from China you better start walking, like most people in Asia. Not to mention the pollution problem is partly due to demand of cheap goods from Western nations. Dumb fucks here don’t wanna pay more than $70 for work boots but constantly complains about cheaply made Chinese goods. They are more than welcome to support made in the USA but most of them are too cheap to do so.
    I worked as a resident engineer on many construction projects throughout the Midwest. My overall experience dealing with laborers that are mostly red necks is just terrible. There was a study done on Asian American and leadership roles and how many people don’t see us as leaders. This absolutely corroborate with my experience. I always got the feeling that, from their passive aggressive comments, they are not too happy about having to take orders/ being supervised by an Asian. Also they seem to be more willing to listen to my white coworkers. Apparently having a degree in engineering, being a licensed professional engineer, and years of experience don’t mean shit. I can tell the animosity comes from having to work back breaking labor while some China man isn’t really doing anything but just supervise. It’s not my fault that you couldn’t get a better job because you have no formal education. You have a 200 year head start in this country. If you managed to fail in this white centric society don’t even dare to blame that on someone else.”

    • A comment like that seems to be responding more to what is seen on mainstream media than what is of concern to most Americans.

      About poor white Americans specifically, I doubt the vast majority of them care or have ever voiced much of an opinion about Chinese anything in their entire lives. It just has so little to do with their everyday living. They honestly don’t care where cheap products are made, just as long as they’re cheap enough that they can afford them with their meager paycheck. And it is irrelevant what pollution is happening in China or even in the next town over.

      These aren’t the type of things most poor whites think about. Poor whites have too many basic problems and struggles to worry about other people, especially in other countries (e.g., poor whites are less supportive of wars than wealthier whites). The typical Fox News viewer and Trump supporter is average to above average in wealth and education, part of the shrinking middle class, not of the poor white demographic.

      Don’t blame poor whites for any of this. You can blame poor whites for other things, but blame them for they are actually responsible for.

    • Don’t remember what it was called, Out West or something – Twain’s travel book for his journey west. He spoke well, debunked that stereotype himself, although he called them “Chinamen,” which I guess, as racial slurs go, is pretty generic at least. But he judged the Chinese from his lofty white perch as civilized and learned . . . suggested that many whites could learn a thing or two.

  10. It is divide and conquer. But also reality.

    I’ve written about how identity politics blows, that ts just a “pragmTic evil” because it seems the only realistic way to fight. Everyone else is fighting with fire, bringing in water often isn’t realistic so many think they must get their own fire and join in

    Punching Down is shitty aspect of human nature, but so is tribalism. So is selfishness. People ted to care about themselves.

    • Even as I criticize identity politics, I do see it as both an inevitable outcome and necessary evil. It is human nature. Humans are inherently social creatures. We need group identities of some sort: kinship, tribe, ethnicity, nationality, race, socioeconomic class, sports team, partisan politics, ideological labels, etc.

      It almost doesn’t even matter how people are divided up, just as long as there are group identities to be latched onto or else forced onto people. Research has even shown that when people are arbitrarily put into groups they immediately begin forming a group identity, sometimes even when researchers create bizarre reasons for categorizing people.

  11. I find identity politics disillusioning these days, mostly because I see how easily identity politics, and many liberal social justice philosophies, are VERY easily appropriated by reactionaries. I think this stuff is good to the extent that it serves as a pragmatic way of advancing a disadvantaged groups interests into equality, but beyond that, I find it weird and frankly, divisive. It often can do more harm than good in some ways.

    I am well aware of this and I think being asian often allows me to view it this way because Asians are so ignored (at best) by both “sides.” There is distinct perception of socialjustice groups not caring for Asians and minimizing and demanding asian voices that don’t conform to conventional liberal rhetoric, I mean. To put it shortly, I see that neither side is really “good.” That it’s all a mess.

    I think recent events have shown that ultimately everyone is just out for themselves, whether it’s Trump supporters, OWS, BLM, feminists (including womanists and intersectional feminists) etc. That’s pretty much how I feel about it. We all say a lot of nice sounding fluff but most of us don’t have the ability to fight for real equality between all groups. It goes against the selfishness and tribalism that is human nature. That’s why I think we all have to check each other. I am a fan of the proverb “A man shows his true character not while he is a slave, but when he becomes the master.” And it’s true.

    Ultimately, this human conflict is petty, even if rooted in our instincts. Humans really are running on outdated software, so to speak. We are really, hairless apes at the end of the day.

    • “I find identity politics disillusioning these days, mostly because I see how easily identity politics, and many liberal social justice philosophies, are VERY easily appropriated by reactionaries.”

      I’ve come to the conclusion that there is less distance between liberal politics and reactionary politics than I’d prefer. One easily becomes the other. Social justice philosophies seems to make liberals prone to reactionary views.

      “There is distinct perception of social justice groups not caring for Asians and minimizing and demanding asian voices that don’t conform to conventional liberal rhetoric, I mean. To put it shortly, I see that neither side is really “good.” That it’s all a mess.”

      That fits my own sense of things. There is complicity from all sides. It’s not a problem limited to a single group, as it is fully a systemic problem and we are all a part of the same system. The system is rather limiting, many people experiencing the demand to conform.

      “I think recent events have shown that ultimately everyone is just out for themselves, whether it’s Trump supporters, OWS, BLM, feminists (including womanists and intersectional feminists) etc. That’s pretty much how I feel about it. We all say a lot of nice sounding fluff but most of us don’t have the ability to fight for real equality between all groups. It goes against the selfishness and tribalism that is human nature.”

      I understand what you say here. And I partly agree. But the problem I see is that the way we group ourselves seems unhelpful. Maybe if we found better ways to socially organize, we’d find better ways of relating. My sense is that we don’t even understand human nature, instead trying to force it into false ideologies. Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought have gotten many things right but also many things wrong.

      “Ultimately, this human conflict is petty, even if rooted in our instincts. Humans really are running on outdated software, so to speak. We are really, hairless apes at the end of the day.”

      I’ve been wondering what humans are. I keep having this sense that we are far different than what we’ve come to believe. It seems we are extremely confused and that leads to endless suffering, as we blindly thrash about hitting one another. Humans, at least in our present state, are ignorant and this is not a blissful ignorance.

    • It probably depends where you live.

      If you were raised to think of Slavs as being a geographically, culturally, and genetically distinct people, then you would indeed think of them as a separate race. You would learn to look for and emphasize the differences in terms of physical features, clothing, dialect, etc. In perceiving Slavs as different, you would literally see them as being different—even if to someone in another society the differences might seem minor and insignificant.

      Are Israelis and Palestinians different races, even though both are Semites (along with Bedouins) and share the same ancestry? I bet most Israelis and Palestinians have learned to see the differences. Certainly, they aren’t embracing each other as kinfolk, despite the fact that Palestinians are simply the Jews who chose to remain and convert to a new religion.

      • That is an interesting example. In the Western imagination, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis resonates with the conflicts of both East/West and Black/White.

        I’ve never come across any Westerner who knew that the Palestinians and Israelis were genetically and ancestrally the same people. In the mainstream media and mainstream politics, the two populations are portrayed as societies entirely alien to one another, as different as the perception of races.

        It is odd that two populations of the same people could be seen as so different. It’s quite possible that Palestinians and Israelis are more genetically similar than Irish and English. It helps us moderns understand why seemingly minor differences in the present were thought of as so vast in an earlier era.

        That demonstrates the power of mind in filtering perception and shaping thought. We literally see what we believe is real. And through social and political means, we enforce our beliefs onto reality.

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