Sorry I Kept you Waiting

Sorry about responding back so late, I have been so busy. I am just reading your comments today!This is a response I wrote to someone. Thought you might like to read: 

First, let me clarify something-When I said ignorant people I wasn’t talking about you directly but people in general. Many people have argued the same case you have. I have searched the web and found many discussions.

I am not undermining the horrors that happened to the Irish at the hands of English colonists. During the 19th century, many Irish immigrants were sent to the Caribbean Islands as Indentured Servants. English colonist used to mate Irish and blacks together so they could make more slaves! That’s one of the reasons why so many blacks are light skinned!

However, there is a difference between Indentured Servitude and Slavery. Indentured Servants have a contract, usually seven years long. Slaves are slaves until someone decides to abolish it. Indentured servants were taught training skills (many bought farms after their contracts were over), and the families they worked for often times covered their expenses if they wanted to travel to another country. Slaves could go nowhere except if they were transferred from one plantation to another. The biggest difference, however, was that indentured servants were allowed to keep their names.

I realize the situation of the Irish. They had to work for english absentee landlords in exchange for land so that they could grow enough food to feed their families. The difference between owning land and not owning land was the difference between life and death for many Irish people. The potato was the only crop that they could grow in abundance so, this is why they became so dependant on it. However, they received a bad shipment from South America (during the 1840’s) that had a type of fungus. They couldn’t even export anymore. However, even before happened, the Irish had had problems for years trying to stabilize the potato crop. It had been a problem for them since the 1700’s.

Although the Irish had many problems, most of their problems revolved around the fact that they had no food or money. The Great Hunger was primarily about the starvation of the Irish people. The Great Hunger was not about how the Irish were attacked by the English for speaking their language. Did you know that many Africans had their language taken from them?

Irelend’s population shrunk to about 20% because of the famine. There are similarities between the two hardships but it’s still very different. It’s one thing to loose your rights and land. However, being a slave was no picnic for blacks. You should read the book, From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin. He explains the history of black people since the days of Mansa Musa in the 1300’s. You should also read, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. He enlightens us on what it was like to be a slave. He hated the institution so much that even after he escaped he still fought against it. He sent both of his sons off to fight in the Civil War! He didn’t even have to because at the time he was one of President Lincoln’s advisors!!

Also, I don’t think you have read WEB DuBois essay Double Consciousness. This was not just about “Consciousness” merely, but it was about blacks having to use survival techniques so they could survive long enough to seek their freedom from their oppressor! America!

I’ll check out your books too!

Also, slavery started for blacks in the 1500’s because that’s when the England East India Company first began capturing Africans. Slavery started in the U.S. much later of coarse because the colony had not yet been established until 1619. But I think you are thinking about when slavery started in the U.S. but not when it initially began.

However, you are right Jerry, Irelend was colonized.

But you got to really understand what actually happened to get a grasp of why African American criticism is so popular and why Tyson loves it!

Also, when the Irish left Irelend, some went to Austraila, Canada, Scotland, and the U.S. What I am saying is that they had a choice. Slaves don’t get a choice to go anywhere.

Some would argue that when the Irish came to America, there problems were all but over. However, after being scooped up in nets, and dragged across the Atlantic, and being thrown to the sharks as cargo,-black people’s nightmare didn’t begin until they first reached the auction block!!!

You should also understand that when most immigrants came to America (including the Irish) many changed their names! They also dropped their accents (if they had any) and most white Americans (of english ancestry or wasp) couldn’t tell themselves apart from the Irish because their was no identifier! The reason being is because Irish people have the same complexion as their english brethren! That’s why slavery didn’t work when Americans first tried to enslave their own because they couldn’t tell who was who if their slaves ran away! You can always tell with blacks. That’s why Irish people can infiltrate different organizations that blacks could not. Religion has nothing to do with it.

Also, blacks had slaves, but every race on the face of the earth has head slaves. Since most of these slave masters enslaved their own people, every race on the face of the earth has been enslaved! Slavery is one of the oldest occupations, besides prostitution!

However, taking people away from their continent across the Atlantic had never been done before. Every country in the world profited from black labor. No other race on the face of the earth has been used by everyone.

If blacks kept a tally, you know how much the world would owe us? Why do you think we talk so much about reperations!!! lol

In this country, right before the Industrial revolution, it was estimated that the cotton which blacks picked in the south alone constituted about seven percent of the world’s cotton.

There could not have been an Industrial revolution without black people.

In addition, the slavery you speak of between blacks and other blacks was based primarily upon captives being prisoners of war. It wasn’t about economic gain! At least not in Africa.

And very few blacks owned slaves in America and if they did it was for survival; but trying to survive is again very different from economic gain.

However, I appreciate this discussion because it enlightens us all, so its worth something. Maybe we both have a lot to learn about each other’s culture!

Thanks for responding!!!

P.S. Later we will talk about the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott Case-America’s broken promises!!!!

Ray C.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Sorry I Kept you Waiting

  1. canadawr5

    I love it!

  2. ll123

    Ray,
    Wow, I am so interested in this discussion. Both you and Jerry have provided us so much useful information regarding slavery and history. Thanks!
    Posted by L.L.

