Colored Me

This is the mar­riage license of my great-great grand­fa­ther,  born in Ire­land in 1854 and mar­ried to a Vir­ginia native in 1884. His race, you’ll notice, is given as “col­ored.” Since when are Irish­men colored?

My father found this when he started doing fam­ily his­tory after he retired. We mostly laughed, a lot, when he revealed it at a fam­ily Christ­mas party: that year he sent us all Kwanza cards as a joke.

But being a his­to­rian I couldn’t help but be fas­ci­nated. I’d read some of the lit­er­a­ture on “white­ness,” notably Ignatiev’s How the Irish Became White, and I’d been HIGHLY skep­ti­cal. It seemed to me to be sort of related to the kind of whin­ing white col­lege kids did about how they were dis­crim­i­nated against because they did not have a “white stud­ies pro­gram” on cam­pus. That’s not what Ignatiev had in mind, but I thought the “Irish were not white” bit was wildly overstated.

I was clearly wrong, and look­ing into it a lit­tle more resulted in a whole class les­son around the image of the Irish in the 19th cen­tury and the range of anti-Irish nativism. It focused on the mal­leabil­ity of stereo­types, and how what seems “nat­ural” and obvi­ous in one era seems odd in the next.

But still how to explain this doc­u­ment? It was his mar­riage cer­tifi­cate: surely even the green­est Irish immi­grant knew enough to avoid being classed as “colored.”

If you take a close look at it, it gets more and more interesting.

Here is the full scan:

Right away there are some oddities–his wife Hes­ter Hol­land, a Vir­ginia native, is also listed as col­ored. Per­haps she was known to be col­ored, and they could not legally marry unless they were both con­sid­ered colored?

Seems very unlikely–here’s the lov­ing cou­ple on or about their wed­ding day.  Hard to place them as any­thing other than “white.”

And it’s hard to believe that any white per­son liv­ing in south­ern Vir­ginia in 1884, would know­ingly or will­ingly reclas­sify them­selves as “col­ored:” the dis­ad­van­tages would be sig­nif­i­cant, to put it mildly, although not as sig­nif­i­cant as they would be after about 1895, when for­mal legal seg­re­ga­tion began to appear.

Nanse­mond County was merged into Suf­folk County in 1972: that explains the non-existent Vir­ginia County. The doc­u­ment is a copy issued in 1998. But what about that nota­tion on the bot­tom line of text, read­ing “Date Record FiIed: July 1940?” That’s odd.  Surely the orig­i­nal license was filed in 1884: oth­er­wise they could not have mar­ried and the doc­u­ment could not have been retrieved.

Some­thing funky hap­pened in 1940.

In 1940 Virginia’s Depart­ment of Vital Sta­tis­tics, which housed all VA mar­riage licenses and birth and death  cer­tifi­cates, was under the direc­tion of  a very remark­able and remark­ably awful man, Wal­ter Ashby Plecker.

Wal­ter Plecker at the Bureau of Vital Statistics

Born in Vir­ginia, trained as a med­ical doc­tor, Plecker worked first as a pub­lic health offi­cial. In this capac­ity Plecker was a strong south­ern pro­gres­sive: he did impor­tant work on pub­lic health and san­i­ta­tion, and embarked on a an extremely aggres­sive pro­gram of inspec­tions, cau­tion­ing Vir­gini­ans about the impor­tance of vac­ci­na­tion and the dan­gers of con­t­a­m­i­nated drink­ing water. He gave speeches, he wrote arti­cles in national jour­nals and news­pa­pers. He explained where to build latrines and out­houses, and how to prop­erly wash and cook to pre­vent disease.

