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How the Irish Became White, Part 3

[1]3,221 words

Part 3 of 3

Apropos of Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White [2] (New York and London: Routledge, 1995)

Nativism, Ignatiev writes, ‘lost out not to the vision of a nonracial society, but to a society polarized between black and white’. In the process, the Irish allegedly ‘became white’. He is wrong on both counts.

‘Became white’: what could this possibly mean? Did the Irish become white in the way Northern Anglo-Protestants or Southerners were ‘white’? Was there some other category of white for them? Peter Quinn claims the more interesting question is: How did the Irish stay Irish? (Peter Quinn, Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America [2007].)

These questions, suggesting a certain cultural chasm between the whiteness of Kathleen Ni Houlihan and that of Uncle Sam, interest the whiteness historians not in the least, as they ideologically assume that whites are something of a homogenized monolith and that when the Hibernian ‘interlopers’ ‘became white’ they did so in a way that had little cultural significance, except racially – it was all a matter of black or white. The historians accordingly ignore or demote the significance of rival Gaelo-Catholic and Anglo-Protestant conceptions of Americanism (or whiteness) and thus the larger cultural/religious differences (that were actually quite small compared to non-white races and peoples) that have always separated whites of one national family from another – especially in America.

The anti-essentialists may claim whiteness has no cultural depth – Mick or Yank, same difference. But if the Irish became ‘white’, why did they continue to oppose the Saxons or see themselves as Celts? And why did no one tell the KKK in 1928 that Al Smith was ‘white’? The fact is that there was no ‘smooth, self-propelled passage into whiteness’ for the Irish, who refused to abandon their culture, religion, and identity in order to assimilate the Republic’s middle-class, highly Judaicized, Anglo-Protestant culture.

The Irish would eventually acculturate, but they never fully assimilated (for they were caught between two cultural worlds and were forced to forge a new identity from this cultural clash). Not coincidently, Gaelo-Americans and Anglo-Americans remained divided until the 1960s, even after the former had ‘made it’  – particularly over issues of racial integration and birth control. Then, after the Sixties and the final transition from ghetto to suburb, there was no more Irish America or WASP America – only the abominations of Transamerica. (John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History [2003]; Everett H. Akam, Transnational America: Cultural Pluralist Thought in the Twentieth Century [2002].)

From an arguably more explanatory perspective, US history can be seen as a history of intra-racial strife between different kinds of whites over religion, section, and class rather than as a strict interracial polarization between whites and blacks, as the whiteness historians (along with not a few white nationalists) contend. These historians also snub the fact that, from the beginning, America was a highly ‘segmented’ society – with few overarching standards and numerous divergent traditions – all of which further divided whites and retarded their ethnogenesis. (Robert H. Wiebe, The Segmented Society: An Historical Preface to the Meaning of America [1975].) Given its fuzziness, the social construct of so-called whiteness cannot but slight the complexities that come with meaningful differences created by nature, history, and culture – differences that effectively resist the formlessness of a truly egalitarian world.

(As an aside, I might mention that the WASPs were not exactly ‘white Anglo-Saxon Protestants’ nor were they the caste-like ruling class Digby Baltzell made them out to be, but rather a motley bunch, with almost as many ‘savage Ulstermen’ and ‘boorish Palatinate Germans’ in their ranks as Anglo-Saxons – along with some Jews and even a few Catholics – and though they (the WASPs) were all ‘old money’, listed in the Social Register, and sent their sons to elite New England boarding schools, they were never exclusively Anglo-Saxon and never totally exclusionary toward other white ethnic groups, with the possible exception of Catholics. It was actually something of an ‘open admissions aristocracy’ (in the spirit of the country’s historic Protestant pluralism). The WASP as a social designation was also broader than what is called the ‘American East Coast Establishment’ – led by Wall Street international bankers – constituting the ‘ruling class’ in the Marxist sense. In a country, though, where class realities were not readily acknowledged and where status was confused with power, class realities often assumed ethnic form, with the ‘elites’ identified as WASP [actually, ‘Yankee’ or ‘American’] and the working class as Irish [later ‘ethnic’]. [Robert C. Christopher, Crashing the Gates: The De-WASPing of America’s Power Elite (1989)].)


