I blame Imani at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, although it’s not really her fault. Someone else posted this godawful image on her Facebook page, and so I happened upon it this afternoon. It’s from a Facebook page called – and I’m not making this up – “American White History Month,” which is described thusly:
This is a page where “white Americans” can learn about white history, and current events that affect us and our future. It is also where anyone can learn about our heritage. Please share this page and tell your friends about us.
In no way should the information on “American White History Month” be used for hatred, antisemitism [sic], racism, violence or to commit any illegal act against any person of color.
This page is about information and education of white people and the preservation of our unique Heritage. Be respectful and polite and treat others as you want to be treated but remember – Truth is not Racist and Facts are not Hate!
Yes, Truth is not Racist. But a whole lot of racist motherfuckers are.
Look, anybody not in a vegetative state knows that terms like “white heritage” and “white culture” are all about racism, and to pretend otherwise just makes you a racist and a coward.
But that’s not what pisses me off here. What pisses me off here is the attempt to co-opt Irish-Americans and the Irish experience into plain old garden variety white racism. As someone who’s half Irish and all lawyer, I’m going to say this as bluntly as I possibly can: Fuck a whole bunch of white supremacists and their fucking Ku Klux Klan bullshit.
Yes, I know. There’ve been plenty of bitterly racist Irish Americans throughout the history of our republic. Fuck them, too. Each and every one of them. That just goes to show that nobody’s better than anybody else in this world.
But if you’re of Irish descent and you don’t feel a natural empathy for other traditionally disadvantaged groups, you’re not very good at being Irish. Or, maybe you just need a history lesson:
The Great Famine in Ireland began as a natural catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude, but its effects were severely worsened by the actions and inactions of the Whig government, headed by Lord John Russell in the crucial years from 1846 to 1852.
Altogether, about a million people in Ireland are reliably estimated to have died of starvation and epidemic disease between 1846 and 1851, and some two million emigrated in a period of a little more than a decade (1845-55). Comparison with other modern and contemporary famines establishes beyond any doubt that the Irish famine of the late 1840s, which killed nearly one-eighth of the entire population, was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times.
In fact, the Great Hunger was just one, albeit the deadliest, of a series of atrocities visited upon the Irish over hundreds of years of oppression. Under the Penal Laws imposed on Ireland beginning in the 1600s, our ancestors couldn’t hold public office, serve in the military, vote in elections, work on equal terms with their Protestant neighbors, and their property rights were severely limited.
Needless to say, I would never suggest that the Irish in America experienced anything like the suffering of African slaves and their descendants in America, but experience of the Irish in Ireland was remarkably similar. That doesn’t mean we of Irish descent can claim to know what it’s like to be Black in America, but it damn sure means that we should empathize with African Americans.
Moreover, we should never forget that there’s a long-standing tradition of anti-Catholic prejudice within the white supremacist movement:
One factor that made the Klan of the 1920s unique, however, was its intensified hostility toward immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. The Klan’s anti-Catholicism stemmed from the belief that Catholics could not be good Americans if they maintained allegiance to the pope. Furthermore, they believed Catholics sought exclusion from mainstream America by maintaining their own schools. In the Klan’s view, priests threatened intact families by exerting greater influence over women and children than the male head of household. Klan propaganda hysterically portrayed Catholics as potentially winnowing their way into government (à la Al Smith) and turning America over to Rome.
And that bigotry persisted well into the Cold War period. Recall that America’s one and only Catholic president, Irish American John F. Kennedy, had to go before the American people to explain his religion and to defend his allegiance to the country in a manner in which no Protestant ever had to … until Barack Obama was forced to do the same thing in 2008.
The bottom line is, you can’t be truly Irish if you side with the oppressors. So to all you racist jackasses trying to co-opt Irish Americans and the Irish experience, this Irish American says: Póg mo thóin, motherfuckers!
This land was always ours, it was the proud land of our fathers/It belongs to us and them, not to any of the others …
[Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]