Plecker’s com­mit­ment to hygiene extended to racial hygiene as well. He was an absolutely hard-core racist with a deep com­mit­ment to eugen­ics, the sci­ence of “racial hygiene.” Plecker believed absolutely in the nat­ural, genetic supe­ri­or­ity of the the Anglo Saxon race; though he only a vague under­stand­ing of genet­ics, he insisted that any “amal­ga­ma­tion,” or min­gling of the races, would have dis­as­trous effects on gen­eral pub­lic health. It would under­mine the nation itself, by destroy­ing its nat­ural leaders.

The prob­lem, for men like Plecker, came from per­sons who looked white but pos­sessed “black blood.” Such per­sons could pass for white but they  car­ried a hered­i­tary taint that would inevitably return.

Plecker played a major role in the pas­sage, in 1924, of Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act,”  which required that the race of every new­born be recorded at birth. The law fur­ther for­bid racial “inter­mar­riage” and made it legal to “sex­u­ally ster­il­ize” the inmates of state insti­tu­tions, to pre­vent them from pass­ing on bad genes.

In the past,” the pub­lic health bul­letin says, “it has been pos­si­ble for these peo­ple to declare them­selves white.” Thus embold­ened, “they have demanded admit­tance or their chil­dren into the white schools” and have even, in a few cases, “inter­mar­ried with white people.”

Plecker’s allies in this bat­tle for racial integrity included the Vir­ginia com­poser John Pow­ell. Trained in Europe as a con­cert pianist, Pow­ell made a name for him­self as a com­poser. He had a sharp inter­est in Amer­i­can musi­cal forms, and his Negro Rhap­sody of 1918 quoted from Swing Low, Sweet Char­iot. But by 1924 Pow­ell too had become obsessed with racial purity. He called the immi­grant “melt­ing pot” a “witches caul­dron” and began insist­ing that “negro melodies” were actu­ally stolen from Ger­man folk­songs: that they rep­re­sented the musi­cal genius of the Anglo Saxon race.  Pow­ell later became a major folk­lorist, argu­ing that Appalachian folk songs rep­re­sented the true musi­cal expres­sion of the pure Anglo Saxon race. He and Plecker cor­re­sponded fre­quently: together they founded a group of orga­ni­za­tions known as the “National Anglo Saxon Clubs.”

Virginia’s new law gave Plecker the power to pre­vent the racially sus­pect from mar­ry­ing. He set about the job with obses­sive zeal.

Plecker’s zeal for Eugen­ics was extreme, but not unusual. Through­out the nation, the Amer­i­can Eugen­ics Soci­ety spon­sored “Fit­ter Fam­i­lies” con­tests, in which teams of experts selected the fam­ily with the best and purest bloodlines.

From Pop­u­lar Sci­ence Monthly, August 1923

Fit­ter Fam­ily” con­tests, accom­pa­nied by edu­ca­tional demon­stra­tions on the dan­gers of impure blood and racial inter­mar­riage, appeared at state and county fairs all over the coun­try in the 1920s. The Amer­i­can Eugen­ics Soci­ety pushed to have its mate­ri­als included in high school and col­lege classrooms.

Eugen­ics was never uncrit­i­cally accepted. The quest for “fit­ter fam­i­lies” was some­times mocked. But Eugen­ics enjoyed a national and inter­na­tional vogue. This clip­ping, from the New York Times, May 28, 1926, seems fairly chill­ing, par­tic­u­larly the last line: “this is the first real test of the Eugen­ics the­ory to be tried out in Ger­many.” The first, but cer­tainly not the last.

When Nazi sci­en­tists looked for evi­dence to sup­port their eugenic the­o­ries, they gen­er­ally turned to the advanced work Amer­i­cans were doing on the sub­ject. Amer­i­can eugeni­cists would often use the phrase “final solu­tion” when talk­ing about the prob­lem of the unfit. They meant the elim­i­na­tion of the genet­i­cally infe­rior, through edu­ca­tional cam­paigns, restric­tive laws or by pro­grams of invol­un­tary sterilization.

