3

Anti-Irish sentiment in the United States previously involved depictions of Irish migrants as non-human primates. While historians have debated the prevalence of contemporaneous "No Irish Need Apply" signs, such a sentiment was widely discussed, with Irish Americans referencing it after 1860. For the sake of this question, I take the decline in both of these phenomena as suggestive of a decline in US anti-Irish sentiment.

Sources such as Ignatiev 1995 argue Irish migrants to the United States were initially perceived as non-white, and that the subsequent classification of Irish Americans as white and the decline in anti-Irish sentiment was largely driven by Irish alignment with anti-black racism, beginning with support for the Democratic Party in the antebellum North. The idea that Irish Americans have only recently been considered white is often cited, at least by non-historians, as an example of how whiteness is a social construct.

However, Arnesen 2001 argues such analyses conflate race with economic status and ignore the legal rights provisioned to Irish immigrants c. 1830, and concludes a former classification of Irish people as not white is a product of historical revisionism.

Is a changing definition of whiteness part of the explanation for anti-Irish sentiment's decline in the US? Is anti-black racism among Irish Americans part of the explanation for said decline or such a change in definition? What other factors were integral to the decline in anti-Irish sentiment?

  • It declined when more visually obviously different groups began arriving in large numbers. – Semaphore Dec 18 '18 at 11:15
  • @Semaphore Such as the yellow peril? If that's the explanation, was it mediated by the reactions of the Irish, other white groups or a combination? – J.G. Dec 18 '18 at 11:29
  • I was observing that anti-Irish sentiments seems to have faded out around the same time the Great Migration, which brought Southern blacks into the North, was starting. I'm sure the explanation is more complex and multifaceted than that, though. – Semaphore Dec 18 '18 at 12:14
  • 1
    To some extent, it wasn't so much the "Irish peril" as the "Catholic peril". After Catholicism became more socially acceptable (c.f. JFK), anti-Irish prejudice declined. Anti-Catholicism was a big thing in 1800's US, but was mostly dead by WW2. – Robert Columbia Dec 19 '18 at 3:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.