Is it time for Irish Americans to say to African Americans “enough already, we’ve both had it rough”?

Famine memorial in Dublin
By Chmee2 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The blacks in America have a terrible history. Coming here as slaves in the early 17th century and remaining largely in that state until the mid 19th century. Slavery was followed by a century of oppressive segregation which didn’t end till the middle of the twentieth century.

However, the Irish American experience, which grows out of a general multi century religious persecution in Ireland, is also terrible. These Irish began to come under persecution in the 16th century when Henry VIII invaded and began to subject the indigenous Catholic population to persecution. His daughter Elizabeth I continued in her father’s footsteps as did Cromwell during the long Parliament. The Catholics rebelled periodically and were crushed again and again. England wanted land for its growing aristocracy and Catholic lands in Ireland were available. All that was needed to get the land was to subjugate the Irish and throw them off their lands.

The Irish became more and more dependent on the potato until in the 1840 a potato plight began wiping out their one life sustaining staple. This triggered massive emigration, over two decades, to the US on rickety sailing vessels (many of which sank in transit). Luckily many got to America and where they began by living in slums in North Eastern coastal cities where they experience profound discrimination.

Then the Civil War started and the draft included an opt-out provision where richer men could pay poor men to take their place. Needless to say a disproportionate number poor Irish men ended up fighting to end a slavery they had nothing to with. In this War which was conducted in a way that assured a maximum of casualties, Irish men suffered disproportionately.

After the War the discrimination against Catholics, in general and the Irish in particular, continued. Although the Irish, following the war, were now more widely spread across the country. They found more ways to use their natural skills to move ahead. Their religion began slowly to gain acceptance in Protestant America, and by the mid 20th century a Catholic was elected President.

The blacks emerged from the period of segregation with more disadvantages than the Irish Catholics had from their period of discrimination. The greatest advantage the Irish had was a religion that almost required learning to read (i.e. the services were conducted in Latin so Catholics had to read translations of the scripture readings and words of the Mass). Their religion has a deep attachment to history because Catholics have to understand the lives of the saints, the ways Catholics spread Christianity around the world and how Christianity was defended against Islam’s invasions by Catholics. The importance of the liturgy, the saints and history has stimulated Catholics to become good readers and thus to develop skills useful in the world at large

Black Americans have generally adopted a simplified Christianity religion that focuses on singing and emotion.

So it is apparent that both Irish Americans and African Americans have had a hard go. The British wanted to either starve the Catholic Irish to death or induce them to leave; the potato famine played into the British hands because it served both these ends. The slave holders felt slaves were property that they needed for field labor. They might have preferred to starve the slaves to death but their need for labor forced them to feed and care for the slaves at least enough to keep them functioning. So the slaves got some attention from their owners while the Catholic Irish, though they have had some legal freedom, were presented with few good options. …..(prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/3/2018)

See Also: Not a Trace of Racism: An Outsider’s Look at the EDL