Plecker saw his role as polic­ing who could and could not count as white., and giv­ing Vir­ginia a reli­able racial map.  The let­ter from Plecker below is quoted in Edward Black’s excel­lent book War Against the Weak:

This aston­ish­ing piece of bul­ly­ing, Plecker felt, was jus­ti­fied by the neces­sity of racial purity. In this let­ter, Plecker far exceeded his actual author­ity. By the end of his career, he had been sued sev­eral times by Vir­gini­ans who resented his will­ing­ness to appoint him­self judge and jury and exe­cu­tioner in decid­ing the citizen’s racial destiny.

His­to­ri­ans know Plecker best through his cam­paign against Virginia’s Indi­ans. Mon­grel Vir­gini­ans, pub­lished in 1926, argued that there were no Indi­ans in Vir­ginia: the orig­i­nal Indi­ans had so inter­mar­ried with negros and low whites that they no longer fit the name. The book invented a new term, the “Win” tribe, to describe. this degraded intermixture.

Plecker used this book, and his own intu­ition and judg­ment, to erase the record of Vir­ginia Indian tribes. When he came across  per­sons who called them­selves “Indian,” or who named them­selves as mem­bers of a spe­cific tribe, he would reclas­sify them as col­ored. Fear­ing that African Amer­i­cans were try­ing to escape seg­re­ga­tion by call­ing them­selves Indi­ans, and believ­ing that no “racially pure” Indi­ans remained, he ordered state agen­cies to rewrite the his­tor­i­cal record.

Let­ter from Plecker to VA state offi­cials, 1943.

In 1943, for exam­ple,. Plecker wrote to “Local Reg­is­trars, Physi­cians, Health Offi­cers, Nurses, School Super-intendents, and Clerks of the Courts” in Vir­ginia, warn­ing that “mon­grels, find­ing that they have been able to sneak in their birth cer­tifi­cates un– chal­lenged as Indi­ans are now mak­ing a rush to reg­is­ter as white… Those attempt­ing this fraud should be warned that they are liable to a penalty of one year in the pen­i­ten­tiary (Sec­tion 5099a of the Code).”

To aid all of you in deter­min­ing just which are the mixed fam­i­lies,” Plecker con­tin­ued, “we have made a list of their sur­names by coun­ties and cities, as com­plete as pos­si­ble at this time. This list should be pre­served by all, even by those in coun­ties and cities not included, as these peo­ple are mov­ing around over the State and chang­ing race at the new place.”

Plecker con­tin­ued: “all cer­tifi­cates of these peo­ple show­ing “Indian” or “white” are now being rejected and returned to the physi­cian or mid­wife, but local reg­is­trars here­after must not per­mit them to pass their hands uncor­rected or unchal­lenged and with­out a note of warn­ing to us. One hun­dred and fifty thou­sand other mulat­toes in Vir­ginia are watch­ing eagerly the attempt of their pseudo-Indian brethren, ready to fol­low in a rush when the first have made a break in the dike.”

Plecker rewrote the doc­u­men­tary record of his­tory to suit his own arbi­trary prej­u­dices, and to keep the “dike” of racial seg­re­ga­tion intact.

So to return to the mar­riage license of Patrick O’Malley and Hes­ter Hol­land:  a few years ago I gave a talk in Nor­folk, and took a day to drive out to the Suf­folk County cour­t­house to find Patrick and Hester’s orig­i­nal mar­riage license. The form has a space for “color,” in the left hand col­umn: it says sim­ply “white.”

This is the form Plecker or one of his clerks would have seen, and I assume “refiled,” in 1940. I can rea­son­ably con­clude that Plecker or one of his clerks sim­ply decided that Patrick O’Malley, being Irish, was not white, and that Hes­ter (my Father knew her as “Esther”) Hol­land must have been the prod­uct of some tan­gled skein of inter­mar­riage that made her also non-white in the State’s eyes.

