Somewhat counter-intuitively, to make the point I’m here to make, I must begin with a defense of Irish-American racism.
I don’t care who you are, or what ethnoreligious background you come from: If you got the deal we got when we came to these shores, coming off the millennium of living hell that made us the miserable bastards we are, you would have hated the shit out of Black people. In a heartbeat.
We started out being pillaged repeatedly by the Vikings from 793 to 1066, giving us 15% of our genetic code and the kingdom of England in the process. Once our eternal tormentors came into being, they spent the following six centuries invading us when they weren’t leveraging us into fighting wars we had no interest in. After that warm-up phase was over, Cromwell killed maybe 40% of us in a religiously-motivated invasion, albeit with disease doing most of the work — with us, it always does. Particularly if you count cirrhosis.
This reasonably successful genocide, which dispossessed all Catholics of our land and forfeited all of our wealth to the invaders, presaged a 250-year cultural genocide where our language, education, and flavor of Christianity were actively suppressed. Our flight to America in the mid-1800’s was kicked off by a blight that wiped out potatoes, the only food we could still afford, while the English who ostensibly ruled Ireland laughed at us for being poor and stupid enough to let ourselves die.
Now imagine that you’re poor and Irish, after a millennium of being squarely at the bottom of the social ladder in Europe — and I stand tall on the assertion that we were narrowly winning the White Oppression Olympics until at least 1936 —and upon your arrival in the United States, you discover that you’ve entered a new social hierarchy in which the cloudy weather of your homeland has given you the skin of a god. All you have to do to claim that enviable position is to believe that you’re white, and to punish Blacks for failing to be. I don’t care who you are, or what ethical underpinnings guide your faith tradition or your culture: you would take that deal.
After all, so many of you are currently doing so in some form.
That’s not meant as an excuse. The Irish were the pioneers. From every Wop whining about moolignans to every Asian spouting slurs that I can’t be bothered to look up (let alone pretend I can pronounce) all of you are merely following the example of my people’s success in America, and your poisonous disdain for the People is a mere shadow of ours. No one in this country has hated Black folks in this country with our same relish, and I include Protestant Southerners in that — they were making money off of racism, at least. We participated just to fit in.
That’s not to say we didn’t make a lot of contributions to slavery: our indentured countrymen who came with the first settlers were part of the Curious Institution. The Scotch-Irish did England’s dirty work, so needless to say, slave ships hired a lot of Celts. Some linguists think this regrettable first point of contact between Africans and the English language is responsible for the “incorrect” verb conjugation and endemic vulgarity of Black English Vernacular.
After independence, the Irish did America’s dirty work just as readily, swinging whips into human backs for the powers that be. We didn’t really get paid in money so much, because low-balling us was the whole point of hiring such unemployable savages. We didn’t go entirely uncompensated, though, leaving a horrible legacy that gave Black America about 15% of its genetic code. Time is a flat circle, and all cycles of violence perpetuate themselves.
But it was Irish Catholics pouring into Yankee cities, reviled for their English-made degeneracy and Italian-made religion, who first broadened the inclusive concept of whiteness through our own exclusion of Blackness. As the first wave of non-majoritarian American immigration, we were the only immigrant group (besides the über-majoritarian Germans) to share this country with the Slave Power, and it shows. We proved that anyone could be white, no matter how dirty, wretched, drunk, ignorant, or papist they might be, as long as they hated Black people enough. It’s a format that’s been followed religiously, by all others who came after us.
And, for these purposes, we should recognize the primary vehicle with which we elbowed our way into whiteness, that we used to enforce our new racism with the fervor of converts. It was the only form of state power that such disreputable wife-beating drunks were allowed to have: a badge and a gun.
It’s not like we invented law enforcement. Sheriffs can trace their position back to the “shire reeves” of Medieval English counties, and Ancient Egypt had urban police forces run by police chiefs taken from the nobility, which is as close to professional management as the Bronze Age gets. America had sheriffs and constables, who could call up militias and posses whenever something got serious, and the army was largely responsible for law enforcement on the frontier.
However, the Irish did create police forces as we know them today. Urban centers full of foreigners presented different problems than the colonial authorities had known. Population density increased past the point where city governments could effectively reign in civic unrest — at least with a posse of sufficient racial hygiene — giving my hometown of Baltimore the nickname “Mobtown” for its nonstop, primarily-white rioting. As the Irish came pouring in, the existing law enforcement structure was unable to effectively police a violent, clannish people who had only ever known rule by a country that hated them, who relied on ‘honor’ in place of trust in the state. So America got some Irish thugs of her own, loosely allied with the rule of law and empowered to play by the same rules as the gangs they policed.
“Honor” is a nice word for “emotional-grievance-based-stabbing,” as pre-white Irish culture was defined by violence. Insults to one’s honor, whether it was someone getting fresh with one’s sister or simply looking at them wrong, had to be met with violent consequences in order to maintain one’s credibility. Since anyone’s ability to effectively prosecute violence is dependent on numbers, we were very fond of gangs, and their guarantee of collective security: the gang can’t be shown up by anyone, for any reason, and when any member of the group says someone needs to get hurt, it happens.