However disoriented in passing from their pre-modern peasant world to the great bustling metropolitan centers of the New World (New York City preeminently), the Irish didn’t take long to figure out the difference between whites and blacks, and which side was theirs. Given their history and identity, though, they spurned the Anglo-Saxonist notion of whiteness, and instead defined themselves as ‘Celts’ – a branch of the white race spiritually opposed to the profanities of the ‘sourfaced Saxons’ and their North American cousins. For however dispossessed and cut off from the main sources of American social advancement and power, the Irish treated middle class Protestant morality with the cynicism ‘it deserved’.

They also felt a certain Catholic disdain for Anglo-Protestants — heretics and gombeen men that they were. As the Australian historian, Patrick O’Farrell, writes: ‘The English raised up against themselves a people who were as convinced of their superiority in the spiritual realm as the English were in the temporal’. Given also their distrust of Protestant institutions and the Republican Party’s Social Darwinian theory of ‘free labor’ that prevented working people from organizing and making collective demands on industrialists, it would be clan and community that counted most with the Irish, not the American Dream of success (whose pursuit entailed sacrificing one’s identity).

Instead, the Irish would stand or fall together. ‘Unlike other immigrants’, Bill Williams observes, ‘the Irish had to succeed as a people, not just as individuals’. Later, with Father Coughlin and Senator McCarthy, the Irish (along with the Germans) would show that they were even ‘better’ Americans than the Anglo-Protestant elites of the New Deal coalition, eager collaborators with Jews, Communists, and degenerates. (Patrick O’Farrell, Ireland’s English Question: Anglo-Irish Relations 1534–1970 [1971]; Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race [1998]; William H. A. Williams, ‘Twas Only an Irishman’s Dream’: The Image of Ireland and the Irish in American Popular Songs Lyrics, 1800–1920 [1996].)

If the Irish implicitly rejected aspects of America’s Anglo-Protestant heritage, especially those that demonized Catholicism or reduced human relations to the cash nexus, they nevertheless whole-heartedly embraced the liberty and opportunity of this thriving Protestant country – free of Carthaginian landlords and their oppression. Indeed, their nationalist dream of a liberated Ireland was modeled on the American Republic – itself born in struggle against English imperialism. (Wasn’t George Washington, ‘whose very name evoked images of the empire on its head’, the idol of the last Gaelic bards?)

The Irish were determined to be part of this ‘first new nation’ – determined to become American. But however fiercely (and naively) loyal to their new homeland (representing the foremost exemplar of modern liberal society, heir to the British Empire, with its Judeo-capitalist aversion to Catholicism and the other anti-liberal forces obstructing money’s meaningless reign (what Continentals refer to as ‘Anglo-Saxon Civilization’) — they would become American in their own way, negotiating their ‘acculturation’, so that by the early twentieth century, after the ‘new’ immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe helped Yankees discover a certain racial/cultural affinity with the former ape men, the Irish became increasingly acceptable to them. Even the Nordic supremacist, Madison Grant (whose ‘racialism’ was more Protestant than scientific), designated the Irish as ‘Nordic’, unlike earlier generations of Anglo-Americans. (Jonathan Spiro, Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant [2009]; Joseph P. O’Grady, How the Irish Became American [1973].)

Similarly, the image of the ‘wild, rowdy, and undisciplined’ Irish in much of nineteenth-century popular American songs and entertainment had become, by the advent of the new century, almost ‘conservative and old-fashioned’, having been gradually transformed into an image of ‘a grand people from a grand country . . . [that] had successfully established itself in America’. (Today, this image/caricature has again changed, as the cultural vanguard depicts them as ‘racist, reactionary Republicans’ – though Irish-America, like the insula sacra, no longer actually exists today, being now dead and in the grave with O’Leary – having succumbed to a horror greater than anything the English ever devised: the American way of life, whose Dionysian excesses demand the most extreme human sacrifices.) (E. Michael Jones, Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior [1993].)

As to race, the Irish needed no instruction from Americans, for their Gaelic racial consciousness had been forged in a thousand years fighting Vikings, Normans, Saxons, Lowlanders, and Britons (not to mention one another) – war, of course, being the preeminent shaper of destiny and identity. In any case the Irish were not going to be instructed, in matters of blood or anything else, by Protestant heretics.


The God-given supremacy of America’s New World project (steeped in the Hebraic heritage of Puritan New England, and the fundamentalist conviction that they should rule the earth) were at one time expressed in explicitly racial terms. But this was not always the case. Long before modern biology, the English colonists (in their ‘perennial attraction to things Jewish’) saw themselves as a chosen people, superior not only to those they encountered in the wilds of North America, but in the civilizational centers of Catholic Europe. Thus it was that the nineteenth-century Indian doomed by the scientific laws of evolution was the same Indian religiously condemned in the seventeenth-century as a savage incapable of Protestant redemption (which, of course, implies nothing about the justice of either judgment).

