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Ethnic Groups And Discrimination: Irish Americans

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Irish immigration to the United States did not come without its share of hardships. The overall treatment of these individuals was very poor and unwelcoming. The Irish population was among the lowest rung on the socio-economic ladder. Promises of a better life in the United States were thwarted by prejudice, racism, segregation and many other forms of discrimination.

Prejudice, Racism and Segregation

Amidst the immigration of the Irish to America, this group of people was far from welcomed with open arms into the land of opportunity. The moment they stepped off the ships from Ireland, they were segregated into the most impoverished areas to seek shelter in slums and attempted to fit their entire families into rooms no bigger than today's average bedroom. As a group, the Irish were shunned and turned away from many job opportunities being confronted by signs which stated "Irish need not apply". Their many attempts to show their allegiance by working hard and taking on jobs many did not want, went unnoticed by Americans who saw these attempts as a way to make American that came before them look bad. This resulted in much taunting and even resulted in physical altercations. Despite having white skin and being English speaking, the Irish were looked at as an inferior race. Samuel Morse wrote, "the Irish were shamefully illiterate and without opinion of their own." Americans viewed the Irish as worse than Blacks due to the outward manner in which Irishmen proclaimed their mistreatment where Blacks "knew their place." (Axia College, week three reading, aXcess, ETH125-Cultural Diversity Course Website, 2006).

Reverse Discrimination

The Irish were against the freeing of slaves due to fears of Blacks competing for the same unskilled jobs the Irish maintained (Axia College, week three reading, aXcess, ETH125-Cultural Diversity Course Website, 2006). Americans could pay the Blacks much less for the same labor; therefore, causing loss of Irishmen's positions even if their job performance was satisfactory or better. While it is arguable if the Irish were necessarily better skilled at these jobs than the Blacks, the Irish were definitely within possibility of being replaced in positions by a lower minority than they felt they were.

Dual Labor Market

As discussed in a previous paragraph, business owners posted signs stating "Irish need not apply" outside of their establishments. Jobs were not easily obtained due to the prejudice shown toward the Irish population. When jobs could be found, they were unskilled labor positions including: unloading cargo ships, paving roads, digging canals, railroad, construction and textile mill positions.

Double Jeopardy

Irish women were destined for domestic or nursing jobs when positions could be found. These positions paid little money and required long hours. Due to the time commitment needed for these jobs and the need for much of the money earned to be sent back to families still in Ireland, it was not uncommon for Irish women who came to America unmarried to remain that way. Irish women that did marry, more than likely joined in union with a non-Irish man. They were forced to give up their employment to stay home with the children of the marriage. This made the women socially isolated and economically dependent on their spouse (Mind: For Better Mental Health. (2008). Mental Health for Irish Born people in Britain).


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