Rail cross­ing where Patrick and Hes­ter lived

While in Suf­folk County I drove out to the address given for Patrick O’Malley and Hes­ter Hol­land. I asked around in the small town near this cross­roads, and peo­ple told me there were lots of Hol­lands still liv­ing there, both col­ored and white. Per­haps Plecker regarded Patrick as white, but wanted to make dou­bly sure no child of the mon­grel Hester’s mar­riage could ever claim white iden­tity. Per­haps he thought that a woman degraded enough to marry an Irish­man off the boat had for­feited the claim to whiteness.

Plecker sup­ported the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which vir­tu­ally halted immi­gra­tion to the US from coun­tries, mostly south­ern and east­ern Euro­pean, then regarded as genet­i­cally infe­rior. Ire­land was not among them: by 1924 there were too many Irish Amer­i­cans in posi­tions of polit­i­cal power to make that pos­si­ble. I have not been able to find any evi­dence of specif­i­cally anti-Irish ani­mus in Plecker, but I have not done much hard research yet.

Racial the­o­rist regarded the Irish as a “celtic,” not an “anglo saxon” peo­ple: if anglo saxon equaled “white,” then the Irish did not quite qual­ify, and nei­ther did the Jews, the Ital­ians, the Rus­sians and Poles and Greeks. I plan to do fur­ther research on Plecker and his com­padre, Pow­ell, to see if I can find a better-documented answer.

But one sense it hardly mat­ters: Plecker failed com­pletely. Patrick O’Malley’s descen­dants left Vir­ginia, after a series of railroad-related land spec­u­la­tions appar­ently failed: no one ever ques­tioned their white­ness again, and while his chil­dren felt them­selves, as Irish Amer­i­cans, to be some­what apart, no one ever doubted their white cre­den­tials. We live today in the  very “mon­grel” Amer­ica Plecker was most fright­ened of.

Wal­ter Plecker retired in 1946, at the age of eighty four; he died a year later. There  is no evi­dence that the rev­e­la­tion of the Nazi death camps–the rot­ten fruit of eugen­ics, the log­i­cal cul­mi­na­tion of eugenic theories–affected him in any way.

What do I con­clude from this odd episode? That Hes­ter Hol­land was named as “col­ored” con­firms what oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly Edwin Black in War Against the Weak, have already doc­u­mented: that Plecker used a rigid and arbi­trary sense of racial purity to reclas­sify Vir­gini­ans at his own whim. Plecker was moti­vated by white supremacy and by the fear that African Amer­i­cans  were claim­ing Indian her­itage in order to evade Virginia’s seg­re­ga­tion laws and “pass over” into white.

I also think I can con­clude that as late as 1940 the state of Vir­ginia offi­cially regarded Irish peo­ple as “col­ored,” as com­i­cal as that idea might seem. Today, in stereo­types, Irish Amer­i­cans appear to be extremely “white,” freck­led, prone to sun­burn, rep­re­sented on TV by right wing anti-immigrant blowhards like Sean Han­nity or Bill O’Reilly. Few Amer­i­cans today would regard the Irish as  a dis­tinct race: they are just white peo­ple. But in 1940, Plecker’s office regarded the Irish as a non-white race.

That in turn sug­gests that eugen­ics had a far more tena­cious hold than Amer­i­cans would pre­fer to believe. Plecker con­tin­ued try­ing to weed out the racially unfit even as Amer­i­can GIs were lib­er­at­ing the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps. Though he saw black/white seg­re­ga­tion as his core con­cern he appar­ently thought it cru­cial to seg­re­gate the eth­nic cul­tures we now com­monly think of as “white.” I don’t know this for a fact–I won­der if other fam­i­lies have found sim­i­lar doc­u­ments? I hope to do more research on this subject.

Plecker’s career also demon­strates the neg­a­tive side of pro­gres­sivism, the ways it used a notion of sci­ence to bully and dis­rupt and destroy. From his desk in Rich­mond he assumed the power to tell peo­ple who they could marry, where they could live, what schools they could attend, what rights they could enjoy. What made the “prob­lem” of racial “mix­ing” so urgent?

