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rojo's avatar

Did the predominantly Catholic Irish and Italian immigrants face much of the same vitriol we now see directed toward Syrian Muslims?

Asked by rojo (24118points) November 20th, 2015

I said Syrian but all potential Islamic immigrants.
And, to me it appears that the Protestant denominations are much more virulently opposed to Muslim immigrants than either the Catholics or the Jews. Is this a misperception on my part or do you see a similar breakdown along religious lines?

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26 Answers

janbb's avatar

All immigrant groups have been vilified at one point or another in their immigration history. As for today, I see the breakdown more as Republicans being the haters and Democrats more accepting but I don’t know what stats there are on religion.

kritiper's avatar

I know the Irish caught tons of flak back in the day. I believe the Italians did also. And the Chinese. The Mormons, generally speaking, have one hell of an attitude against those who are not of the faith. The list goes on!

Cruiser's avatar

In the late 30’s the pushback of people not wanting Jewish refugees was much higher than the percent not wanting Syrian refugees to come here.

zenvelo's avatar

@Seek a lot of the second batch you posted are from Australia.

Yes, Irish and Italians faced the same amount of welcome. This time there is an unfounded amount of fear, people not thinking through that the refugees are hoping to get away from ISIS, not bring it to the US.

rojo's avatar

@kritiper With the Chinese, it appears to me to be more of an ethnic thing; their religion doesn’t seem to be an issue (kind of like it is a given they will not be Christian).

@Seek good examples there but they do seem to express more of an ethnic flavor. It does occur to me that for the most part it was assumed they were Catholic and perhaps the religious bias is a hidden factor.

JLeslie's avatar

“Irish need not apply” is a well known part of American history. My guess is that might have contributed to why many became police officers and firemen, probably those vocations let them work.

Many Jews were denied entry when Hitler was ramping up, and a portion who were denied were killed at the hands of Hitler, although obviously many were also allowed in. Probably also during the Pogroms, but I don’t know that history as well.

The Jews and the Catholics have stronger ties and memories to their relatives who immigrated or fled from their mother countries. Seriously, when I lived in Memphis, I guess since they had been in America so many generations, they didn’t have any pride or stories or food or sometimes barely any knowledge at all of how the family came over. It’s not surprising they are less empathetic. Add in their religion is winding them up about Muslims and it’s all in a pretty package. The church uses fear to unite the forces.

Having said that one of my extremely religious Evangelical friends just posted on Facebook for all to see that she has to trust God, trust Him that we are supposed to help those in need, to help the refugees. I thought it took a lot of guts for her to post it when most of our Protestant mutual friends are saying every hateful line you can think of about the refugees, Obama, and on and on.

rojo's avatar

For those interested, here is an interesting article about the Irish The 1930’s: When Irish Catholics Changed America

rojo's avatar

@JLeslie got to agree with your friend there. There are decent folk of every ilk.

JLeslie's avatar

@rojo I think the Catholics are still a swing vote. My Catholic friends are mostly Republicans, but vote in favor of liberal issues all the time. Plus, a lot of Catholics are in unions, simply a coincidence I think that many of the heavily Catholic states are heavily union.

jerv's avatar

I think a more relevant question is whether the American arm of Protestantism and the Republican party have already merged into one Theocratic political entity, and a rather hate-filled, intolerant one at that.

CWOTUS's avatar

Oh, hell yes. If you read American history of the 20th century then you’ll understand a lot of the parallels from then to the antipathy to today’s Muslim refugees / asylum seekers / immigrants. In many ways we are fully reliving our own history from a hundred years ago. It’s not an exact parallel, but close enough to be talking about.

In the early part of the 20th century there were quotas placed – for the first time in our history, I believe – on immigration from “Southern and Eastern Europe”. Not only Italian, but Greek, Albanians, Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Russian immigration (to name the major nations only) was strongly curtailed. One huge fear of the time was “Bolshevism”, since the Russian revolution started at about that time, and Bolsheviks were the terrorists of that day – though not on the scale or with the mass effectiveness of today.

This was also after the Irish immigration due to the Potato Famine of the 19th century, as others have noted, and the Chinese “importation” (more than “immigration”) of coolie labor on the Transcontinental Railroad and other highly labor-intensive construction and agricultural work in the West. Chinese immigrants were in many cases treated worse than the slaves who had been emancipated by the Civil War.

And this doesn’t even touch on our treatment of Native Americans, whose presence here predated all European immigration, of course.

Clearly, one of the major differences between then and now is that we have vast government-provided “support” systems (welfare) that was essentially non-existent a century ago. So “coming for the bennies” never even entered people’s heads; Americans of the time were not worried about people “getting welfare”, but about “taking their jobs”. (Or just undercutting wages by being willing to work for less than the already-employed.) So there are a lot of differences worth discussing, too.

jerv's avatar

@CWOTUS ” In many ways we are fully reliving our own history from a hundred years ago. It’s not an exact parallel, but close enough to be talking about.”

~Yeah, I don’t recall any politician ever making people of a certain religion wear a highly visible symbol and/or be entered into a national database.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv When in America did the government make citizens wear a religious symbol? I think you are thinking of Germany.

jca's avatar

Maybe @jerv is thinking of Donald Trump’s proposal?

