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.