My Great Great Great Grandfather was forced to leave his country. He wasn’t forced by a physical pain on his back, but by a physical pain in his stomach.
The Potato Famine reduced Ireland’s population by 20% - 25% due to mortality and emigration.
What primarily caused this famine was that the British confiscated Irish property and made the Irish work the land for virtually nothing, i.e. what we might call in America, “slavery.” To highlight their cruelty just consider that during the potato famine, Ireland was a net exporter of food. In other words, while the Irish were starving, their lords were taking food out of their mouths.
“It would be impossible to adequately describe the privations which they [the Irish laborer and his family] habitually and silently endure ... in many districts their only food is the potato, their only beverage water ... their cabins are seldom a protection against the weather ... a bed or a blanket is a rare luxury ... and nearly in all their pig and a manure heap constitute their only property.” — Royal Commission: February 1845
My Great Great Great Grandfather then came to America by boat.
In 1847, 19% of the Irish emigrants died on their way to the U.S. or shortly after arriving. By comparison, the average mortality rate on British slave ships of the period was 9%.
After he arrived at Ellis Island, he was forced by his hunger to then work in a coal mine. It was work or watch he and his family starve to death. There was no real choice!
Some argue that these early Irish Immigrants working conditions were worse than your average slave plantation. Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal editor wrote…
“The peasants fleeing Ireland had a shorter life expectancy than slaves in the U.S., many of whom enjoyed healthier diets and better living quarters. Most slaves slept on mattresses, while most poor Irish peasants slept on piles of straw. The black scholar W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that freed slaves were poor by American standards, “but not as poor as the Irish peasants.”
Slavery didn’t end because of some “progressive awakening,” but because cheap laborers worked harder and cost less money than slave laborers.
This is Economics 101. If my Great Great Great Grandfather got sick or died then there were a 1000 other Irish Immigrants happy to take his job. This incentivized him to work harder and for the businessman to pay him just enough to keep him; whereas it’s in a slave master’s self-interest to take more of an interest in his slave’s well-being if he’s going to maximize his profit. In other words, a dead Irishman cost virtually nothing to replace whereas a slave could cost a lot.
In addition, there were Irish who were kidnapped by the British and forced aboard ships to serve as “indentured servants.” There are leftist “academic” articles “debunking the myth of Irish slavery” by comparing it to black American slavery and saying, “See! The Irish weren’t slaves because their servitude wasn’t hereditary! They largely entered into these servitude contracts by “choice!”
The worst part is these “academics” claim that the motivation to equate Irish peasant indentured servitude to black American slavery is a racist white supremacy attempt to rewrite history. If you can’t argue the facts then use ad hominem attacks! It amazes me how irrational people can be in the pursuit of a partisan agenda because the VERY SAME PEOPLE who say that there were no Irish slaves are the same people who say there are millions of people living in slavery today.
Isn’t it amazing how the definition of “slavery” can miraculously change based on the left’s agenda? In one context, it can ONLY refer to black American slaves (to imply anything else is racist!). In another context, it can refer to “forced work.” And then in another context, it can refer to virtually all wage work…
All official and liberal science defends wage-slavery, whereas Marxism has declared relentless war on that slavery. ― Vladimir Lenin
A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer. — Noam Chomsky
Experience demonstrates that there may be wages of slavery only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other. — Fredrick Douglas
If you’re a rational freethinking person you can therefore see that the word “slavery” is so multifaceted in itself that to give money to the descendants of one version of it begs the question why? Is it because they were forced to leave their native land? Treated as subhuman? Forced to work for virtually nothing? All of this applies to the Irish.
There’s an argument that “slaves built America,” but slavery did more harm to the United States of America than good. To suggest slavery was anything but a net-negative is racist. The South would be much more advanced today if it wasn’t for slavery.1
In addition, the Civil War cost America a lot in blood and treasure (more Americans died in that war than all other wars COMBINED). Abraham Lincoln famously pondered in his 2nd Inauguration Address if God caused the Civil War as payment for slavery so that, “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.” It’d be too dramatic to say this retribution was paid-in-full, but America took a good stab at it.
Ultimately, the problem with the reparations argument is the more we bring a critical eye to it the more incomprehensible it becomes because we are left with some sort of Oppression Olympics.
Who wins? Native Americans? Slave descendants (tough luck if you’re a black American who can’t trace your lineage back 155 years)? Irish immigrants? Chinese immigrants? Women? LGBTQ? Disabled? The Trump family?
First, let me say that GENERALLY-SPEAKING I believe black American slaves had it worse than Irish peasants, but pitting racial groups against each other for who ultimately deserves reparations for their ancestor’s oppression over 150 years ago I find to be unjust and irrational, especially if you share my desire for a more meritocratic society rather than a race-based one. It’s like dismissing someone’s abusive relationship because yours was worse, “Shut up! My husband hit me harder!”
But the key phrase I just wrote there was “generally-speaking.” And herein lies my core difference with leftists. They primarily see humanity as groups whereas I primarily see humanity as individuals.
How is it fair to give Sasha Obama money based on her family history and not me? My family has had rampant alcohol, drug, and poverty-related problems, which is a stereotype that can be traced back to Irish oppression. Plus, none of my family has owned slaves whereas reports claim some of Barack Obama’s ancestors did.2
Leftists primarily justify their support for reparations because of the existence of a racial-wage gap. They think that this wage gap exists entirely because of “systemic racism.” The next time you hear someone make this argument you can give them a taste of their own medicine by calling them a “Racist!” This is because they’re effectively arguing for CULTURAL GENOCIDE. Culture Matters. The only way to eliminate the racial-wage gap is to eliminate black culture. The bottom line is cultures emphasize different customs/beliefs/behaviors otherwise it wouldn’t be a culture, such as STEM (Asians) or meditation (Buddhists), or creativity (Black America). In the end, the only way to close the wage-gap between America’s highest-earning racial group (Asian Americans) and its lowest-earning racial group (African Americans) is to make the two cultures indistinguishable. The truth is maximizing earning potential isn’t the most important thing to most people or cultures. For example, a disproportionate amount of black students from elite universities go into low-paying fields such as education and social work whereas Asian American students go into STEM.