No one was slapping anyone with a glove or naming their second when an Irishman felt he’d been crossed: someone got jumped. Accordingly, that’s how our newly-minted “police forces” did things too. Whenever someone showed up the honor of the police, they had to be savagely beaten to maintain order, along with anyone standing in their vicinity. Since these cops were also racist Micks, and the Protestant authorities wanted Blacks beaten just as savagely as the immigrant wretch, the racist foundations of Irish police culture were a happy accident as much as anything.
That kind of thuggishness and acidic racism couldn’t survive a more comfortable financial position, though. Thusly, when the U.S. government helped us all become homeowners, we left honor culture behind and adopted the posturing-centric racism of High Whitehood. The thuggish, Gaelic way of life largely disappeared, along with our ability to box competitively. If you want to see what its last gasps look like, you can go to the Ozarks, or Hoboken on St. Patrick’s Day, or do yourself a favor and just watch Good Will Hunting.
Or, you can just look at any contemporary police force.
America’s streets are burning, and in their qualified immunity from consequence, the police are obeying no rules but their foundational Irish street logic. Chauvin is a name of French extraction, but George Floyd’s murderer was raised in a professional culture built by Irish founding fathers. That’s why you see cops making feints at protesters, if not beating them, if not making outright attempts at vehicular manslaughter. They’re not maintaining order, they’re trying to elicit an “honorable” excuse for their gang to beat the shit out of anyone who gives them lip.
In all too many cases, American police are not interested in the concept of civic order. Rather, they are dedicated to that idea that order is synonymous with police maintaining the overwhelming capacity for violence, and the streets’ belief in that capacity for violence. The gang can’t lose face. That is the principle driving this response, and it is a direct product of Gaelic culture.
It’s also the principle that compelled three cops to stand around while a fourth knelt on a restrained man’s neck for nine minutes, because for any one of them to publicly question another officer would be a betrayal the gang. In the age of qualified immunity, it has been made clear to cops that there are no legal consequences for their behavior, even if they kill someone. They know there are no guardrails for their actions except peer pressure, in a peer group that’s gotten very good at stopping any efforts to weed out psychopaths from their ranks. No wonder this happens.
But I won’t put all this on the cops. The ex-Irish who left those streets long ago are just as guilty, and our direct culpability in police militarization is more contemporary than any example I’ve given thus far. Irish-Americans have effective control of the military and federal law enforcement, and our deracinated elite created the DHS-grant pipeline that has every American cop decked out in Chinese-grade “non-lethal” weaponry right now, better trained for a Tom Clancy novel than community policing.
And as for that deracinated elite, we became an integral part of the Judeo-Catholic meritocracy that took over the Protestant establishment in the latter half of the 20th century (shout out to my pops). In our conquest of the WASP nest, our elites flooded the federal bench, giving us so many of the authoritarian judges who wrote qualified immunity into the corpus of American law, giving the police their license to kill. Also, while Italians are no one’s fault but their own, I really doubt the absolute deference to law enforcement that animates Samuel Alito was produced by the law-abiding culture of Italy.
And in our recent embrace of true whiteness, the Irish became integral to the electorate that put Donald Trump in office. The ghost-like faces of decaying Micks are reflecting Fox News back at the screen all across America right now. Two-thirds of us voted for white revanchist fascism in 2016, and while most of us were doing it for the ostensibly-more-noble reason that we hated that bitch, many were acting on an elemental fear passed down in our blood like alcoholism: if we give up whiteness, we’ll go back to being Irish. God help us.
But that could never happen, because this country has no interest in revoking that status. We are established. We have arrived. We are the Man, for Christ’s sake.
The only question is not whether we will regress, but if we will allow our retrograde fixations to stop others from making their own long-overdue progress. It is whether our rapidly dissolving ex-diaspora will ever answer to those who subsidized our salvation with their damnation, who were left impoverished (and kept impoverished) as we rode the Homestead Act and the G.I. Bill to prosperity. Or, if I really want to get ambitious, if we will ever recognize our unique responsibility to recognize the symptoms of Black folks’ debasement at the hands of another race, to the ameliorate the injustices done to them under the thumb of a country that hates them?
I doubt it, though. I have no encouragement to offer, nor a charming anecdote about a good Irish cop to leaven my words. I don’t have constructive questions for us to ask ourselves, nor do I see any easy path to singing kumbaya. Despite being an Irish liberal, I don’t really feel bad about oversimplifying the diverse views of ~40 million people, either, because our self-satisfied white asses are generally part of the problem. Any progress will likely have to be beaten out of us by pressure from the other side. I don’t have any faith in our ability to do the right thing, even if it’s just a matter of not voting for fascists, because there is no “we” left: we’re all just white people now.
Right now, I’m watching the tear gas canisters and blunt-impact rounds strewing the streets of America’s capital, and hearing classically Irish morons like Hannity making excuses for fascism as readily as they do for a cop slowly murdering someone over a counterfeit $20, like it’s our duty to root for “our” criminals. I’m losing hope. We’re committed to a racial suicide pact, and I’m wracked with despair at the thought that my people would be the ones to destroy the very republic that delivered us from darkness, let alone that we’d give it up so cheap.
Maybe the English were right about us.