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I forgot about that. You must be right. Gawd, just seeing it stated like that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Here in the country of religious freedom? Was it Trump? I thought it was Cruz? I’ve been traveling. I haven’t watched much news in a couple of weeks.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The immigrant German Catholic shopkeepers in NYC started opening their stores on Sundays just after the Civil War and that caused a huge uproar among Protestant Americans—who had been firmly in control of America since the Revolution. Catholics weren’t trusted as they were considered “Papists” and the protestants felt they were loyal to the Pope first, and the constitution second. Horace Greeley and later Richard Harding Davis and other journalists wrote articles in the newspapers about how wave upon wave of papists were coming ashore and would soon outnumber the protestants and America would be ruled by the Pope (there was still worries about this when Kennedy was elected in 1960). It was a papal conspiracy, for sure. Some politicians didn’t want Catholics in the military. Special “Loyalty Oaths” were administered only to Catholics in Boston upon their entry into the civil service.

It was a favorite theme in the Hearst’s popular New York Sun. The New York Times was even attacked for not being anti-papist enough. The Times was and is owned by the Adolph Ochs family—easy targets themselves if it became too widely known that they were Jews from Chattanooga. Every Irishman was a dissolute drunk, including their priests, and every Italian was a member of the Black Hand and would murder protestants in their sleep if they could.

There was firm resistance to the Catholics holding any political office. The Sunday thing was a nationwide issue and a lot of political candidates began papist-baiting (same as red-baiting) in order to get elected. Google the Know Nothing Party. Eventually, Catholic politicians finally got a foothold in Boston and New York around the turn of the century and soon showed America they could be just as corrupt as the protestants; loyal only to the payoff and nothing else. Many came up through the already corrupt civil service of these cities as policemen, postal workers, ward bosses, etc.

Google Tammany Hall (an outcrop of Irish Catholic gangs like the Columbian Order and the Sons of St. Tammany in NYC), or James Michael Curly of Boston (Irish Catholic), or Richard Daley of Chicago (Irish Catholic), Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia (Italian Catholic). Not a papist in the bunch.

stanleybmanly's avatar

there isn’t a single ethnicity outside of wasp that hasn’t found itself filling in that blank before “need not apply”. Such sentiments are never primary with the vast majority of our population. But they are tolerated by that majority for the simple reason that it’s far too easy to miss the obvious conclusion that “it could happen to me”.

Seek's avatar

If you go back to Tudor England, even WASPs were discriminated against.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes it appears all of us must have a turn!

kritiper's avatar

Irish in general, not just the Catholic ones. And, yes, Italians too. And others, no doubt.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Both Irish and German Catholics met with the same vitriol as today’s Muslims, or worse. The nation’s feelings toward Catholic immigarnts was reflected in the political cartoons of the mid-19th century, exacerbated during popular Catholic NY Governor Al Smith’s run for the presidency in 1927–28 and right up through Catholic Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy’s run for the White House in 1959–60, then throughout his presidency. The fear was that Catholic politician’s patriotic duty to the nation would be superceded by their dedication to the pope in Rome.

Everything from forcing good, practicing Protestant shopkeepers into sin by keeping their stores open on the Sabath to contend with Catholic competition in the 1850’s, the collapse of the economy in the 1870’s, to the anti-Prohibition movement before 1920, to the Stockmarket Crash in 1929 was blamed on the Catholics and their “blind loyalty” to their papal dictator in Rome.

This prejudice was most effectively depicted in the extremely popular mid-19th century Harper’s Weekly political cartoonist and German immigrant Catholic-turned-Protestant, Thomas Nast—and others of the time.

Here is a cartoon by the influential Thomas Nast depicting Catholic Bishops attacking the American public school system which is being nobly defended by a Protestant politician.

Here is a Nast cartoon supporting the myth of the “Drunken Catholic Irishman”.

Here//Pope-America-cartoon-3000–3×2.jpg is another 19th century cartoon depicting Catholic bishops invading American shores to control what is taught in public schools and convert the our Protestant children.

Here is another Nast cartoon depicting a Civil Wartime Protestant politician unseating the Pope while the Pope’s feet are being kissed by an Irish American woman wearing the cap of Liberty.

Here Lust is portrayed in the image of a Catholic priest.

Here is an early 20th century cartoon of a Catholic politician in the confessional while the priest on the other side of the screen is telegraphing all the politician’s indescretions to Rome.

Here a Catholic bishop is reporting directly to Rome all the doings of both US political parties. Caption: “Shall He Be Allowed to Rule America?”

But remember this: The Asian American had it much worse. There were many instances out west of lynchings of Chinamen by Anglo-Americans and where they often burned their sections of town to the ground in spontaneous, drunken frenzies. In Weaverville, California, Chinese were often used for target practice. This behaviour was rarely ever commented upon by politicians of the the day and nearly always went unpunished.

There is nothing new in our darkest prejudicial tendencies and our history should teach us to beware of how cruel and out of control we can be.

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janbb's avatar

Ah Crow – we miss him!

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