I never realized Black History Month was so contentious until this year. Never have I witnessed so many up in arms about a dedicated month to celebrate the contributions made by African Americans. I was asked why can’t there be an Irish History Month or a Confederate Flag Day. In the spirit of satisfying as many American citizens as possible, I’ve decided to create a list of contributions as well as atrocities suffered by our Irish American citizens and see if it warrants a month of celebration.
· The Irish were stolen from their native homelands, subjected to torturous passage to the colonies where they were enslaved for more than 200 years
· The Irish were bought and sold, families torn apart, considered livestock and routinely murdered for entertainment during their slavery
· When Irish slavery was finally abolished, the Irish were still not considered fully human and they continued to be treated unfairly, their homesteads often pillaged and burned, Irish women raped and beaten, Irish men hanged
· When the Irish went looking for work, they were routinely turned away by signs saying “Irish Not Need Apply”
· Irish children were not allowed to go to school with non-Irish children and Irish families were not allowed to eat in many restaurants, stay in certain hotels or ride on mass transportation
· The Irish were held back by laws created to keep them in a position of helplessness and poverty. Many of these laws prohibited The Irish from voting, applying for bank loans, going to college or starting a business
· The Irish are fighters and they demanded justice and equality from the United States Government
· However, the discrimination continued as loan or job applications were turned down when banks and employers glanced at the name McDonald or O’Rourke
· Many Irish, determined to become great American citizens, did so by enlisting in our military, serving in every major American war and rising through the ranks to Generals and Admirals
· The Irish have given America great leaders, many whom, unfortunately were assassinated by a bigot’s bullet. This did not deter the Irish. They formed organizations to strengthen their quest for equality by creating schools and universities when they were denied entrance into others, political action committees to petition for Irish representation where it had been absent for hundreds of years, watch groups to protect Irish citizens when police refused assistance and Irish churches where The Irish could worship and pray in peace
· Despite advances in Irish American life, Irish Americans still have the highest percentage of unemployment in America, highest percentage of infant mortality under the age of 3, Irish American women are more likely than non-Irish American women to die in childbirth and Irish Americans are least likely to prosper in a thriving economy
· Irish American men have a greater percentage of mental health issues as many suffer from a form of PTSD brought on by the constant struggle to be treated fairly and equally in America. Depression often leads Irish American men to drug addiction and crime at a higher rate due to lack of mental health treatment and the historical fear and distrust Irish Americans have for the medical profession
· The Irish have been instrumental in the forming of America and the world in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics; not to mention the countless inventions by Irish Americans for which we rely on without the least bit of knowledge that an Irish American is responsible
· Irish American culture IS American culture as it has impacted every aspect of American society from dance, dress, language, religion, music, literature, cuisine, yet strangely remains untold
This is only the tip of the proverbial Irish American iceberg.
By recognizing Irish Americans, their contributions, their history of tribulations and triumphs, their continued struggle for equality some 400 years after the first Irish slave was brought to the colonies, perhaps we can all gain a better understanding of Irish Americans and appreciate them as a people. By learning about Irish American history, we can all, as Americans, work to ensure we don’t repeat the brutalities of the past and pave a road to a better future for Irish American people.
See what I did here?