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silentnight
Posts: 12

The Bully and the New Kids: The History, Past and Present, of a Xenophobic Country

Whites are all the same. They all come from the same place and have similar light skin. Right?

That is entirely wrong. In 19th century America, Irish and Italian immigrants were subjected to terms that would label them as some “other” peoples, certainly not the desirous label of being “white” to fit in.

The fundamental difference laid in the very fact that these waves of immigrants were of diverse and contrasting cultures, backgrounds, and religions from the British Americans that had settled here. The Irish population was Catholic; begrudgingly following that distinction, they were also stereotyped as barbaric, drunk, and poor people. This was the opposite of the “civilized” and “classy” newly Americans that have claimed American culture as their own, disowning their British sovereignty. Closely following their waves of immigration came the Italians, mainly from Sicily. Due to their Mediterranean background, they were looked down upon and the rise of Northern European superiority surfaced. These two immigrant groups were the new “black” victims alongside slaves to the bullies in America.

Hatred towards these Irish terrorists was spiking from the people of America. Their metaphorical sticks ablaze dripped in patriotism paved way for attempts of government uprising to gain their independence back in their homeland. In the US, Irish nationalists were out in the open trying to start rallies and even planned a military-style invasion, as mentioned by Edward T. O’Donnell in “When Irish Immigrants Were America’s Most Feared Terrorist Group.” All efforts poured into painting the Irish as the bad guy and it worked. They were defeated in all their tries to invade British North America. Newly-drawn comics depicted the horrors of the Irish and new phrases being coined, such as “Satan’s Henchmen”, were frequently appearing at the time. Perpetrators of discrimination not based on color, but the cultural background was new for the Americans. The Italians did not scrape from this treatment either.

As the Italian immigration made its way into the late 19th century, the focus shifted away from the Irish. The bullies found a new nerd to beat up, so to speak. Italians were willing to work “black” jobs in the Louisiana sugar fields and “chose to live among African-Americans” as quoted from “How Italians became White” by Brent Staples. In particular, Sicilians were regarded as darker-skinned because of their proximity to the Mediterranean. New Orleans was a city that harbored many Sicilian Italian immigrants, but they were not welcomed. With the death of popular police chief Hennessy alongside the feud of Italian families, the immigrant population was lynched and assaulted. Eleven Italian men were murdered. This was the gruesome effect of the treatment by white Americans.

Cruelly enough, to calm the national outrage of the lynching, New Orlean government officials had tried to soothe the pain by emphasizing, on Columbus Day, the founding of the country was by in large due to the discovery by famous Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus. The hatred of the terrorist Irish was largely forgotten about and dissipated as time went on. The Italians and Irish were able to assimilate and rise in economic prowess, leaving following immigrant waves to follow suit in the treatment of horrid, xenophobic discrimination. The current Spanish population isn’t publicly lynched, but that doesn’t cancel out the idea that they are symbolically lynched by Americans. Turned away by the President, rejected by American people, new immigration waves are walking a tightrope of being executed or not in the country of people that will continue to discriminate and hide in their fears as they did back in the 19th century.

In response to dummkopf: “This country needs to learn that all human life is valuable and unique, and so no one should be turned away from our borders simply because they are not American, not white, or are not in a dire enough situation.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement because we, as a country, are afraid to be open to new perspectives of different people despite advertising ourselves as the place to reach dreams and seek asylum. There is intrinsic value in human life and the population. But, to look at these immigration issues from a political and economic standpoint, I understand that society, and the way we’ve built things thus far, does not make it easy to accept possibly everyone that decides to flee to our country. There are many years of racism to be uprooted and policies to be changed and mentalities to be switched.

