They were the Niggers of Ireland. They poured out of their homeland in the thousands. In their own native land, their street were filled with beggars. Women with emaciated forms, sunken eyes and pallid skin were nursing infants screaming from hunger at the lack of nutrition from their mother’s breast. Nearly a million came to New York City, fleeing British oppression and a devastating famine from their chief export and food source: The potato.
When they arrived in 1840, they were quickly herded into ghettos in Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens. And though they faced similar forms of racism as blacks, there was a pronounced anti-black sentiment in these newly arrived Irish refugees. While they were not subject to the horrors of chattel slavery, they were key recruits for the slightly milder version of bondage known as indentured servitude. Their poverty was of such extremities that children born in the 19th century had a 80% mortality rate. Irish women, unskilled as they were, worked mostly as maids and prostitutes. While Irish men was stereotyped as violent criminals.
Their only saving grace was that the Irish possessed a very powerful voting block for the New York Political Machines. Party bosses traded their political patronage for employment in the Police Departments. So heavy was their presence in the police department that the ethnic slur, paddy, short for the Irish name of Patrick, was used to describe the wagons by which criminals were transported in to be charged for a criminal violation. In the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) communities, signs were hung which stated No Irish Need Apply (NINA), pockmarked the businesses along the crowded urban sectors of the city.
Through their collective political bargaining, they also gained control of the labor unions and excluded blacks from many skill trade jobs across the City. Black Abolitionist Fredrick Douglas stated that:”The Irish, who at home, readily sympathized with the oppressed everywhere, are taught to hate and despise the negro. The cruel lies told them, that we deprive them of labor, or receive the money that would otherwise make it into their pockets.” This contrived racial antagonism pitted blacks against the Irish for low paying jobs, as black were used as scabs against strikes led by Irish controlled unions. During this time, blacks made no great cry for the deportation of the Irish.
Almost 100 yrs later, another immigrant group would arrive on America’s shores seeking an escape from political oppression. The overthrow of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Battista caused great alarm for the white Cubans in the country. They feared the implementation of a communist government that would snatch control of private property and nationalize vast portions of the Cuban economy. From 1959-79, they piled into the country by the hundreds of thousands. How would America react to this vast invasion of Cuban refugees onto its shores? They gave them instant asylum.
They created operation Pedro Pan; funneling Cuban born children into pipelines of relatives, foster homes, orphanages and boarding schools. Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which gave these immigrants more than $1.3 billion of direct financial assistance. It also made them eligible for Medicare, scholarships, low interest loans and free English courses. With this most empowering form of social welfare, these refugees took over the most profitable business sectors in Miami. But the worst was yet to come.
From April 15-October 30 1980, over 10,000 Cuban refugees arrived in what would come to be known as the Mariel Boatlift. This journey was negotiated by both the U.S. & Cuban governments. Though it supposedly was a flight from Cuba of the middle class, it was later discovered that the ferry contained criminals recently released from Cuban jails, as well as, mentally infirmed patients from Cuban mental asylums. It was widely suspected, if not admitted, that these passengers formed the backbone of a drug network worth billions of dollars, which turned Miami into a blood bath during the late 70’s and early 80’s. But what was more interesting is that despite the influx of new unskilled laborers, which increased the employment rate from 5.0 to 7.1% percent in Miami, there was virtually no disturbance in the wage rates of black and white workers in Miami.
There was no outcry for them to be deported. Even though many of them continued to enter through the Texas border up until 2005 under the wet feet, dry feet policy, an explosion of the Cuban population in many cities along the border caused little to no alarm. Again, no outcry from anyone concerning deportation of Cuban refugees.
This recent obsession with immigration control brought on by the Trump presidency’s America First ideology, focuses primarily on Mexicans fleeing the effects of a North American creation called NAFTA. While many entertain the overblown instances of brown vandals descending on America for criminal motivations, The U.S. Justice Department Special Study from 2012-2015 shows Hispanics had a lower rate of violent crimes than both blacks and whites. Another study conducted by the Cato Institute further illustrated that illegal immigrants are less likely to commit violent crime in comparison to native born citizens. The study went on to say that crime rates for “gambling, kidnapping, smuggling, and vagrancy,” were admittedly higher for illegal immigrants. But those convictions were so small as to have little effect on overall crime rates. So much for the illegal immigrant predators.
Finally, using studies from government economists, it is estimated by economists such as Black Professor, Dr. William Higgins at Howard University, that when viewed through the lens of a 30 yr period over areas where mass immigration took place, immigration, illegal or otherwise, had very little effect on black unemployment. While Fox and other right wing outlets maintain the contrary, other reports seem to confirm Dr. Higgins’ assessment. It was further demonstrated that illegal immigrant wages resulted in an 11.6 billion dollar infusion into the economy. Admittedly, there are studies that estimate the cost of illegal immigration to be over 100 billion, these studies are still under scrutiny by economists as they do not include key information concerning housing cost, measurable benefits that result from unreported income, and the rate of transition of illegal immigrants into the work force as they obtain an economic infrastructure for family based small businesses.
But if the cost is in question, and the benefits remain unmeasured, then why all of this outrage from black ventriloquists with reactionary talking points? Answer: POLITICS! Donald Trump cannot in all seriousness implement the 35% tax on American corporations promised during his campaign for the presidency. Nor does he have any real control of the flight of transnational corporations from American shores. So he needs a distraction. Attacking the most vulnerable in society is the path of least resistance because it resonates with the inner bigotry that resides inside of the psyche of the everyday white American. It sacrifices pragmatism for paranoia. It trades substance for form.
As far black Americans, attacking the weak allows them access to the counterfeit currency of the psychic wages of whiteness——That one taboo that we have coveted since the days of Jim Crow. It is indeed a perverse irony that after generations of fighting white racism, that we now imbibe the contemptuous wine of white racial hegemony against a dark skinned people speaking a foreign tongue. How desperate we must be to want to beat the physically handicapped at a game of basketball.
TONY MACEO is a Senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the chief blogger at Power & Strategy.com. Like, share and subscribe to the website. Or become a Patron at Powerofstrategies on Patreon.