The case makes it abun­dantly clear how race is “con­structed,” an idea born out of the imper­a­tives and needs of spe­cific classes and the State rather than per­ma­nently installed by nature. The prob­lem, for Plecker, was not that pro­found nat­ural divi­sions between peo­ple existed: it was pre­cisely the oppo­site. These divi­sions did not exist in any real way. Vir­gini­ans “inter­mar­ried:” they crossed Plecker’s lines all the time.

Plecker’s work was self-subverting–his insis­tence that peo­ple who looked white were actu­ally mixed shows that he knew how flimsy a reed the idea of “racial purity” actu­ally was. Plecker actu­ally cre­ated, by admin­is­tra­tive fiat, the thing he claimed to loath.

Virginia’s Racial Integrity law was over­turned by the Supreme Court in the beau­ti­fully named case of Lov­ing vs. Vir­ginia (1967). Mil­dred Jeter grew up in Vir­ginia believ­ing she was an Indian: the State of Vir­ginia regarded her as “col­ored,” mean­ing non-white and sub­ject to seg­re­ga­tion. After she mar­ried Richard Lov­ing in Wash­ing­ton DC, the State of Vir­ginia sen­tenced them both to a year in prison. Lov­ing vs Vir­ginia over­turned that law, and con­vinc­ingly estab­lished mar­riage as a civil right open equally to all con­sent­ing adults.

8 Comments

  • […] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by Jodi Schnei­der and Mar­tin H. Ols­son, Ellen Noo­nan. Ellen Noo­nan said: Check out “Col­ored Me,” Mike O’Malley’s tale of fam­ily his­tory, eugen­ics, and Vir­ginia civil ser­vants run amok http://theaporetic.com/?p=54 […]

  • […] of his­tor­i­cal writ­ing, shorter forms with less schol­arly appa­ra­tus. For exam­ple, I made a post about Wal­ter Plecker, the Vir­ginia eugeni­cist who set about reclas­si­fy­ing peo­ple as white or “colored” […]

  • Mike,
    can’t find an email con­tact so I’ll post this here, maybe you’ll see it currently.

    Inter­ested in con­tro­versy, or maybe its inter­ested in reveal­ing our com­mon mis­per­cep­tions? … you might con­sider open­ing some dia­logues by pre­sent­ing this over at this call for papers:

    http://www.chicagoartistsresource.org/visual-arts/node/30918

    Dead­line:
    1/12/2011

    con­cerns among other top­ics what affect dias­poric identities …

  • Saw your arti­cle on Col­ored Me.

    I was kind of amused. I am pretty sure that the “col­ored” assig­na­tion was due to the Hol­land side of the mix­ture, not the O’Malley.

    What­ever ani­mus the White suprema­cists had, they were usu­ally not so lame as to label the Irish as col­ored. Too many Irish have blue eyes (about 50% or more). And since your ances­tor was from North Ire­land, Done­gal, he almost cer­tainly had blue eyes.

    Now, since Gen­eral Robert E. Lee had black hair and brown eyes, it would be make Ol’ Marse Robert less white than your ances­tor.
    I doubt that the issue was your ances­tors’ Irishness.

    Half or more of the South, though pre­tend­ing to be Anglo-Saxon is of Irish, Scots-Irish (who have more Irish in them than they care to admit) or Scot­tish ances­try. You can hear it in their music. The term Irish is slop­pily used by them.

    But to get a sense of this, one has to go to the Grand­daddy of Nordic Suprema­cism, Madi­son Grant who wrote a ridicu­lous book called THE PASSING OF THE GREAT RACE (1916). No doubt, Plecker read it.

    Even such a racial suprema­cist as Madi­son Grant, no lover of the Irish, said that while the Irish (and South Ger­man Catholics) were not cul­tur­ally ben­e­fi­cial (his view not mine), they were NOT racially damaging.

