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Irish Slavery Myth: Fake History in the Aftermath of Charlottesville

The rise of white nationalism takes on political, religious, philosophical, socioeconomic, and historical dimensions. As one might expect, alt-right sympathizers are once again turning to revisionism in its response to America’s Anti-Facism (Antifa) that openly challenges the white supremacy narrative. Recently, an article written by Ronald Dwyer on the Irish slavery is recirculating social media to nullify Antifa and appeal to deep-seated white supremacist sentiments. 

In his March 16, 2015 article, Dwyer advanced the myth that Irish slavery, which dated back to King James VI (1625), was no less brutal than the TransAtlantic Slave Trade that ravished Africa beginning in early 16th century. In his article, Dwyer writes:

 

There is little question the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more, in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is also little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry.

 

Dwyer’s claim and claims by previous revisionists cannot be further from the truth when Irish and African experiences undergo serious scrutiny. At the center of these two histories is a stark contrast as to the status of those enslaved. In the Irish experience, not a single credible historical source has asserted that people of Irish descent were stripped of human nature. However, from the inception of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade footprint in Portugal, through its end in America and subsequently in Brazil (1888), Africans were codified as non-human. Relegated to nothing more than another beast of the fields. And this fundamental injustice visited upon African ignited the worst form of terrorism and injustice in the history of mankind.

Articles like Dwyer’s have a captive audience in segments of our society that resist the harsh reality of the African experience, seeking sanitize the abhorrent nature of white supremacy. Such resistance employs equivocation and readily embraces supporting claims – false as they are. One reader of the  Dwyer article commented, “I knew about this because my great great grandmother and her brother were “indentured servants” and the history was past down from my grandfather to me. I like to tell African Americans that chant racism about it when they say poor me for something that never happened to them personally.”

The fact that Dwyer perpetuated a myth matters little. Failure to engage in a critical review of false claims evokes hostility when exposed. The resurgence of content such as Dwyer’s article comes at a most contentious moment in our nation’s recent history.  The Charlottesville, Va. tragedy has unleashed a fury of public debate on what is arguably America’s most persistent challenge; resolution of the race issue. White supremacy is once again at the center of profound questions about our nation’s meandering history and iconic figures, from Christopher Columbus to Abraham Lincoln, who shaped that history. And in this climate of entrenched racial views that transcend everything from sports to congressional redistricting, soft white supremacy can be as dangerous as emboldened hard white supremacy that manifest in today’s hoodless followers of Fascist, Nazi, Ku Klan Klan, Skinhead and other white nationalist movements.

At first glance, Dwyer’s discourse might appear to employ and uphold investigative standards. However, the writer indeed violated a number of these standards on the road to propagating a longstanding myth. Dwyer, for instance, lists the very same references published by Catholic Weekly in 1995 and republished by Eternal Word Television Network. One might argue that in essentially copying a previously-published suggests that the more recent writing resulted from a willful lack of genuine exploration.

These are times for reflection and investigation regardless of one’s political views. Complexity, even that which existed in the lives of men like Thomas Jefferson, must be explored. Equivocations, as that offered in President Trump’s recent Robert E. Lee/George Washington statement, must be exposed by the cleansing agent of critical thinking.

Numerous sources have debunked the Irish slavery myth discussed by Dwyer. These include:

“Debunking a Myth: The Irish Were Not Slaves, Too”, The New York Times

“Irish slave myth”, Wikipedia

“The curious origins of the ‘Irish slaves’ myth”, Public Radio International

“AP FACT CHECK: Irish slavery a St. Patrick’s Day myth”, Associated Press News

“Myth of Irish ‘slavery’ promoted by white supremacists ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, CBC News

“Were the Irish Slaves in America, Too?”, Snopes

“How the Myth of the “Irish slaves” Became a Favorite Meme of Racists Online”, Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

The reader is encouraged to research and be prepared to respond when confronted the the idea that the Irish experience paralleled the TransAtlantic Slave Trade.

 

 

 
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