In the 1800s, the Irish (whether in Ireland, Britain, or the U.S.) were often very negatively stereotyped. In many cases the same negative characteristics attributed to Africans and African Americans (sloth, immorality, destructiveness) were often also associated with the Irish. In fact, some scientists believed the Irish were, like Africans, more closely related to apes than to other Europeans, and in some cases in the U.S., Irish immigrants were classified as Blacks, not Whites.

The next three political cartoons from the 1800s were found on the Nevada Department of Education website section about racism (as was the quote about the first cartoon).

This one is titled “The Workingman’s Burden” and depicts “a gleeful Irish peasant carrying his Famine relief money while riding on the back of an exhausted English laborer.” It might make a good comparison to how welfare recipients are viewed in the U.S.

This illustration ran in Harper’s Weekly magazine. Notice how the Irish are depicted as more similar to “Negros” than to “Anglo Teutonic” individuals, and both the Irish and Africans are caricatured as ape-like. It could also be useful for a discussion of scientific racism.

This cartoon, titled “Two Forces,” shows a figure representing Britain protecting a weeping, frightened woman, representing Ireland, from a rampaging Irishman; notice his hat says “anarchy.”

This image, found at the University College Cork website, depicts Daniel O’Connell, a leader of the Irish land reform movement, as an “ogre.” He is ladling poor Irish peasants out of a pot labeled “agitation soup,” and, presumably, cheating them out of money in the guise of helping them.

Here we see the Irish depicted as a Frankensteinian monster in a cartoon that ran in Punch in 1882 (image found at the website for a course at the University of St. Andrews):

These next three all come from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. Here we see drunken Irishmen rioting and attacking police:

In this one, John Bull (representing Britain) and Uncle Sam look on as an Irish man engages in reckless destruction; notice the empty bottle in the lower right corner, labeled “drugs”:

Here an ape-like Irish man, again drunk, sits on a powder keg, presumably threatening the entire country:

Finally, this one, published in 1882 (and found at the Michigan State University Museum website), is called “Uncle Sam’s Lodging House” and shows an Irish immigrant causing a commotion while other immigrants (notice the beds are labeled Russian, German, Negro, etc.) try to sleep. The smaller caption under the title says, “Look here, you, everybody else is quiet and peaceable, and you’re all the time a-kicking up a row!”

The message is, of course, that other immigrant groups (including Blacks) settle in and don’t cause problems, while the Irish don’t know how to assimilate or stay in their place.

You might compare these images to this recent post about how symbols of Irishness have lost any real negative implications, such that even politicians in non-Irish-dominated districts feel comfortable using them in campaign materials.

And yes, I know I’ve been posting a lot of stuff about race and ethnicity lately. I’m teaching a class on it this semester–it’s the stuff that I keep coming across while writing lectures.

And I’m dedicating this post to my boyfriend, Burk, who decided to go on a date with me even though, when he asked if I’d have trouble dealing with his hard-drinking Irish-American family, I said I could handle that but wouldn’t put up with any blubbering on about how Angela’s Ashes is the best book ever.

NEW!  This cartoon with poem was published in Life Magazine on May 11th, 1893.  The poem is suggesting that the monkeys in the zoo are sad that they get called by Irish names.



As we’ve dared to call the monkeys in the Zoo by Irish names, Erin’s sons, in wrath, declare us snobs and flunkies ;
And demand that we withdraw them–nor should we ignore their claims–
For it’s really very hard–upon the monkeys.

UPDATE: In a comment, Macon D asked how I address the ways in which Whites of some ancestries (Irish, Italian, etc.) often point to the fact that there was discrimination against those groups as a way of invalidating arguments about systemic racism. The logic is that both non-Whites and some White groups faced prejudice and discrimination but European groups overcame it through their own hard work, and thus any other group could too. If they continue to experience high levels of poverty, unemployment, or any other social problem, it is due to their own lack of hard work, intelligence, or some other characteristic.

I do indeed discuss this argument at length whenever I teach about race. A great reading to address it is Charles Gallagher’s article “Playing the White Ethnic Card: Using Ethnic Identity to Deny Contemporary Racism,” p. 145-158 in White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism (2003, Ashley W. Doane and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, editors, New York: Routledge). The tone might put some students off, because it doesn’t baby them or try to sugar-coat the issue of how Whites use their (often imagined) family stories of discrimination as a way to argue that systemic racism doesn’t exist and that they got to where they are by their family’s hard work, and nothing more. I know other professors often use the “How Jews Became White Folks” reading by Karen Brodkin, which also looks at this issue.

