- Series: Routledge Classics
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (September 13, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415963095
- ISBN-13: 978-0415963091
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 71 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How the Irish Became White (Routledge Classics) 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
In the first half of the 19th century, some three million Irish emigrated to America, trading a ruling elite of Anglo-Irish Anglicans for one of WASPs. The Irish immigrants were (self-evidently) not Anglo-Saxon; most were not Protestant; and, as far as many of the nativists were concerned, they weren't white, either. Just how, in the years surrounding the Civil War, the Irish evolved from an oppressed, unwelcome social class to become part of a white racial class is the focus of Harvard lecturer Ignatiev's well-researched, intriguing although haphazardly structured book. By mid-century, Irish voting solidarity gave them political power, a power augmented by the brute force of groups descended from the Molly Maguires. With help, the Irish pushed blacks out of the lower-class jobs and neighborhoods they had originally shared. And though many Irish had been oppressed by the Penal Laws, they opposed abolition?even when Daniel O'Connell, "the Liberator," threatened that Irish-Americans who countenanced slavery would be recognized "as Irishmen no longer." The book's structure lacks cohesion: chapters zigzag chronologically and geographically, and Ignatiev's writing is thick with redundancies and overlong digressions. But for the careful reader, he offers much to think about and an important perspective on the American history of race and class.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
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 United States and "became white" by embracing racism, a concept Ignatiev (citing Daniel O'Connell) says they learned in the United States. Ignatiev targets the Irish because they were the largest immigrant group to compete with blacks for manual labor jobs. Does American labor history dismiss racism as an element in the workers' struggles? Did oppression in Ireland under the Penal Laws help to make the Irish oppressors in America, or did they learn racism only after reaching America? While many of the primary sources support Irish racism, fewer support Ignatiev's opinion on where it began. This book is more a springboard for discussion than a source of answers but is strongly recommended for that purpose.?Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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This is why the book both should and should not be read. The above paragraph demonstrates genocide. Note the distancing of "wanting to get rid of white people," and the rationale offered by the reviewer (after reading the book) that it is "only the category" of white people (the supposed "social construct" of an ethnicity.) If the author read work on genocide (including the U.N. protocols) he/she would see that genocide is not necessarily the total wipeout of genes, but rather the system of policies that takes out a group (the "social construct" of "white")---- it is a wipeout of "ethnicity" which is, in fact, in part, ALWAYS a "construct"--- a construction of a multiplex of shared experience, language, trajectory to a country, arts, and so on----- Wiping out this "construct" is genocide.
If one said they are going to end the "social construct" of Asians, then you would see what this means. If one said they do not wish to wipe out Jews but rather, to end the "Social Construct" the "Jew as a category," then this would hardly be ok!!!! If one said they do not wish to destroy African and African descent peoples, but only their false construct, their 'people-ness," the history of how they came to be a people, to self-identify, and so on---- it would be seen as highly questionable. But this person above has absolutely no thoughts of his own.
This is the great danger of having people s/a Ignatiev teach in schools and disseminating his writing to young students. This thinking is increasingly out of vogue, since the 60s, and since the input has had such disasterous effects on so many American, post WWII, when "de-colonization" and the left's drive for "ethnic "identity" politics came to be a commonplace household world. Ethnic factions fighting each other for "increasingly scarce resources" and the "forever wars" and so on, were not American realities prior to WWII, and for centuries those who created America did not have an orientation to this other way of life.
As a Canadian of Scots-Irish ancestry, I found this book fascinating. The history of the Irish in Canada is a bit different from the history of the American Irish; overall I'd say it's less painful. This book shed a lot of light on issues that I didn't expect it to touch, like black-white relations, abolitionism, and the contrast between the antebellum North and South (now I understand a little better why Southerners say they have been unfairly demonized; the Philadelphia and Boston described in the book were hardly freemen's paradise).
When the author says he wants to get rid of the "white race," he doesn't mean that he wants to get rid of white PEOPLE; he means that he wants to get rid of the category, "white," which is neither traditional nor especially meaningful. (I note that the reviewer below refers to the pale-skinned author of the book as "a Jew" rather than as "white" - demonstrating the author's point about race quite handily. "White" clearly refers to something beyond skin colour.) What the author is trying to point out is that blacks were enslaved before the theory of white supremacy came about; people with white skin (in this case the Irish) were not necessarily treated or regarded as "white" automatically; white isn't just a colour, it's a social position that the Irish had to struggle very hard to get, and which was more or less defined by separation from the people who could NOT get that position no matter how hard they tried, i.e. blacks.
I do not see this book as an attempt to smear or blame the Irish. It's not really about the Irish so much as it's a study of American immigration and assimilation to racial ideals, using the Irish as an example. Others could tell and have told similar stories about the Italians, the Jews, etc. In an atmosphere of scarcity, disorder, and brutal competition, people do what they need to do to get by. When there is an upper class and an underclass, people will do their damnedest to get into the upper class, or at least not to fall in with the underclass - this is a matter of survival as well as pride. It's sad to read about disadvantaged people fighting over scraps; it would be nicer to read that blacks and poor immigrants had banded together to fight for freedom, more rights, better pay and working conditions, etc. - but if this is not what happened, it's not Noel Ignatiev's fault, is it?
I would have liked to see a few more chapters - the book ends rather abruptly around the time of Reconstruction, and clearly the assimilation of the Irish into "white" society was not finished at that point. I also think a few of the earlier chapters are a bit unfocussed, but I may just need to re-read.
According to geneticist Cavalli-Sforza's research, the genetic distance between Anglo-Saxons and the Irish is less than 1. They are extremely closely related. Both northern Celtic and Germanic tribes had been closely related for a very long time. Contrast this relatedness, for example, to people who are not related. The genetic distance separating the English from the Japanese is 59. The genetic distance of the English from Sub-Saharan blacks is 109.
I think you get the picture.
Ignatiev is unreliable as a "scholar." This is the same author who once said: "We intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as `the white race' is destroyed,not `deconstructed' but destroyed."
His hatred of European Americans (whites) belies his own research.
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