African-American Discrimination vs Irish-American Discrimination in the United States

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African-American Discrimination vs Irish-American Discrimination

Irish-Americans were a group not familiar to most people. They migrated from Ireland to the United States because of a problem that they faced in their own country. It was a potato famine, and this famine, also known as the Great Famine, caused many Irish to starve. It was said to be caused by a airborne fungus that made the potato plants rot (Gavin). This forced the Irish to find new places to get jobs and feed themselves, otherwise they would die. So they decided to migrate to the United States. African-Americans on the other hand, were forced to be in the United States because of something that happened a long time ago. European colonies needed labor forces to manage themselves, so they got many slaves from Africa and shipped them to the colonies which were located in areas like modern day Latin America, as well as the United States (Stevenson). They have been there ever since. Both, while in the United States, faced oppression. This oppression was similar and different and can be best looked it in three different factors.
Both groups faced problems because of their stereotypes. A stereotypical Irish person was said to be dirty, lazy and stupid. Also part of the stereotype was that they were all Catholic (Patterson, Reddit). These suspicions arose due to how the Irish came into the American society. Since they were out of their jobs, they needed new ones, and Americans saw this as stealing their jobs. Americans probably believed this because they wanted reasons to be angry at the Irish. Saying they were lazy justifies criticizing them for stealing their jobs, and saying they are stupid gives them a sense of superiority. A stereotypical African-American person was said to be lazy, ignorant, and also dirty. These stereotypes came to be due to the African-Americans being former slaves. Since they worked like slaves even then, it was common for someone to think of them as lazy, if they weren’t working as hard as a slave was. Because of their skin color, there came a misconception that they were dirty. Both groups faced negative stereotypes. They caused them to have harder times getting jobs. They caused people to try and stay away from them. But the Irish were in worse shape than the African-Americans. At least the African-Americans had jobs that they were believed to be made for. Jobs such as farming, and cooking, and cleaning (Lee, 190). The Irish on the other hand weren’t expected to do things like this. People saw the African-Americans as slaves, and therefore tried to keep them alive. The Irish were not treated the same, they were treated as intruders, and Americans did not want to incorporate them into their way of life as they did to the African-Americans. 
Another factor in the oppression of both groups was religion. Most Irish were Catholic, which was a problems since most Americans were Protestant. The two religious groups have a violent past, and this as well as many other factors caused much strife between the two groups in the United States. An example of this was in 1831 when the Catholics in the United States burned down St. Mary’s Church in New York. Another occasions of violence was when a riot occurred in Philadelphia living thirteen people dead (McDonaugh). African Americans did not face the same problem as they were the same religion as the Americans. Although, it is understandable to say that African-Americans had a different religion, because they were forced to go to different churches. They weren’t segregated because of religion, but instead were segregated using religion. Both groups had different churches, but due to different reasons, Irish because they were Catholic, and African American because there was that much segregation. Religion however, never posed as much of a problem to the African Americans as it did to the Irish, since there were never really that many events of violence concerning African American religion.
A final factor in the oppression of both groups is employment. The Irish were usually paid less for their work, even for the exact same jobs as Americans. Some newspaper ads would say “No Irish Need Apply” meaning they won’t accept any Irish people applying for the job, so they shouldn’t bother applying. There were some cases when the job suppliers said that the minimal wage would be a certain price, but when Irish men applied, they changed it (Ahn, Shah). African American’s weren’t even allowed to apply for jobs like Americans could. African Americans usually only worked in jobs like laborers in factories, fields, and the streets (King Jr.). The African Americans were once slaves, and they were still treated like them at those times. Both groups were segregated when it came to employment, but Irish were at least offered jobs that Americans had, while African Americans weren’t even considered for the jobs, even if the pay was the lowest possible, so Irish were better off when it came to jobs.
Because of the oppression that occurred against both groups many things happened. In order to not be discriminated against some Irish people changed their last names so that people would not recognize them as Irish. They also got rid of their accents so people couldn’t pick that out. They also even abandoned Catholicism. On the other hand African-Americans forced through, and much of their culture is still preserved today, and although many of them are still discriminated today, it affected them a lot worse than the Irish. It affected both groups, but in different ways. The Irish had a huge part of their culture wiped out because they wanted to blend in, and the African Americans still face some discrimination, but at least they still have their culture. The American discrimination affected the Irish more.


Stevenson, Isaac. “From Africa to America | African American History | World Book Encyclopedia.” World Book Home. .

Patterson, Meteka, and Sherry Reddit. “Immigration.” Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. 27 May 2009 .

McDounaugh, Jon J. “Immigration…Irish: Religious Conflict and Discrimination.” American Memory from the Library of Congress – Home Page. 27 May 2009 .

King Jr., Martin L. Where Do We Go from Here?

Gavin, Philip. The Irish Potato Famine.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird Warner Books 1960


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