  3. jmdegan

    Ray,

    My comments aren’t comparative. For example, I’m not saying that the Irish colonial experience was the same as the African colonial experience. Neither is the same as the American Indian colonial experience, or Asian, Pacific Island…you must be getting my point. But, it is important to note that postcolonial theory isn’t concerned with who suffered more. That shouldn’t be the nature of our discussion. We should be looking at the ways in which power is deployed, as Foucault says in his essay “The Subject and Power,” “to structure the possible field of action of others.” Our understanding of the power structures that support oppressive regimes should inform our critique, resistance, and (eventual?) transformation of those regimes.

    And yet, I still feel compelled to respond to your post.

    I’m not denying the depth of critical race theory (which Tyson calls African-American criticism), but I am making a case for post-colonial approaches. These are related projects that look at the power structures engaged in alterity, but they are distinguished in how they see that power structure being deployed. Critical race theory looks at the way in which other-ing creates racial difference, where post-colonial theory sees the way in which oppressive regimes create alterity through racial, ethnic, religious, economic, and (increasingly) technological difference. The reason why I make the case for the post-colonial approach is that it deals with multiple forms of exclusion and oppression, which is one reason why (unlike Tyson) I would tend to group critical race theory within the movement of postcolonial inquiry.

    I would like to know who argues that the arrival of Irish people in America meant “their [sic] problems were all but over.” That person has a very poor understanding of the immigrant history of this country. Immigrants were not chattel slaves, but the forms of economic and social oppression they faced were not less damaging. While assimilation was demanded, most immigrant groups held on to customs, religions, and languages they brought with them. They didn’t change their names: their names were Anglicized by government officials who were ignorant of the languages used by these groups. What’s important here is that the hegemony of white power you see in the assimilation of immigrants into American culture never occured. Catholics and Jews, for example, faced widespread discrimination throughout the twentieth-century (think of J.F. Kennedy’s speech justifying his Catholicism, his attempts to assuage fears that he would be a president taking his orders from the Pope). Yeah, they could have given up their cultural identities to join the power structures in America; these were religious identities. But don’t trivialize those identities; they are as foundational a construction of identity as race. People have been engaged in conflict over religion for far longer than they have been over race.

    I still think you are mischaracterizing the nature of the Irish diaspora. This wasn’t a choice. No one was going anywhere to find a better life. That’s a happy story we like to tell ourselves. The truth of the matter is that Irish Catholics were being systematically removed from Ireland. And, when you mention immigration to Australia, you must realize that was certainly forced: Australia was a penal colony.

    Of course most Africans had their languages taken from them. So did the American Indians (see the shameful legacy of Indian boarding schools). It’s one of the fundemental ways in which the colonial power structure is propogated. Disrupting linguistic and cultural identity is a strategy for deflecting a possible hegemony of the oppressed; the subordination of linguistic and cultural identity leads to the kind of “double consciousness” I spoke of last week.

    When I say that Ireland was colonized in the sixteenth-century, I am referencing the territorial, political, institutional domination by a foreign state. Like Africa, colonial endeavors began in Ireland during the middle ages. In the case of Ireland, this occured shortly after the conquest of Britain in 1066 by the Normans. But I claim Ireland as the oldest continuously colonized nation based on the fact that Ireland was fully conquered and made a colony in 1603, which continues in the six northern counties to this day. Systematic colonization in Africa occurs throughout the nineteenth-century. I know that the Atlantic slave trade brought European presence to (especially northeastern) Africa long before this, but I’m talking about colonialism, not trading (even if that trading engages in exploitation). There’s a subtle difference. That’s how I make that statement.

    The history of slavery is one of the dominant narratives in the history of oppression, but it isn’t the only one. You’ve referenced the American Indian experience as something of a footnote to the African American experience. While chattel slavery of Indigenous peoples was not widespread, Indian policy from the “discovery” of the “new world” has been one of violence, removal, and denial of political and economic enfranchisement. This isn’t a story of plantation slavery; it is a story of oppression, and one that is so eggregious that it outstrips any that I know of. That doesn’t deminish the suffering of African peoples. It also doesn’t diminish the suffering of Irish, Indian (Asian), Chinese, Aboriginal Australian, Polynesian, or Palestinian peoples who suffered under colonialist regimes. That’s what I’m confused about in your posts- you seem to be arguing that we need to pay attention to one groups suffering more than anothers, rather than recognizing that it isn’t enough to say this person has sufferd out of proportion to another; empathy, in other words, isn’t action. What we need to do is take the collective experience of oppression into account to discover the way in which the power structures that engage in that oppression operate. Only then can we resist those power structures.

    Believe me when I tell you that it is not lost on me (and I doubt very much that it is lost on anyone in our class) that the greatest economy in the world is established on the twin evils of African slavery and Indian removal/genocide. These are important histories just now emerging from the historical narratives that have been authorized by the colonizer.

    J. Degan

  4. sunyprof

    Thank you so much Ray and Jerry for these thoughtful posts.

    This has been a productive dialogue.

    I have some thoughts about it that I would prefer to share in person since there is always the possibility of misreading tone/intent on the blog–and, of course in person as well. But less so for me.

    I said in a private email that these theoretical constructs embody/assert highly political agendas. Under their gaze, texts are on fire! Foucault said “everything is dangerous.” Yes, that’s what we discover when we do theory.

    That is the comfort and safety (even if false) of new criticism or formalism which for the uninitiated appears as a neutral project.

    In the simplest way, what theory does is say — texts matter and they matter profoundly. KES

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