    Grant’s gen­er­al­ized map shows the Ire­land almost as Nordic as Eng­land, and even more Nordic than most of France and Germany.

    THE PRESENT DISTRIBUTION OF EUROPEAN RACES (1916)
    http://img206.imageshack.us/img206/1518/madisongrantracemap1916qo7.jpg

    Grant had a cul­tural bias against the Irish, but even Grant, one of the bul­warks of Nordic Supremacy, had to admit the Irish were rea­son­ably Nordic or close enough to Nordic as to be of no racial concern.

    BTW: The term Celtic was used by the racists to sig­nify cul­tural or lin­guis­tic affil­i­a­tion, not racial phe­no­type. To their view, a Scot­tish High­land Gaelic speaker was cul­tur­ally Gaelic, but phe­no­typ­i­cally Nordic. A blond blue eyed Ital­ian might be cul­tur­ally Latin, but phe­no­typ­i­cally Nordic. They viewed Nordic­ity as a trait, extant through­out all of Europe, but more com­mon in the North­ern Coun­tries. Yet, they said, Nordics had pen­e­trated in lesser num­bers to the South of Europe.

    Oddly enough, even the Nordic Suprema­cists has to admit that the Mediter­ranean peo­ples might sur­pass the Nordics in Intellect.

    Madi­son Grant made this amaz­ing concession:

    The men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Mediter­ranean race are well known, and this race, while
    infe­rior in bod­ily sta­mina to both the Nordic and the Alpine, is prob­a­bly the supe­rior of both, cer­tainly of the Alpines, in intel­lec­tual attain­ments. In the field of art its supe­ri­or­ity to both the
    other Euro­pean races is unques­tioned.“
    page 101 Source:
    http://www.jrbooksonline.com/PDF_Books_added2009-2/PassingOfGreatRace.pdf

    So, to Grant’s mind, a (Mediter­ranean) Spaniard was less of threat than an (Alpine)Slav; not that Grant was fond of either.

    The idiocy of this is appar­ent. Large sec­tions of Slavic Rus­sia, Slavic Poland and the Baltic states are far more Nordic than even North­ern Germany.

    Here is what I think most likely happened.

    You ances­ter, Hes­ter Hol­land, had a sur­name com­mon to a group of peo­ple who were “sus­pected” of mixing.

    Whether or not she was of mixed blood was unim­por­tant. There was a suspicion.

    She mar­ried an Irish laborer; not exactly as high social sta­tion. This con­firmed their suspicion.

    If the mulat­tos were seen ones who aspired to white­ness, the Irish, espe­cially the lower class Irish, were seen as “white trash” prone to mis­ce­genat­ing. If the blacks sought to improve their sta­tion, the shanty Irish were seen to degrade their situation.

    In Plecker’s myopic world view, “Why take a chance?”

    The Irish — and Ger­man Catholics — were not liked. Their reli­gion and drink­ing habits were sus­pect, but they were not seen as black. They were viewed more as white trash, liable to mix with black ele­ments, will­ing to dis­ap­ate their white her­itage in a fit of drunken excess.

    The prob­lem almost cer­tainly came from his Laborer sta­tus and the Sta­tus of the Hollands.

    What I am most inter­ested in is this; Did any of this cause your fam­ily trou­ble in the 50s, which racial laws still abounded?

    Were your par­ents or uncles ever accused of being col­ored in the seg­re­gated South?

    The sad thing is that Plecker was act­ing ille­gally and when sued usu­ally backed down. How many lives were destroyed by Pleacker when a mere let­ter from a lawyer (only a few bucks) could have stopped him in his tracks. When pressed, Plecker often backed down.

