The Irish Way
Analysis of Chapters
The book, “The Irish Way” by James R. Barrett describes the life of Irish immigrants who went to start new lives in America after conditions at home became un-accommodative. The author of the book has structured it in a very interesting manner. To show the various interactions of the Irish immigrants, the book has been subdivided into sections namely, The Parish, The Street, The Stage, The Workplace, The Nation and The Machine. This essay however focus on two of three sections that is, The Workplace, The Stage and The Nation as well as the introductory part of the book.
The Workplace looks at the interactions of the Irish people at the workplace. It explores some of the jobs that the Irish immigrants found once they came into the American nation and how they made their daily livelihood. The immigrants who arrived earlier mainly took to agriculture while those who arrived in the later eras took on a variety of jobs including industrial work. The look at the interactions of these Irish immigrants with those they met on the workplace, how they developed within the workplace and the efforts they took to improve themselves. The author also looks at the various conflicts that often emerged between different Irish groups as well as members of other ethnicities at the workplace. The author particularly looks at how the Irish spread across the Eastern Coast and the Mid-West across cities like New York and Chicago as well as the Mid-West as they looked for work.
The Stage mainly looks at the interactions of the Irish and other migrant group on the entertainment platform specifically the vaudeville stage. He explores how the Irish slowly got themselves involved in stage dramas at they became more assimilated into the nation He also shows the implications of the stage on the lives of both the Irish as well as other immigrants and also other ethnicity groups including the native tribes that the migrant felt encountered.
The Nation mainly takes on a more general perspective where the author looks at the place of the Irish on the national platform. Being the first immigrants to make their way into America, the Irish paved way for migrants form all other parts of the world, especially Europe. The author looks at the implications of the Irish on the country including their relationships with the natives as well as other immigrants. He looks at the distribution of the Irish immigrants in the early years as they slowly scattered from the Eastern coast where may were concentrated and started moving inland to other parts of the nation.
The three sections described above are just some of the different sections that the author has subdivided his book into to relay his message in way that is more understandable. From the chapters, a number of things can be deduced as will be shown in the discussion below.
The Irish were not the only were not the only foreign ethnic group that has arrived in America. It was, however, the mass exodus of Irish people during and after the great famine that saw the use of the word “immigrant” being used to refer to them. Irish people descended to America fully loaded with their culture and religious beliefs that according to the writer of this book enabled them to assimilate faster into the American society more than any other group. Phrases and words like, Irish-American police officers, Irish-American teachers, Irish –American politicians were coined in social cultural set up of America. This wave shaped the process of assimilating other immigrants that came after them.
The writer classified this group of Irish people according to their characteristics. This group was highly ferocious and exhibited an alacrity and lust of land that originated from the Northern part of Ireland. This group was comprised of individuals who were conservative Christians who loved living in their own clique of clans. They were also very cruel and intolerant towards Indians. Because of their characteristics, they were referred to as settlers. Their characteristics made them be assimilated faster in America than their constituent compatriots who originated from the southern part of the county. The other group of Irish people that arrived in America was the native Gaelic Irish people who arrived in New York and other eastern coastal cities in the 19th century. This group was rather timid as compared to the other group of Immigrants. Their personal attributes made them subject to many vicious prejudices and stereotypes. This group had to struggle for their way into acceptance and incorporation into the American society.
As mentioned earlier, James Barrett looks at the lives of the Irish people in cities like Chicago and New York. These cities had already reorganized themselves in well-established social divisions. Racism was ripe in these states, and this defined the reception of Irish people in those states. The reception was cold especially towards the Gaelic group of the Irish people. Barrette’s focus was on the third generation of Irish American people after they had settled. He has outlined how these people had an upper hand in assimilation by the fact that they were able to speak English. In this book, James Barrett outlines a number of careers that several Irish people professed in despite the discouraging stereotypes, poverty and widespread unemployment. The culture of Irish people largely influenced and shaped the process of Americanization and modern American culture. In the process of addressing the problems they were facing, they interacted with other ethnic groups and slowly their identity was being shaped and at the same time becoming part of the larger American family with its diverse culture and multiple ethnic groups.
A number of conflicts have been analyzed in this book of James Barrett. This is mainly shown in ‘The Nation’ chapter where the author explores the interactions of the Irish with other members of the early American nation and how they often resulted into conflict. The interesting thing is that conflicts not only rose between the Irish as general community with other ethnic communities, but there were also some conflicts between the Irish themselves. As will be shown below, most of the conflicts were racially oriented and often resulted to exploration.
During the time of the first group of Northern Ireland settlement in America and the subsequent arrival of Gaelic Irish, they were mainly discriminated upon, and different stereotypes arose against them. The Native America feared immigrants, as they perceived them as a threat to their national cohesion, culture and as competitors on the available resources and opportunities. This, therefore, explained the hostility they faced during their arrival in America. They faced prejudice and hostility and phrases were coined that were meant to demoralize them. A term “paddy Irishman” was part of racial slurs that were hailed on them. The situation was to change later as they etched themselves deeper into the American society.
