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Cultural Diversity

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The majority of the Irish were potato farmers. In October of 1845 a serious rotting issue began killing off the potato farms (Spartacus). Typhus broke out and killed many Irish families. The main item in the Irish people’s diet was the potatoes. Due to the agricultural disaster people died from famine if Typhus did not get them first. By 1846 an estimated 350,000 people died (Spartacus). In search of a better life nearly two million Irishman emigrated to the U.S.

When the first group of approximately 6, ooo Irishman arrived in the U.S. they suffered from discrimination. According to the Irish American Historical Society (IAHS) there were two major ports of entry; New York and Boston. A majority of the immigrants were poverty stricken which caused them to remain in the port they arrived. The influx in immigrants strained the society’s economy and created hatred. The Irishman was credited for all the economic problems they were now facing. The Irish Americans started being viewed as dirty, lazy and stupid. Competition for housing and jobs grew rapidly. The competition and hatred developed in to discrimination towards the Irish. The new Irish arrivals started being victims of employment discrimination.

The employment ads placed in the newspapers always ended with, “No Irish need apply” (IAHS). Restaurants and hotels started posting signs advising people that Irish were not permitted at their establishment. Since the Irish could not find work they were forced to live in homes with several families living together in one home.

The suffering of Dual Labor took effect in 1851 and 1852. Railroad contractors put out advertisements stating that they were offering good pay for workers. The advertisements did not say that Irishman could not apply. As it turned out mostly Irishman applied for the job building the railroads. The railroad contractors realized that they were employing mainly Irishman and dropped the pay to $0.50 per day.

By 1856 things drastically turned around for the Irish Americans. The Irish became successful businessman and started becoming Generals and Politicians. They were able to elect candidates into political power. Once they developed a voice the reverse discrimination began. The Irish started to feel threatened by the slaves.

Slaves started fighting for their right to freedom. The Irish had little sympathy for the slaves and did not want to see them receive their freedom. The Irish feared that if the slaves were offered freedom that they would threaten their jobs. A newspaper article written by John Mitchel said “He would be a bad Irishman who voted for principles which jeopardized the present freedom of a nation of white men, for the vague forlorn hope of elevating blacks to a level for which it is at least problematical whether God and Nature ever intended them.”

However statistics would show that maybe a majority of the Irishman did not feel as strongly against the black slaves as initially portrayed. The Civil War began and thousands of Irishman fought for what they thought was right. 170, 000 Irishman fought for the Union and only 40, 000 Irish American men fought for the Confederate side.

If I had to decide whether I culturally identify with the ethnic group I examined or the United States mainstream culture I would have to say I identify with both the United States mainstream culture and the Irish. The Irish are strong fighters and have accomplished quite a bit. There are many similarities between the United States and the Irish. I am more of a fast paced, mainstream girl than I see the Irish being. However, the Irish have been at the bottom and struggled their way to the top. I suffer from discrimination both by beliefs that I was raised with and views people have of me. In studying the Irish it was interesting to discover that they experienced discrimination and reverse discrimination. In life all ethnic groups have been a part of discrimination and reverse discrimination. It is easy to fall into a generalized hatred and just as easy to forget what it felt like when you were the victim.

References

Immigration and Discrimination. Retrieved September 18, 2009 from: The Irish American Historical Society (IAHS). http://www.sunflower.com/~caitlin/immigration.html

Irish Immigration, retrieved September 19, 2009 from: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAEireland.htm…...

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