    A good por­tion of the hill­bil­lies of the South are descended from Scots Protes­tants who mixed with Irish Catholic in Ulster before com­ing to Amer­ica (amaz­ingly, this cul­ture per­sists in Ulster where nei­ther sides wants to admit the quite obvi­ous blend­ing). Many hill­bil­lies were Irish Catholics who con­verted to Protes­tantism in Amer­ica, since no Catholic Churches were to be found. (The names alone are quite Gaelic). The cul­ture of moon­shin­ing is very Gaelic. The music is all but iden­ti­cal to Gaelic tunes.

    By the 1920s, iron­i­cally, these Gaels (whether Scots, Irish, or Scots-Irish) were now form­ing Anglo-Saxon Clubs; an irony which must have set their dead ances­tors spinning.

    I seri­ously doubt the Irish were seen as black. They were seen more as white trash, will­ing to “breed down.” Add in a very white women, but with a sus­pect sur­name, and you have a re-classification.

    The sad­dest group of all were the Melun­geons of the area. Many had green or blue eyes, and were clas­si­fied as col­ored by Plecker. New evi­dence shows that many Melun­geons often had NO BLACK in them at all. Their swarthy com­plex­ion came from their ances­tors who were Turk­ish ser­vants, on a Por­tuguese Bar­que, which was cap­tured by Fran­cis Drake and offloaded on the coast. They moved inland and mixed with the whites and some with Indi­ans. Too dark to be con­sid­ered white, even though they called them­selves Portyghee. Cen­turies later they were reclas­si­fied as black, by Plecker.

    The Por­tuguese Turk con­nec­tion.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/384502.stm

    The whole thing is hys­ter­i­cal; espe­cially when you con­sider that two of the Souths great­est gen­er­als had black hair and brown eyes. Gen­eral Robert E. Lee and Gen. Beauregard.

    Even more ironic, the large amount of those claim­ing Anglo-Saxon purity may not have had one one drop of Anglo-Saxon in them.

    The cause for this may have been the peck­ing order. When beaten on, one group will beat on those even fur­ther down.

    The trans­ported Irish in Tas­ma­nia (bru­tal­ized by the Eng­lish) would then vent on the natives of Tas­ma­nia until they were exterminated.

    I have noticed swarthy Ital­ians are often more racist than Nordic types. Prob­a­bly to assert their whiteness.

    The Ulster Irish — though they claim to be British — were often given great grief by the British. The log­i­cal thing would have been to make com­mon cause with the Irish, but they pre­ferred to beat on the Irish.

    There is a new ver­sion of this based on sus­pect genetic analy­sis, where the Irish and Scots are now being re-classified as Basque.

    When they came to Amer­ica, they beat on any­one, in order to prove they were top class.

    You see the same phe­nom­e­nom with “high tone col­oreds” look­ing down on blacks.

    I guess it is just human nature.

    Plecker was a quack, but until the 1940s, his quack­ery was backed up by med­ical literature.

  • […] ambigu­ous than Amer­i­cans gen­er­ally real­ize. My favorite exam­ple is very per­sonal. Accord­ing to Vir­ginia, the state in which I now reside, I am a black man. Had my fam­ily stayed in VA, my father could not have attended white schools and my parents […]

  • Fas­ci­nat­ing! Love this stuff. _How the Irish Became White_ is one of my favorite books and best remem­bered books from school. I rec­om­mend it to peo­ple all the time. Glad my Irish-American dad is from CT or he would have been impris­oned for mar­ry­ing my Korean mom. Though in my dad’s very Irish com­mu­nity it would have been more con­tro­ver­sial if he had mar­ried English.

  • […] The Aporetic looks at how his Irish ances­tors got clas­si­fied as ‘col­ored’ in early 20th-.… […]

  • […] racial past of Amer­i­cans is far more com­pli­cated and ambigu­ous than Amer­i­cans gen­er­ally real­ize. My favorite exam­ple is very per­sonal. Accord­ing to Vir­ginia, the state in which I now reside, I am a black man. Had my […]

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