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pannafugo
Posts: 14

Originally posted by Regina Phalange on December 04, 2019 19:12

Clearly, Irish and Italian immigrants faced discrimination and oppression because they were different. Some Italians were darker-skinned than the Europeans, and most Irish were physically weakened when they escaped the famine and British rule. In this sense, they didn’t fit the ideal America that the initial European colonizers were trying to create. The Irish were generally unskilled and thus were unable to make meaningful contributions to the American workforce outside of the medial jobs that they had. The Italians were rumored to embody “inborn criminality,” which differed from the perfectionist, nationalistic views that Americans had of themselves. As we all know at this point, this resulted in both groups being dehumanized in similar ways as African Americans. Nevertheless, this changed, likely because the groups were simply not that different from other Americans. One of the articles that I read attributes the Irish people’s ‘whitening’ to the fact that most devoted themselves to civil service and went into respectable careers as policemen and firefighters. Additionally, another article highlighted the fact that, for the most part, the Irish in particular did not side with abolitionists and were pro-slavery. Eventually they were able to ‘become’ white, and soon enough, we had an Irish-Catholic President before we even had civil rights for African Americans.

This is an interesting view point that I had not considered regarding why Irish/Italians were seen as inferior. The Irish were, as most immigrants are, given low paying jobs that did not require any honed skill. This perpetuated the stereotype that all Irish were lazy and incompetent. Nevertheless, overtime they assimilated into American culture and were accepted more as white.

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eljefethefird
Posts: 8

They won't pollute us, calm down

In 1911 the Dillingham Commission tried to sort immigrants by what looks like geographical ethnicity (Malay referring to Southeast Asia, Mongolia to Central/East Asia,etc). This seemed like a good idea, but sadly it has its own problems. Problem 1 is that it still separates groups from one another. Problem 2 is that it will be broken at times like any other law. This can be seen with the Irish and Italian Catholics who came to this country, only to then be persecuted and hated by the majority English population (even though both groups are from Europe and are "white'). So sadly the commission didn't work, however time did. Over time the Irish and Italians became one with America.

Yes, I believe that all of this still happens today. In fact, anyone can see parallels between the 1800's immigrants and today's. This can be seen with Muslim/Arab immigrants. Both groups of people were/are ostracized because of a minority radical group who terrorized Americans. Like the Irish and Italians, maybe the Muslim population will be funnly assimilated in 100-200 years, especially with how heterogeneous our world is and will become.

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DiamondBlue
Posts: 9

Has America Really Changed?

Italian and Irish immigrants flocked to America to find a better way of life, but they were not greeted with half the enthusiasm that they came with. Upon arrival in America, they were met with the settler white Americans. To the original settler white Americans, (usually of Nordic descent), they were seen as an “other” and the Italians were even seen as “dark” although their skin was white, (southern Italians were tanner than most white people in America, because they lived on the Mediterranean Sea. One issue that white Americans had about the new immigrants was that the Italians and Irish immigrants were too devoted to their catholic faith and their pope, instead of patriotic loyalty to America. They were seen as other because they took many “low class” jobs that had been usually occupied by blacks, and hispanics. These jobs were considered lowly because they were mostly held by blacks and hispanics, and this only made it easier for white Americans to categorize Italians and Irish as “black” or as an “other”. These jobs didn’t pay well at all, but the Italians and Irish were willing to work those jobs for even less money than the already low wages, and the taking of jobs helped only to drive a wedge further between the Irish, Italians and the other white Americans. The short term effects of these low jobs were that the Irish was were made out as being dirty and drunk. Italians were lynched, and made public enemies (Sacco and Vanzetti), also, racial slurs and black stereotypes were also applied to the Italians for their slightly tanner (but still white) skin. When compared to today, other immigrants, and minorities have suffered worse and still are suffering. Although Italian and Irish people were once heavily oppressed, the stereotypes started to fade as they began to have economic success in America, so today they are used far less than they once were. This differs greatly from other immigrants like black people, who continue to be oppressed today, as well as hispanic people and the cross they bear everyday in our country because of our president and his system that have spiraled out of control. Italian and Irish immigrants faced oppression but we cannot forget that other groups experienced and still experience oppression today.
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postmaster5000
Posts: 9