The American sense of superiority (its supremacism) has assumed different forms historically. It was initially expressed in civilizational, and especially Protestant religious terms, then, after the revolution, democratic/republican, then again, in the second half of the laissez-faire nineteenth century, Darwinian, and finally, today, military, financial, and hyperreal ideological ones. Supremacism is arguably inbuilt to the idea of America: for the country’s Anglo-Saxon liberal heritage dismissed everything unlike itself as inherently ‘inferior’ (‘the pharisaism which worships itself and is unable to perceive any goodness apart from itself’).

Supremacism (or ‘racism’) in this sense is an offshoot of the liberal idea of progress animating America’s national saga, with certain peoples and nations seen as representing a higher state of progress or evolution than others. In this vein, indifferent to the past and bound for a rootless (i.e., destiny-less) future, Herman Melville characterized America in preeminently Hebraic, hence globalist terms – the ‘Israel of our time’ – the ‘ark of  liberties’ — the political messiah of the New World. America, in a word, would not be like the ‘nations’ of the Old World – but instead the ‘exception’, whose God-given mission (even in today’s godless world) elevates it above the non-chosen. (Alexander Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory [2012]; Sacvan Bercovitch, The America Jeremiad [1978].)

Since 1945, the older racial expressions of American supremacism have been conscientiously replaced by non-racial ones, whose color-blind market view of the world better fits the multicultural Reign of Quantity that is today America’s New World Order. Claiming ‘there is no alternative’ to it, this supremacist system, whose policies of exploitation and enslavement are promoted in the name of ‘development’, now terrorizes the planet with what Vladimir Putin calls its ‘bomb and rocket democracy’ – in which abstract democratic rights are empowered to subvert the rights of nations – just as, domestically, this system now threatens those whose ancestors, Saxon or Celt, created and settled the United States, for their North European stock no longer matches ‘the United Colors of Benetton’. Again Melville: ‘We are not a nation, so much as a world’ – a world beyond time and history, whose anti-traditional ‘empire of liberty’, born of what James Kurth calls the Protestant Deformation, resists all that is rooted and ordered, all that stands against its inherent leveling individualism and the manic sensate materialism of its capitalist Utopianism. (D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature [1923].)

Since the WASPs’ anti-fascist crusade of 1937–45, American supremacism is no longer about Anglo-Saxon racial pride (or arrogance or white superiority of any kind), but about what it has always been about: the supremacy of its own self-interests – of its particular system, its Creed or grand récit, and, above all, its usurious capitalism, whose bureaucratic-economic empire, in supplanting earlier forms of self-rule, takes the lead in imposing its principles of equality, pluralism, and multiculturalism on the whole world. But however changed, American supremacism still confuses its particularism with universalism – only here legitimized by the Low Church ‘genetics’ of its redemptive ‘shock capitalism’.

Conceiving of ‘man’ as a ‘naked animal’, without history, culture, or place, America’s world-destroying system today destroys everything impeding its one-world alienations – such as authority and sovereignty, and more specifically traditional Christianity, family-based communities, and those shared beliefs and identities that went into the country’s founding. What at one time was a racially expressed supremacism (i.e., ‘white supremacy’) – bearing the mantle of ‘Anglo-Saxonism’ or ‘Americanism’ or ‘Manifest Destiny’ – has since been transformed into an anti-racist supremacism, buttressed by democratic and human rights opposing everything, high and low, impeding the endless, senseless circulations of capital sustaining its world-market empire. (Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000 [2006]; Carla Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World [2009]; William Engdahl, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order [2004].)


In contrast to the supremacists of ‘Calvin’s gang’, with their secularized evangelism, economic individualism, and cult of progress, Ireland’s pre-modern exiles – ensconced in urban villages spiritually centered on the Catholic church, and, civilly, on the parallel societies (schools, hospitals, charities, benevolent associations, saving banks, newspapers, etc.) constituting their counter-hegemony to the purely instrumentalist and relativist forces of the WASPs’ pluralistic Gesellschaft – created in its stead a working-class America in which family, parish, union, and flag, rather than wealth and self-realization, were the high marks of American citizenship. The religious, class, and ethnic character of Irish America (with the exception, of course, of the ‘lace curtain’) actually developed largely in opposition to the Anglo-Protestant culture of New England – rejecting the haughty Yankees, with their Paddy stereotype and profane manias (abolitionism among others).

