About half of my ancestors immigrated to this country as a result of the aftermath of Irish famine, an event in which people were found dead on the side of the road walking hopelessly in search of food with grass stained mouths. They were that hungry. They left Ireland without legal permission and entered the United States without papers (as did every 19th century Irish immigrant. Funny how we didn’t have border patrol then.) They didn’t wait for years for visas; they just boarded ships as soon as they could. They had suffered centuries of brutal British colonialism-  yes, they were the prototype for everything England would do to every other place it claimed as its own. But they entered the United States as immigrants and not slaves, and so they had it made. Bearing the right type of bodies, they exchanged colonization for unenslaved whiteness.

The great orator, abolitionist, and statesman, Frederick Douglass, visited Ireland in the 1840s. He was greeted as a hero: rare among “European” people, the Irish generally sided with enslaved African Americans on the question of freedom. But when they stepped foot on these shores, that all changed. They rioted against black people, kicking them out of Northern factories, shops, and cities. As long as Irish immigrants controlled Northeastern docks and blocks, black people would be shoe-shines or they would be nothing at all. Irish-Americans enforced antiblackness with unsurpassed enthusiasm.

Frederick Douglass described this remarkable transformation thusly:

Passage to the United States seems to produce the same effect upon the exile of Erin as the eating of the forbidden fruit did upon Adam and Eve. In the morning, they were pure, loving, and innocent; in the evening guilty.

Know this: if you have even a single Irish Catholic ancestor who came here in the 19th century, you would not exist if Trump or Obama had been president when they tried to immigrate here. And neither would I.

There is truly nothing more disgraceful than an Irish (Catholic) American who turns their back on immigrants, refugees, or otherwise oppressed people.

I don’t want the power and dominance my Irish-American ancestors killed for; I want the independence and justice my Irish ancestors died for. Don’t you?

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