When people associate racial background with America, most people automatically think of
European ancestry. This misunderstanding of what America is, causes many problems in the country. The
lack of recognition of various racial backgrounds and minority groups has been all too common, since the
very beginning when America was thought of as a New World. The native people of the land were treated
like they were foreigners and eventually stripped of their own land. When the country started to develop,
hypocritically they relied on the slave trade as part of their economy. They made slavery a racial issue and
treated the African Americans unfairly. Chinese, Irish, Japanese, and Jewish immigrants were discriminated
against and taken advantage of especially with labor issues. The Chicanos found themselves in a foreign
land after the Spanish-American War. Looking at the United States and all the different races, ethnicity,
and cultures, America can not be defined as one race or group. The only way that America can be looked at
is a melting pot of differences.
The Irish immigration to America was a necessity for some and people felt they did not have much
of a choice but to leave. In fact, many did not want to leave. They were enslaved and pushed out of Ireland
by the English. Takaki says, “The movement to America was ‘artificial’, explained one Irish migrant,
because property of Ireland had been created by English colonial policies .”(pg. 140) The English had a
long history of persecuting the Irish. As the English began to take over, they ceased Irish law and
regulation and took the land from them. Their living conditions were deplorable, the average cabin for a
family consisted of four walls of dried mud. Conditions in Ireland quickly worsened and many Irish
migrated to America. As the Irish were migrating to America, they were sending letters back to Ireland
telling them about this new Promised Land. This caused an enormous increase of Irish migrating to
The dream that America was the land of opportunity and the big demand for labor drew the Irish to
America. The Irish primarily worked in construction for roads and canals during the Market Revolution.
They built thousands of miles of rail lines all over the country. Takaki writes, “The pervasive presence of
the Irish in railroad work produced the popular saying that there was ‘an Irishman buried under every
tie’.”(pg. 146) The jobs that the Irish immigrants were given were often very dangerous and life
threatening. An ax distributor in Connecticut hired the Irish because they were the only people who would
take the dangerous work.
For many Irish immigrants the glitter that they saw of America, did not turn out to be gold. The
Irish immigrant workers felt that they were treated badly and even referred to themselves as being treated
like dogs. They lived in conditions similar to the slums in Ireland. The Irish were also being exploited and
competition with other races was evident. They especially were competitive with the Chinese. The Chinese
were supposed to be the ideal worker and set an example for the Irish. Takaki writes, “Writing for
Scribners monthly, William Shanks compared to the Chinese to the Irish workers. The Chinese ‘labored
regularly and constantly, losing no blue Monday on account of Sundays’ dissipations nor wasting hours on
idle holidays,’ he reported.” (pg. 148). In the shoe manufacturing business, Irish workers were fighting
against unfair wages and the chance to use machines that would help with labor. The workers came
together and created the Secret Order of the Knights of St. Crispin. The Crispins demanded better wages
and reasonable amount of hours to work. To show their commitment to what they wanted, they went on
strike. Calvin T. Sampson, owner of the factory, terminated all of the dissatisfied workers and planned to
make sure that there no more problems with them. So Sampson hired Chinese workers. They were brought
over specifically to take the place of the Irish strikers. Sampson saw hiring the Chinese as an experiment
and noticed they were producing more than the Irish, but with the same quality that the Irish produced. To
counter Sampson’s move, the Irish tried to make a Chinese sect of St. Crispin. Their attempt for the
Chinese failed and many Irish workers turned against the Chinese, saying that they lowered the standards
for American labor.
By the 1900’s, the Irish were going to college and getting a proper education. They were attending
prestigious schools like Harvard. The Irish were initially