Another social conflict underlined in this book was the conflict between the Irish-American citizen and the citizens of Indian origin. Typically, Irish people looked down upon the Indian citizens. The writer notes that the Irish people were slowly forgetting their own fate of how they too were the subject of discrimination and callous victimization in the line of race and under a cold hand of colonialism. These Irish people, especially those from Northern Ireland were very cruel and serial racists. They even discriminated against their very own countrymen who were of Gaelic origin. Racial slurs and violence made life difficult to Indians in the hands of economically stable and socially powerful Irish people.
African Americans were not spared either by these people. The writer noted that there was animosity that was directed towards the blacks. If there was any group that bore the brunt of animosity from Irish people, it was the black African American population. Irish population exuded hatred towards blacks’ citizens to the extent of forming criminal gangs such as Merry Clouters in a sole aim of causing havoc and sufferings to the black population. These criminal gangs conducted various attacks towards African American people. They wounded them, killed them and did all sorts of dehumanizing acts only because they had a darker skin tone. The writer termed this as shameful practice since they too (Irish people) were at one time subjected to dehumanizing treatments of the colonial era and the subsequent discrimination in the land of America.
Afterwards more immigrants continued to flow in America. Various ethnic groups like Jews, Italians and Slavs trooped into America after the Irish people had long settled. These groups too were met by the same fate that faced Irish people who preceded them. Only that, this time round, it was Irish people who were subjecting them to this treatment.
Advancement in economic prosperity also led to the emergence of new lines of discrimination. Industrialization was taking form and Irish people were at the center of it. Economic prosperity created another line of racism as opportunities were given to the general public in a way that was greatly skewed towards one ethnic group while other ethnic groups that were on the receiving end received a lesser position in terms of opportunities and economic gains. This made ethnic groups such as African Americans and Indians appear at the bottom of social hierarchy that was in place.
According to this book by James Barrett, it is clear that Irish population contributed heavily in shaping the new process of Americanization and a new city culture. They had an advantage in the size of their population and also due to their natural talents of politics. Their election into leadership positions gave them an upper hand in influencing the normal course of life and exercising control on new immigrants. Their action whether positive or negative had a high influence in the lives of other ethnic groups. This therefore explained a high prevalence of racism in America in 18th 19th, early 20th century since Irish people were racist, and they occupied high positions of influence in country’s administration.
In this book ‘The Irish way by James Barrett,’ gradually unfolded the lives of Irish American from the time they arrived in America, through the process of assimilation and their influence on other ethnic group through interactions and conflicts. With time, as evidenced in the book of Barrett, Irish people started coming of age and they occupied various leadership positions together with a number of professional occupations that made them economically progressive. This economic success came along with power and influence. This influence mostly was directed towards racial segregation rather than national cohesion. It was because of their practice that racial profiling got a deeper root in American society in those times and afterwards. The power of the Irish inadvertently led to racism that saw them massively exploit the members of the less dominant ethnical societies.
Irish people also contributed greatly to the industrial revolution in the country. Some were skilled while others offered semi-skilled labor that was needed in these industries. Apart from their contribution in industries, they contributed to the growth of trade unions that was out to fight for the rights of employees in all sectors of the economy. Theatre also experienced an exponential growth and development as many of Irish people manifested their presence and interest in it. Irish people were a staunch Christian and ardent believers in their faith. Due to this Christianity spread in the country and became the number one religion.
A democratic society is one in which all members share equal rights. People in a democratic society are usually governed by rules and laws that are applied equally to all members. In such a society, everybody is treated regardless of his or her social orientation. For instance, the social divisions of gender, race, religion and status have very minimal implication son the activities of the society.
The book the Irish Way to a large part exhibits the ethnical conflict that constantly plagued the Irish, not only between themselves but also with members of other ethnicities, for instance the Native Indians and the African Americans. The hostility between the three groups proved to be detrimental to their social development and had democracy prevailed, the situation would have been very different.
The ugly incidence of racism that was evidence in this case of the Irish could have been averted if they Irish and the other societies had learnt to live democratically. They should have adopted the value and belief systems that people in a democratic society usually practice. The major one is that all individuals regardless of their race are created equally and al have a say in matters affecting them. In addition, people in a democratic society do not engage in acts meant to harm their fellow ci5izens but rather try to avert bad incidences that may hurt the entire society.
The government also has a role to play in the reinforcement of democracy in the society and in this case, there are several things that might been done to cut down on the prominence of racism and ethnic exploitation.
There were a number of remedies that the then government would have used to avoid racial segregation and violence that came along with racism. The government needed to enact policies that discouraged racism by abolishing racial segregation and making human rights applicable to all citizens. The government also needed to put a humanly mechanism of assimilating immigrants. Fair distribution of public resources and availing equal opportunities to all citizens were a thing that required government effort.
In curing racism and other discriminations, a responsible citizen is required to manifest empathy towards one other and to have a heart of helping each other.
Faced with this problem of racism that had a magnitude strong enough to blow out peaceful co-existence and security in the country, I would have formed a lobby group that would fight for the rights of minority groups and champion equal treatment to all ethnic groups. Another thing I would advocate is if for various laws to be instituted in regulating immigrants since immigrants have an influence on our social, economic and political orientation here in the United States.