Last week, we learned that it’s not just low-key bigots who use phrases like “I’m not against immigrants, but…” 

Immigrants themselves also say things like this. 

Hey, at least they’re trying to be civil. 

As opposed to the radical fear-mongers out there – the white supremacists. Many of whom, it turns out, are not white. 

Yup. Strap on your seat belts. It’s gonna be a wild ride for the next few weeks. 

We begin in Brooklyn, where New York City Mayor Eric Adams is desperately seeking shelter for migrants. 

At one point, Adams considered putting the migrants up in public school gymnasiums, which went over just about as terribly as you’d expect. 

“The schools themselves were not in affluent neighborhoods but rather served working-class families of color, who were now livid,” New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante noted. 

“Parents, many immigrants themselves, were concerned about safety and felt cheated that their children would be denied gym in schools that were hardly abundant with amenities. They began lining up as early as three in the morning…in protest.” 

Many spoke to local TV stations and held up signs that were variations of this message: “We are immigrants ourselves. Or are parents are. But we still think this is a bad idea.” 

And of course, they’re right. But of course, no one really has a much better idea, do they? 

HBO’s John Oliver recently dedicated a long segment to the ongoing migrant shelter problem. It was very funny at times – at least when he was not lecturing the audience about the many obvious rights the migrants deserve such as a fair asylum hearing and process. And to be treated with dignity. To be safe.

Others offered similar lectures, about human beings not being illegal. The ACLU filed a lawsuit along similar lines. 

And now that we know what righteous folks you all are, where is it these poor souls and their children are going to sleep? And what very important social services are we going to slash, so as to come up with the necessary funds with which to tend to this very serious but very complex and expensive problem? 

And when working-class folks, who already need help with shelter and social services, get pissed off about these plans? Are you going to scold them as well? 

Why not? There’s a grand tradition in this country of letting the poor just tear at each other. 

It worked 150 years ago when Irish immigrants whipped up a frenzy about Chinese laborers out west. Historians generally ignore the class and labor issues at play here, and simply condemn this behavior as white supremacy, and why not?
They may not have had much money, but perhaps you’ve heard the Irish are quite famous for their milky complexion. 

Folks from Central or Latin America? Not so much. But no matter. 

“I didn’t like the book How the Irish Became White,” Irish American pundit Joan Walsh wrote in The Nation last week, arguing that Noel Ignatiev’s famous book unfairly made “the second-most-despised and discriminated group” seem “uniquely and resoundingly” racist. 

After all, as Walsh’s own headline had it: “White Supremacists Don’t Have to be White.” 

Walsh noted that the accused Allen, Texas gunman who killed eight people was a bigoted brute named Mauricio Garcia. 

The problem is that both righties and lefties have played a role locking Americans into their rigid racial and ethnic categories. And so the best Walsh can do is offer sentences like this: “But ‘whiteness’ doesn’t have to metastasize into ‘white supremacy.’ Just like rape is not about sex, but power, white supremacy is all about power.” 

Got that? Eventually, someone will talk about shelter and housing. And money. 

Until then, another bigoted brute – Cuban American Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio – is the person who actually gave us a glimpse into where America’s culture wars are going. 

I saw him wearing a shirt this week that read “American Supremacist.”

(On Twitter and Instagram: @TomDeignan)

*This column first appeared in the May 24 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.