America, while built on immigrants, has not always been welcoming towards all groups due to cultural and physiological differences. This can be said through numerous time periods such as the slave trade and Eastern European immigration. In the 1800s, the U.S. was resistant towards Irish and Chinese immigrants who came here to look for a different and better life. While we now recognize the errors of the past, it’s important to remember so we don’t repeat this again. This paper will look at five cartoons and images that depicts the racist sentiments felt towards these people, and it will try and analyze them and explain what was going on in the minds of Americans as these immigrants came to the country.
In the 1800s, the Irish began immigrating to the United States due to the Great Famine described in many documents. Americans viewed the Irish as being inferior, both morally and physically. Some even considered them a threat to our health and our well-being. Segregation was widespread, and the Irish were often separated from Americans and put into slums and low income communities. The Irish were looked down upon as some type of Catholic priest controlled race, and Americans, who were mostly Protestant, were deeply skeptical. They were made fun of and subjected to poor health communities where many fell ill and died.
Figure 1 up above shows that the Irish were often subjected to bad living and cramped sleeping quarters. It also shows the overlying attitude towards immigrants and how they were alienated. Immigrants were considered unclean, and were kept in these low income places. Mothers were afraid they’d affect their children. Fathers were afraid they’d affect the education and life of their sons. It was an overall sad time for the Irish, and they were subjected to hard work for very little money. You can see the numerous other races and ethnicities, and this can be equated to the modern day slum where immigrants are kept in there to be “accounted” for and kept away from the inner workings of political, social, and economic society.
Figure 2 above shows an image of an Irish whiskey man and a Lager Bier man, a beer that originated in Austria. It was a very bad time for the Irish. They had very little voting rights and voting suppression was a main cause of their lack of voting rights. Many people intentionally kept them away from the ballot box and they had to often fight to vote. Sometimes, they’d get beat up or killed, and it was often a small resistance that tried to fight back against Americans who controlled them. Overall, the Irish wanted to get away from their home country due to depression, and what they instead found themselves in was a country full of hate towards immigrants. They had a tough time influencing the voting blocs and were suppressed through monetary means as well as scare tactics. This picture also shows anti-Eastern European sentiment.
The Chinese immigrants were often subjected to worse measures since they looked very different and were shorter. They were seen as stage toys, and were subjected to slums and economic misfortune. The Americans took advantage of their calm demeanor and made them work unnecessary hours and for low wages. They had low influence at the voting box had very low education. They were discriminated against and were cramped into these rooms with one bed per multiple persons. It was a rather dim experience for the Chinese and they mostly worked on railroads and infrastructure. Americans were skeptical of them because they thougth they took away jobs and spread disease. Americans subjected them to slums and ghettos, and they had very little money to buy food and other necessary living products.
Figure 3 up above shows how Americans viewed the Chinese. The Chinese were often smaller and looked thin, and Americans used this physiological trait to their advantage. The cartoon shows how Americans viewed the Chinese. It also shows how the Chinese didn’t fight back and just succumbed to the suppression and endless suffering.
Image 4 up above shows how Americans viewed the Chinese as stage “props” who didn’t deserve education nor a right to vote. It was rather unfortunate and the Chinese felt inferior to their American counterparts both physically and mentally due to bad education.
Figure 5 up above shows how the Chinese were overworked for no money and how the Americans exploited their willingness to work for little wages. Little Chinese children died in factories, Americans didn’t bat an eye. It was racial oppression at its finest, and Americans didn’t give them any money in some cases and they worked for food or drink. It was a sad time for immigrants, and they weren’t better off in America as they thought they would be.
In conclusion, a lot of oppression took place in the 1800s against Irish and Chinese immigrants because of their views, religion, and looks. America was also rather anti-immigrant, and big business exploited the low labor costs and suppressed the immigrant vote. It was a corrupt system that we thankfully don’t have in place today. The Chinese are among the highest earners in wage today. And the Irish are regarded as extremely strong and willing to fight for their beliefs and culture. All in all, I learned a lot from this paper and am glad that I was given the opportunity to do so.
- “Becoming American: The Chinese Experience Program Two: Between Two Worlds.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/becomingamerican/ap_prog2.html. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
- Brighton, Stephen A. “Degrees of Alienation: The Material Evidence of the Irish and Irish American Experience, 1850–1910.” Historical Archaeology, vol. 42, no. 4, 2008, pp. 132–153., doi:10.1007/bf03377158.
- The Chinese Experience in 19th Century America, teachingresources.atlas.illinois.edu/chinese_exp/introduction04.html. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.