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Return to Book Page. Ignatiev traces the tattered history of Irish and African-American relations, revealing how the Irish used labor unions, the Catholic Church and the Democratic party to help gain and secure their newly found place in the White Republic.
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Sep 09, Trevor rated it liked it Shelves: history , race , social-theory. This book should actually be called 'how the American Irish became white'. All the same, the current title is a very cute one. As Billy Connolly says somewhere of those of us of a Celtic disposition, we actually start off a pale blue colour and it takes us a couple of weeks in the sun to go white. In fact, a couple of weeks in the sun and we become snakes, having shed multiple layers of skin.
It is only within the last hundred years that the Irish have become white even in Ireland — perhaps only 20 years since they became white in England. I believe Ireland is still the only nation in Europe that has less people now than it did in The population then was about 6. Think about that for a second. Take Australia as a case in point for comparison — the population of Australia in was about 3.
Or rather, what do you have to do to a population to ensure such a result? Google image that to see. So, the question as to when the Irish became white is an interesting one. Not least because, like black Americans, virtually the same dehumanising stereotypes have long been applied to the Irish as to the blacks.
The author presents whiteness as a choice the Irish made, that the Irish had other options but that to become white was their choice. However, this was rarely the case as is documented in detail here. What is interesting in this book is that the author lays much of the blame for this on the labour movement.
So much for proletarian internationalism This is the ugly side of human nature, obviously enough, which no religious precept seems strong enough to counter for all but the very few.
We may like to imagine that the merely poor will do what they can to help the terribly poor - but all too often there is no solidarity between those most in need for the protection of each other.
The officers were fascinated by the local Aboriginals, but held the convicts in utter contempt. It would be going too far to say this was the reason for the subsequent history of Aboriginal Australia, but it certainly set things off on exactly the wrong foot. I guess partly because Australia as a nation is obsessed with borders at the moment.
Our new government punishes some of the most disadvantaged people on earth in inhuman confinement so as to keep the sanctity of our borders. They have a policy to stop people arriving here called Operation Sovereign Borders. We are prepared to send pregnant women, sick children, and disabled children to tiny tent cities on achingly poor Pacific islands. It is obscene and shameful.
But I believe it says something very interesting about how we come to know things. Luhmann says that social institutions set themselves off by delineating themselves in much the same way that cells delineate themselves by creating a cell wall about themselves. There is what is inside and what is outside and this boundary is what creates definition. But like a Coalition Member of Parliament getting to kick a refugee, we police boundaries with care and attention.
Ireland is as good a proof of this as anywhere else. Remember that for over years there have been incredible tensions between two sections of the population, the main difference between them being that one group is rather fond of Jesus and the other group quite likes his mum. And these are people who are identical to one another in virtually every way. So identical that you have to ask the person next to you what school they went to if you are ever going to find out if you should hate them or not.
I liked parts of this book a lot and found a lot of it very interesting. But it really is far too focused on the US and even then mostly only on a couple of states. I found myself wondering how relevant parts where to the overall story. All the same, some people, even Irish people, clearly did support abolition and did have human decency. Racism is not limited to people at the bottom of social structure - but understanding what motivates people to be racist, the economic, social and psychological benefits they receive that encourages them in their racism, is also important.
In the end, racism hurts those on the bottom of the social order much more than those at the top. But not recognising the benefits people feel from racism hardly helps overcome it.
View all 28 comments. Zain Wonderful review, Trevor. Very thoughtful. Jun 02, AM. Apparently it was LBJ and not Malcolm X like I assumed for some reason who said "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.
Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you. It's not so much about how Irish immigrants changed their ethnicity but rather how they learned about the Apparently it was LBJ and not Malcolm X like I assumed for some reason who said "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.
It's not so much about how Irish immigrants changed their ethnicity but rather how they learned about the social structure of their new culture and how to steer it to their advantage. I feel like Ignatiev could have structured his thoughts in a more cohesive manner some topics felt like they were spontaneously thrown in and never touched again , but this is still a really interesting read. What hit me most was the fact that despite centuries of supposed evolution, many things just haven't changed.
Near the end, Ignatiev describes race riots that resulted in murdered black people, and their murderers were relocated of the city instead of indicted.
Boy, don't that sound familiar. This is followed by an account of an autopsy showing that a murdered black man had a chronic kidney condition that would have killed him anyway, and no charges were subsequently made.
Boy, don't THAT sound familiar. In short, I wanted to read this book to use in arguments with white relatives who always want to play Oppression Olympics with our Irish heritage. This book is full of useful and relevant information, so I got what I wanted. Bring on the next family gathering. Shelves: history. When the Irish, particularly the rural Catholic Irish, began to flood the eastern cities of the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century their position in society was very low, the lowest, in fact, of any large immigrant population of the era.
How was it, Ignatiev asks, that they assimilated into the nation? The answer this book gives is not an uplifting one, hinging as it does upon, generally, the manufacture and maintenance of in and out groups and upon, particularly, the When the Irish, particularly the rural Catholic Irish, began to flood the eastern cities of the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century their position in society was very low, the lowest, in fact, of any large immigrant population of the era.
The answer this book gives is not an uplifting one, hinging as it does upon, generally, the manufacture and maintenance of in and out groups and upon, particularly, the race lines established in the USA by African slavery. Despite its grim subject matter, Ignatiev's writing style is lively and absorbing.
There is even humor here, humor of a darkly ironical sort, as all sorts of unlikely alliances come and go through the decades leading up to the Civil War.
Oct 29, Bill rated it really liked it. One finely-written history that challenges a lot of assumptions one may have harbored about our common American past.
It will definitely make you cast a jaundiced eye toward anyone who talks about how hard the Irish had it when they first came to America. It might actually make you wanna slap them silly.
How the Irish Became White
In a book he admits raises more questions than it answers, Ignatiev, a radical activist and editor of the journal Race Traitor, asserts that the Irish were initially discriminated against in the He is co-editor with John Garvey of Race Traitor, an abolitionist magazine. His book, How the Irish Became White describes the change in the status of Irish immigrants in America in the early s. How the Irish Became White. Noel Ignatiev. How The Irish Became White tells the story of how the Irish immigrant went from racially Oppressed to racial Oppressor, an American Story most of us haven't wanted to hear before. Utilizing newspaper chronicles, memoirs, biographies, and official accounts, Noel Ignatiev traces the tattered history of Irish and African-American relations, revealing how the Irish in America used unions, the Catholic Church and the Democratic party to help gain and secure their newly found place in the White Republic.
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He was best known for his work on race and social class and for his call to abolish " whiteness ". Ignatiev was the co-founder of the New Abolitionist Society and co-editor of the journal Race Traitor , which promoted the idea that "treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity". His publisher billed him as "one of America's leading and most controversial historians". His family's original surname, Ignatiev, was changed to Ignatin and later back to the original spelling. His grandparents were from Russia. He was expelled from the POC in He later became involved in the Students for a Democratic Society.