Our ancestors knew about discrimination and what it can do to you too. When they came to America in the 19th century they were greeted not with handshakes but with contempt. They were lampooned as sub-human caricatures in the popular newspapers, or they were drafted as soon as they hit the dry dock in the Civil War.
Then they found themselves blamed for all of societies ills but not for its gains. That story sounds familiar to me.
They had escaped the floating coffin ship that was Ireland itself in the 1840s to come to a nation that would grind them to powder in the Five Points or on the Rail Roads or in the cannon’s roar.
Their lives were tough as hell. They were tough as hell. It amazing how quickly we forget what they went through.
I don’t forget because since coming to the U.S. I’ve really had the 19th century immigrant experience rather than the 21st.
I’ve seen my life and future debated in the newspapers for years. I’ve seen people who have rights insist that I should never have any. I’ve heard the poisonous rhetoric of religious and political leaders and I’ve seen the violence it leads to.
Most of all, I’ve discovered what it’s like to live trapped behind a glass wall waiting for it to break before my heart or spirit did. It was not a job for sissies.