Black students study less than Asian students, which also explains some of the difference in their scores and then one day in their salary.
No intelligent person denies that the past affects the present and so of course there are going to be long-term effects of slavery, from segregation to poorly funded public institutions, but the question remains… what to do about it?
In the end, I don’t believe in reparations for the descendants of any oppressed group. Not because I hate the groups, but because I love individuals.
Many people approach the issue of reparations from some sense of “guilt,” but if you want to feel guilty about stuff then there’s plenty going on TODAY that you are directly or indirectly responsible for: How much of what you own today was effectively produced by “wage slaves”? In 150 years will your descendants look back on you as effectively being a slave master without the moral inconvenience of having to watch your iPhone being made from your bedroom window?
And if you care about the “racial-wage” gap so much then don’t be an evil nationalist! Look at the whole world! In this case, Black America is the 1%! African American median household income is $41,511. Should African Americans pay reparations to the rest of humanity who make much less than them? Don’t be such an evil selfish capitalist!
And how much money would be enough to wash away America’s sins? The answer is there would NEVER be enough! We have been giving reparations to Native Americans for decades and yet Bernie Sanders would start his rallies off with a lesson in how “America Stole the Land” (news flash: all land is stolen!). It’s BECAUSE the U.S. gives Native American tribes so much money that they live in poverty by becoming more dependent upon the state for their survival.
Some put the cost of reparations at $12 trillion and perhaps if America had unlimited money then why not gamble against history, economics, and ethics by handing out money to whoever clings the most emotionally to their racial identity?! But there are tradeoffs to everything. Perhaps that money could be better spent elsewhere? Is it really fair to confiscate money from poor and middle-class Americans to give to rich Black Americans? I believe we should tax the rich more, but I think that money would be better spent paying down our massive national debt and helping today’s hungry, poor, disabled, or young. We must prioritize.
Sociologist William Wilson believes race-neutral policies are the best way to help the black community. For example…
Let’s lower taxes and cut regulations for small businesses so we can make it super easy for entrepreneurs to start a business.
Let’s educate more of our youth in STEM.
Let’s cut red tape so it's easier to build more affordable housing. Make Housing Cheap Again. I believe one day it’ll be super affordable to buy, “1 Acre and a Mac” because Automated Electric Vehicles + 6G will make it easier for Americans to live further from city centers.
Let’s increase public employment in police, border security, education, construction, infrastructure, nursing, etc. so that virtually anyone who wants a job can get one therefore virtually eliminating the need for welfare. As Thomas Sowell argued, “Slavery didn’t cause today’s problems, welfare did.”
In the end, it’s undeniably clear to anyone who isn’t playing identity politics that reparations would make life worse in America, especially for the very people it claims to help. As an Irish American, I take pride in raising my glass to all! Cheers!
Phew! That was a heated post! But it clearly needs to be said in 2021. I empathize with my black brothers and sistas. I’m a fan of many aspects of black culture, but one key area where I differ with many on the left is I think it’s racist to primarily identify yourself by the color of your skin. It’s also boring! And self-destructive! I think if you genuinely care about people regardless of their skin color then you have a moral duty to be like, “Yo, why are you so obsessed about race?!” And they may correctly point out that as a person of color our culture almost forces them to be obsessed about it.
WHERE IS YOUR BLACK SQUARE?!!!!
But with that said, I don’t mean to recommend black Americans completely abandon black culture if that culture brings you joy, community, and purpose. I just mean to say don’t make it the primary lens from which you view the world.
I currently live in Vietnam. If anyone knows what it’s like to be a fish out of water it’s me! And guess what?! I think very little about race so ignore anyone who tells you it’s impossible! The mind is extremely powerful. I don’t walk around looking for slights to justify a warped worldview. I don’t try to get an ego boost from clinging to the idea I’m a “white man.” My thoughts are primarily on writing, recording, video editing, teaching. When I think about race it’s mostly from the realm of pondering it as a concept, but not as an identity. I identify myself as a conservative, federalist, minimalist, rationalist, nationalist, writer, reader, runner, freethinker.
I only structured the beginning of this essay by embracing my racial identity because I know it would be more persuasive to those on the left who have been brainwashed into accepting any political point/policy trojan horsed by an “identity.” To attack an identity is a bannable offense! For the record, I qualified the essay with “based very loosely on a true story,” which in Hollywood-speak could apply to Godzilla vs. Kong, because I don’t actually know the details of my great great great grandparents lives and was just using what I perceive their life might have been like based on early Irish Immigrant experience.
Build your identity by finding what you love. Get great at it! Define yourself by who you made yourself to be by your own efforts and choices. And then overall have a sense of humor.
There is such a stiffness around race in American culture right now, which only works to drive the races further apart because white people are afraid to say the wrong thing and then get #cancelled so there’s more of a tension between the races that is entirely superficial. For example, I pondered if I should take out the “sistas” quip, but I decided to keep it because it made me chuckle. I can joke on this topic because I have a black friend.
But seriously, I can be a freethinker on this topic because I know what racism is and I know I am not that so therefore I don’t have to walk on eggshells on this topic. I can speak the truth. I can joke around. If you get offended then you’re free to share why, but I’m also free to disregard it if I think you’re overreacting. In the end, the only person that can define me is me. How will you choose to define yourself?