Post Colonial feedback; the Absence of the Irish!

Tyson mentions many ethnicities when she discusses Post Colonial Theory in her book Critical Theory Today. Although African

Americans were one of the more popular groups mentioned,  many groups have experienced various types of oppression throughout the world.

Native Americans lost their land to England Colonial powers; they still continue to struggle for freedom to this day as do Africans.

 In fact, many Native Americans fought along side African slaves so that African

Americans could break free of American Colonial powers in 1800’s. Many African Americans made

high rank in Native American nations (or the more inappropriate term often used “tribe”)

and led many warriors in battle. It’s hard to give a history lesson on Native Americans and not mention Africans if you know your history! Puerto Rico is another country which is still controlled by

the United States and so are the people of Hawaii who were also conquered but now are one

of the 50 “states” in the U.S.

However, we should be careful not to mix “apples with oranges” when talking about the

Irish.  The Irish were colonized and forced to leave their land because of the potato faminine. However, it is hard to

compare this with other forms of colonizations that were of a far more brutal nature and that still exists to this day.

There were millions of Irish people who died of starvation and they opted to come to the

United States for a better life. However, Tyson’s primary model for post colonialism

(African Americans) were kidnapped from a continent in which they did not want to leave.

Many have failed to do research and educate themselves concerning the horrors of the

Trans Atlantic slave trade where tens (maybe even hundreds) of millions of Africans were

taken as slaves and many were thrown overboard as extra cargo. The land they were snatched from was colonized so the families

 that were left behind were slaves in their own communities. No, they didn’t have to pay “unfair taxes” on their land-

these people were “property”. They had no say in how their government was run and due

to not having permission to farm on their own land, many Africans also died of starvation

and they still continue to do so as we speak! African are still feeling the effects of Post

Colonialism and even though many countries in Africa are supposedly “independent” European Colonial

powers still have their hands on the continent. They continue to take from the continent

while failing to give anything back (even the Irish), primarily through the diamond trade. Africans produce the resource

and see no currency in return! People are ignorant to say that the Irish

were colonized longer than the Africans when the colonization has never stopped in Africa!

It’s the poorest continent in the world with a 60% poverty rate.

In addition, the Irish were not persecuted in America like the Native Americans and

African Americans. African Americans were slaves in Africa and they were slaves in

America as well. Almost every county in Europe and across the world has had black African

slaves which have done their labor for them. This can not be said for any other race of people on the face of the earth! In

fact, many of the Irish were slave masters who helped the trade advance at a very fast

pace. The Irish also had there own black slaves! The Irish were apart of the KKK, 

they were overseer’s and masters, and members of the government who helped create laws that

help keep slavery going long after it was suppose to be over. If one watches the movie

Roots (based on the true life history and ancestry of Alex Haley, author of the Auto biography of

Malcolm X) one can see an Irish slave master whipping a slave until he repeats the name

in which the master gave him!!

Long after the European slave trade had ended, there were laws stating that blacks did

not have the freedoms of other Americans. This is also one of the reasons for the

turbulant 60’s because Blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos were still being treated as

second class citizens. The Irish were not apart of the civil rights movement or AIM

(American Indian Movement) because it was without a doubt that they were on the side

of the colonizer.

I do understand the point that the Irish make concerning the trouble of their people but

Tyson chose the “best” example of post colonialism. She might of also taken into

consideration the victimized that people endured abroad as well as here in the United

States. The Irish were not victimized here in the

United States and this may be part of the reason why she chose other groups.

In addition many would like to believe that everything is fine with everyone (especially African Americans) but Native

Americans and Blacks still face trouble in this country despite our popular

belief in Affirmative Action. These groups still have to work “twice as hard” as others to reap the same rewards as everyone else.

 This topic (Post Colonialism) should be taught in high school English classrooms so that the youth can be educated on all aspects of American history.

Ray C.



Filed under Uncategorized

8 responses to “Post Colonial feedback; the Absence of the Irish!

  1. canadawr5

    Why do so many people try so hard to find any way they can to undermine the hardships of African peoples foreign and domestic?

  2. jmdegan

    I’m not sure that noting the colonial experience of Irish people is in any way an attempt to “undermine the hardships of African peoples foreign and domestic.”

    I would like to address the gross historical inaccuracies you advance here, Ray.

    First, I think you misunderstand the severity of the Famine, and the social and political disenfranchisement that led to the Irish diaspora. It wasn’t so much an issue of the potato crop failing that caused so many Irish to suffer- that was a catalyst that achieved the aims of British Imperial policy in Ireland to exterminate the Irish Catholic majority. You should read Cecil Woodham-Smith’s THE GREAT HUNGER for a better understanding of the way in which the famine was, in many ways, an event more akin to systematic genocide then a crop failure. Also, check out the new film THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY for some insight into the brutality of a colonialist regime that actually murdered people for speaking their native Irish language (one scene so resembles the one you speak of in ROOTS, where an Irish Republican refuses to give his name in English, choosing to give it instead in Irish- he was beaten to death).

    Yes, some Irish people owned slaves. Most were members of the Protestant ruling class in Ireland. Incidently, there were also African Americans who owned slaves. Neither excuses or explains the dehumanization of African peoples, or the politics of access that allowed this institution to thrive the way it did. It is less important to trace the ethnic makeup of the slave owner than to see the way in which the instituiton was the primary vehicle for economic success in the agrarian South and thus protected by the government that benefitted from its continued exploitation of African slaves.