For Protestants, whose country it originally was, Irish Catholicism (inherently authoritarian and subversive) posed an imminent threat to their republic and liberties. The Irish (who had been in America since its inception) threw the argument back at the Protestants, offering a counter-narrative emphasizing a communal rather than an egoistic understanding of liberty (‘the common good over individual rights’) that made character and virtue more important than wealth and respectability. (Lawrence McCaffrey, The Irish Catholic Diaspora in America [1997]; Denis Clark, Erin’s Heirs: Irish Bonds of Community [1991]; Mary Doyle Curran, The Parish and the Hill [1948].)

A ‘creeping fascism’ — resistant to the state’s social-engineering schemes, contemptuous of liberal reformers, and actively hostile to the liberal, i.e., WASP and Jew, intelligentsia — Twentieth-century Irish America horrified ‘Marxist’ Jews like Ignatiev, as much as they did the Big State progressives, who took the helm under Franklin Roosevelt. For this ethnic, urban America shared the Catholic corporatist traditions of interwar Europe: of de Valera’s Free State, Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, and other Continental, largely Catholic and Orthodox peoples rejecting the secular Anglo-Saxon model of liberal capitalist ‘civilization’ and its blood-thirsty system of ‘state supported usury’. (See the 2011 edition of F. P. Yockey’s Proclamation of London.)

Thus it was that after 1945, the Authoritarian Personality, the Slaughter of the Cities, and suburbanization were introduced by American planners to break up and disperse the urban Catholic communities opposing the Judeo-WASP designs of the New Deal/War Deal state (whose coalition of interests had converged in opposition to America First). (E. Michael Jones, The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing [2004].)


Mexicans today do the hard labor the Irish once did, and they too are forming communities outside the American mainstream, which in time will significantly alter its course.

The story of Irish America, in this sense, is the story of America itself, as each new demographic wave of immigrants sweeps away the previous one – in the frantic, leveling spirit distinct to the country’s ‘New World’ ideology.

In the second volume of Democracy in America, Tocqueville observed that the ever bustling character of the new republic meant that ‘the tie that unites one generation to another is relaxed or broken [and that] every man there readily loses all trace of the ideas of his forefathers or takes no care about them’. Hence, the larger narrative of America’s perpetual self-destruction and re-invention, driven by something in its founding that subordinated the Yankees’ Judeo-Calvinist identity to the caprices of a deracinating and deculturating Mammon, whose culmination today privileges the presentist, history-less, pleasure-oriented character foremost in the American Negro, now the official model of our postmodern, post-European world.

The result: the Irish who overran the WASPs were overrun by the ‘new immigrants’ from Eastern and Southern Europe, and they in turn are today being overrun by the Third World tide – because America’s market society and its Low Church oligarchs care nothing about the country’s ethno-cultural identity – only its global system of usurious capitalism.

The ongoing destruction of the nation’s flesh and blood (archive of its spirit) has long imbued Americans with those ‘negative’ freedoms corrosive of organic attachments, as ‘all fixed, fast-frozen relations’ were swept away in the swirling consumerist paradise that is their Synagogue of Satan. Such a liberation has since stripped American life of the significance of family, community, church, tradition, authority – in the name of progress – all the while closing off any possibility of a meaningful transmission from one generation to the next, and thus to any possibility of reproducing the people as a ‘people’ – or even ‘reproducing the species’.

This identity-destroying, nation-dissolving, destiny-denying project will not go on much longer, for the empire of consummate meaninglessness has entered its late Winter phase (especially evident in the disorders inherent in its unraveling nomos). Collapse is in the cards, however they are dealt. (Guillaume Corvus [Faye], La Convergence des catastrophes [2004]; Robert A. Hall, The Coming Collapse of the American Republic [2011].)

The big question today (besides the possibility of America’s muddling disposition, in its decline, to provoke World War III) is: what will follow? Will it be the miscegenation, Brazilization, and/or extinction of European life in a ‘third-worldized’ America run by international usurers led by the Rothchilds and Rockefellers, or – fantasy that it may be, given the absence of a Celtic-Saxon or White Nationalist consciousness – will it be a revolution that overthrows the ‘universal nation’, forges an elite of blood and spirit, and founds a breakaway White Republic, free of the utterly perverse and inherently ethnocidal United States? 

This is part of a larger work in progress. The author would like to thank John Schneider for his helpful suggestions on several earlier drafts.