I also spend a good part of the semester looking at how government policies have had the effect of transferring enormous amounts of wealth into the hands of European immigrants and helping them accumulate resources over time–we look at the Homestead Act of 1862, the G.I. Bill (which Black veterans were often excluded from using), and how government subsidies for building suburban subdivisions were actively denied to groups wanting to build integrated communities. All these are examples of ways in which White Americans were aided in acquiring wealth and moving up the socio-economic ladder, while non-Whites often were explicitly excluded from these benefits.

I also point out that, while in these images the Irish are negatively stereotyped, it is clear that they are still viewed less negatively than, say, Africans or African Americans. If the Irish are the “missing link” between Africans and Caucasians…that still means they’re considered more evolved than Africans–at least somewhat more fully human. So even at the height of discrimination against White European groups, that did not necessarily mean they were treated “the same” as, say, American Indians or Blacks.

Kay W. took these images in a museum in Sitka, Alaska.   This is David P. Howard, an Alaskan Native, and his family in 1917 (or so).  Notice how Howard and his family appear to have shed every possible sign of “native-ness” in this picture.  The conquest of American Indians was achieved, in part, through forced and coerced assimilation (see this post on American Indian boarding schools in Canada).

The family had to appear assimilated because Howard was seeking U.S. citizenship and citizenship was contingent on Howard abandoning his “Indian” ways.  The document below testifies to Howard’s assimilation.  The last paragraph reads:

NOW, THEREFORE, THIS IS TO CERTIFY that due proof has been made to me that the applicant David P. Howard is an Indian born within the Territorial limits of the United States, and that he has voluntarily taken up within said limits his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life.

You might want to use it for a discussion of the forced assimilation of American Indians in particular, of course (as well as the insanity of the fact that they would have to petition to be a part of the nation existing on their own land; American Indians did not become citizens until 1924), but also for a more general conversation about how immigrants to the U.S., including European immigrants, were required to adapt themselves to certain standards of middle-class White American society in order to be welcomed into full social, as well as legal, citizenship (and clearly non-Whites often found that even assimilation to White middle-class norms wasn’t enough, though it worked for the Italians, Irish, Polish, and other European ethnic groups, who no longer differ on any important social indicators from Whites of Northern or Western European origin).

In a related example, see this cartoon mocking German attempts at assimilation during World War I.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

During World War I and World War II, being German-American in the U.S. became less-than-agreeable.  At that time, due to interpersonal and institutionalized discrimination, many German-Americans actively tried to assimilate into a still-very British America by downplaying their ethnic characteristics.  This cartoon, published in 1921, illustrates how German-Americans attempted to do this and how well-aware the larger society was of their efforts:

(I have long since lost the source on this, but if someone sends one in, I will gladly link to it.)

The graph below, from the New York Times, challenges a stereotype about Asian-Americans and their choice of major in college.  The author writes:

The report found that contrary to stereotype, most of the bachelor’s degrees that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders received in 2003 were in business, management, social sciences or humanities, not in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering or math.



The article also discusses the way in which the category “Asian-American/Pacific Islander” makes invisible the dramatic discrepancy between the educational attainments of Asians who’s families immigrated from different places.  For example, they write:

…while most of the nation’s Hmong and Cambodian adults have never finished high school, most Pakistanis and Indians have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The SAT scores of Asian-Americans, it said, like those of other Americans, tend to correlate with the income and educational level of their parents.

And, to a great degree, the success of a given Asian immigrant group in this society is correlated with the wealth of the nation from which they immigrated.


According to research by the Pew Research Center, a majority agree with the statement that immigrants work harder than whites at low-wage jobs, but Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to think so.


Story here via C.N. Le.

Marcello sent us this really fascinating example of political propaganda from an anti-immigrant party in Italy. He translated the text as:

They suffered immigration
Now they live in reserves
Think about it

The implication is, if they let immigrants into Italy, the current residents will suffer the same fate as American Indians.

Marcello writes:

Beside the obvious racist concept i think it’s quite ironic that they identify
themselves with people they would probably discriminate [against] if they ever
met any american-native people here in italy and the fact that they criminalize
the role that the very same “western civilization” they stand for (against the
“bastardization of culture from muslim heretics”, their words, not mine) played
in the american-native genocide.

Original post, by Marcello, here. Thanks!


Click here and scroll down for a map showing the number and % of Muslims in various European countries. From NPR.

Image via: Sports Image Times

The U.S. Border Patrol is focusing its new recruiting efforts in the Southeast, the region that just happens to have had the largest Hispanic population growth over the last few years.

How is the U.S. Border Patrol marketing itself to possible recruits in Southern states? Yup, by sponsoring the #28 NASCAR race car.