The Newcomers

Even though they could be considered white and therefore shouldn't have been subjugated by oppression they were branded by many as evil. The Italians who immigrated to America were from Southern Italy, even in Italy they seen as the lesser people because they were from south Italy especially the Sicilians who were almost considered African. The thoughts that were born in northern Italy found fertile soil in America and they were treated as if they were black and sometimes were called a "White Nigger" and "Nigger Wop". They have also been victims of racist court rulings and lynch mobs. The Irish were seen as having terrorist ties because of the Fenian nationalist group who worked secretly in Ireland once trying to invade Canada and assassinating British officers as well as creating a sub marine to use to sink ships. They were also Catholic and at that time america was strongly protestant so they did not like them and in many windows of shops and businesses you could find no Irish need apply signs. This went away for the Irish when German started to immigrate to America and people saw them having anarchist ties as well as the Irish participation and support in the Civil War. Now they are seen loyal, law-abiding and patriotic citizens of america who are warmly welcomed. These views of racism went away for the Italians when 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans and the president of Italy forced President Harrison to do something. So he forced congress to help protect foreign nationals as well as passing a Columbus proclamation which wrote Italians into America's founding with this Italians found it easier to write themselves into American culture and starting to end the racism towards them. The way we treat Immigrates today is very much the same and a little bit different. Some ways they are similar is saying that all immigrates have ties to terrorism. Also a lot people do not like the new immigrates because of the religion they practice the only thing really different is that you cannot walk the down the street and see "Muslim no need apply" signs in shop windows.

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guardianangel
Posts: 11

Fear of Change

The Irish and Italians faced immediate discrimination simply because they looked and acted differently than that of the average American of the time. It was a first encounter of foreign people and thus they were met with xenophobia because of the fear of the change that would be brought upon society. To counter the immigrants' attempt of assimilation, the uprising of the public caused legislation to enact laws to bar immigrants from voting or participating in democracy and overall diminishing their natural rights. Not only did the Americans dislike the appearance and behavior of the immigrants but they also hated their beliefs. The belief that immigrants were more loyal to the Pope than the state which is ironic considering how though the American government claims to be secular, the Constitution is set "under God" as said in our pledge of allegiance. Despite the anti-Catholicism of the past, many Americans today practice Catholicism. This is because we have a larger Irish and Italian population than we did before and we have accepted the belief because it is inherently a "white" belief. The definition of white today comes from the desire for European essence. Immigrants today tend to be from countries of war and turmoil just as the Irish and Italians faced in their home countries centuries before. Just as the Irish were called terrorists before, the muslim population is now facing that issue and yet we do not see a group of Irish people defending them but instead pounding that ideology into their heads next to the "native" born Americans. The development of modern racism has redefined who we criminalize in our society and continue to induce fear onto new groups of people entering the country despite the fact that all of us came to America for the reason of finding refuge and success.

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DuckBoots
Posts: 22

Red white and blue boundaries

Being American is a concept that changes every century. It always has exclusions and evolves with each new group in the melting pot. The problem with the Irish and Italian immigrants was that they were catholic and did not fit into the cookiecutter image made by the rebels of the church that landed at Plymouth Rock. According to the article When America Hated Catholics, it was due to every catholicś loyalty to the Pope, a forign entity. The Pope is not royalty, but to a country that hated even the word monarchy or your highness, he was close enough. They became the other when America scented differences and a refusal to conform completely to the red-white-and blue standards.

These suspicions and stereotyping of both these caused the already tough transition for both peoples to be even harder. In the article When Irish Immigrants Were America’s Most Feared Terrorist Group, Irish people desperate for employment and to rise above poverty were written off as violent drunkards who would murder their superiors in cold blood. This ended up driving many frustrated and mistreated men to drink and rebel. It also led to the debated Irish Not Apply signs that caused corruption in the workplace.

For Italian immigrants, in Nico’s presentation we learned about the corruption they faced in court rooms due to the misconceptions of mob and anarchy. Italians were suspect to any crime and extreme violence when they were just trying to climb the social ladder and achieve the promised American dream.

Today the actions of a few individuals define an entire group of immigrants who want to peacefully live and escape violence. Thousands of Mexican families seeking asylum are written off as drug dealers and treated as criminals.

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