St. Patrick’s Day is here again and around the United States, those of Irish ancestry and those who just want to make merry are commemorating the day with parades, Irish food and drink, and the “wearin’ of the green.”
Irish immigrants have been a part of this country from its beginning, but the largest numbers arrived between 1820 and 1860, with 2,000,000 immigrants arriving in that span. 75% of those immigrants were fleeing the incredible poverty and starvation of Irish potato famine.
Upon arrival, Irish Catholics were often targets of stereotyping and discrimination as they were seen as drunk, lazy, prone to criminal behavior, and shiftless. Because the Irish were Celts and not Anglo-Saxon, some also considered them to be racially inferior. Signs appeared in classified ads and shop windows advising that “Irish Need Not Apply” for open positions. Many also worried that the Irish propensity to bear many children per family would displace the dominant American Protestant religion.
Fast forward a century and a half to today, as all things Irish are universally celebrated by Americans and we dye our rivers green, America is grateful for the contributions that generations of Irish immigrants have made to this country. We should be equally mindful of the contributions that immigrants from other parts and their descendants have made, are making, and will make for generations to come, particularly where some of the stereotypes similar to those applied to the Irish seem to be lurking behind debate on current immigration policy.
I’ll have all of this in mind as I raise a glass this St. Patrick’s Day. In the spirit of the day, I’ll leave you with one of my dad’s favorite Irish toasts:
May those who love us,
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.
St. Patrick’s Day is here again and around the United States, those of Irish ancestry and those who just want to make merry are commemorating the day with parades, Irish…
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