    The Irish have not engaged in colonial enterprises. As a nation dominated by the British Empire (the same empire that dominated much of Africa, North America, India, China, and Australia throughout the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries), Ireland has been engaged in a process of decolonization. I would point out that the high percentage of ethnic Irish populations in Canada were due in large part to the diaspora associated with the Famine time, while Australia’s Irish population is a function of its role as a penal colony.

    The Irish also faced a forced confiscation of land that was attached to estates controlled by the landed aristocracy- who were members of the protestant upper-class. The penal codes of the seventeeth- and eighteenth- centuries denied the rights of Irish Catholics to participate in any way in the social, cultural, economic, and political process. They were not owned as “chattel,” but they were possessed through economic slavery that took the form of indentured servitude, among other forms of oppression.

    Before you call me ignorant, Ray, you should make yourself aware that Ireland, colonized as a part of a modern state in the sixteenth-century, also remains under the colonialist regime of a foreign power. It has suffered under imperial rule longer than any African country.

    Ethnic Irish people in America have historically suffered great hardship, like most groups that have been excluded from the economic and political power enjoyed by this country’s “Anglo-Saxon” minority. They were denied access to jobs, education, political power. Certainly not to the extent that African-American and American Indian peoples were, but that doesn’t deminish the potency of their suffering.

    You may not be aware of this Ray, but many Catholics (particularly ethnic Irish and Italians) were targets of violence by white supremicist groups like the KKK. Irish Catholics would not have been permitted to join the KKK (the KKK was an organization concerned with ethnic purity, and their ethnic identity was “Anglo-Saxon”).

    The animosity between Irish-American and African-American (and Italian-American, and any number of ethnic groups in the United States) stems from their oppressed status and the competition that oppression has forced on these groups to compete for low-status positions in society. It’s part of a distinctly colonial project to deflect a possible hegemony of the oppressed.

    Unfortunately Ray, I think you demonstrate how deeply ingrained this mentality is. Instead of pointing out the possibilities for creating a coalition and consensus for change among all oppressed peoples, you are demanding further division based on an ideology of racial separation.

    Additionally, you are right to identify African-American, American Indian, and African oppression as primary concerns of post-colonial critics. But I would strenuously debate the idea that they are considered “best” examples. You are not only denying the Irish colonial experience, but the colonial experience in South America, Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, China, India, and the Middle East. My hope is that this provincial view of what constitutes colonialism and post-coloniality expands to recognize the proliferation of oppressive regimes in our world.

    J. Degan

  3. sunyprof

    Ray, you make very good and necessary points about the history of oppression of African peoples. I thank you for that. And I do believe that the theoretical perspectives we have been “reviewing” this semester help us work with adolescents to support their continuing to shape a critical literacy in responding to a range of texts.

    Ray, I wondered what you thought about using the graphic text about Malcolm. When you returned it this week you seemed to want to talk about it. I’m sorry we didn’t get to do that. Stop by my office and tell me what you think.

    Jerry, your analysis of what the Irish have suffered is right on spot. I recommend Brian Friel’s play, “Translations,” a poignant rendering of the Irish experience of British colonialism. I saw it again most recently at LeMoyne College.

    The campus has begun a discussion of how we can better prepare teachers to support multicultural education. On Wednesday afternoon a broadly representative faculty group discussed some of these same topics. There are readings assigned for each discussion. I’ll bring several of those readings and copies of them to class on Tuesday.

    I hope others will join this blog discussion. KES

  4. allison

    Wow, this series of posts makes me realize the complexity of this theoretical perspective. Of course, I knew colonial power struggles and the effects on dominated peoples was a complex topic, but these two posts really illustrated this for me. Ray, thank you for your thoughts on post-colonialism. Jerry, thank you for your response. I am very impressed by the depth of information that Jerry provides regarding American history and immigrant groups. I certainly agree with Jerry that there have been many groups of oppressed peoples, and that aspect of history is often forgotten or neglected in discussions of historical American oppression.

    Professor Stearns, I’m so glad that you brought up Friel’s Translations. It has now been several years since I read that play, but I do remember being surprised to learn about the suffering of the Irish. Friel’s play showed me more personal portrait of the Irish plight than I ever saw in my history books. I will keep this play in mind when I am teaching.

  5. sofiapenna

    I would be very interested in reading some of the material you have, Dr. Stearns, from the faculty discussion you had on Wednesday. Speaking for myself, multicultural education is an area that I should explore much more. I have not yet taken Multicultural Lit. at Cortland, and so my exposure to this subject of discussion has been minimal.


  6. sunyprof

    Of course, I’ll get it together Sofia. Thanks for asking. KES

  7. ll123

    Thank you guys, I absolutely enjoy reading this discussion. It opens my eyes in looking at the same post-colonialism criticism from different perspectives. I personally consider it , espacially Jerry’s response, as a history mini-lesson. Posted by L. L.

  8. jexter1

    The series of posts on this topic has proven to me the complexity and multiple approaches and angles that theoretical perspective brings. Theoretical perspectives are intended to make the reader conscious of meaning, thought and purpose that may not be considered when reading from a formalist angle.

    With controversial topics, comes controversial responses. Thank you, Ray C., Jerry & Dr. Stearns for your takes on the post-colonial theory. Post-colonialism is a broad term, which can be applied to a plethora of cultures and countries.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s