The Immigrants and their Descendants from the Great Immigration, 1880-to 1917
Richard J. Garfunkel
I am constantly amazed at the virulence of the “new” ethnic-based Eurocentrics. I can almost understand the Southern Baptists and the States’ Rights advocates who are descended most directly from the earliest white settlers; English, Scottish, Welsh, Dutch and German Protestants, who were enamored with the white man’s burden and learned of that supremacist tradition at their mother’s knee and in the churches. It existed all over the English-dominated World from India to the American colonies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Burma, the Middle East, Singapore and Micronesia. The Raj ruled with an idea and rationale of moral, racial and intellectual superiority. That is what they knew and believed. They saw the culture and habits of Native peoples, and on one hand, despised, feared and looked down upon them, and on the other hand, ruled by “divide and conquer.” That existed certainly in India until 1947 and here until 1776. They learned from their defeat here!
But, what of the later immigrants? First in the late 1840’s, were the next wave of Germans, who were quite often Catholics, escaping from revolutionary Europe and the policy of “Kultur Kampft” (culture’s struggle) under Bismarck and then the Irish Catholics escaping the potato famine and the oppressive British rule. The Germans were used to conservatism and many became the backbone of the new Midwestern Republicanism. Culturally they were used to a strong, male-dominated family and thus supported a strong central government. They were hard working and felt comfortable with other citizens of British and Dutch orientation. Also, the country had many Germans (Lutherans) living here from the time of the Revolution, when many had come here as soldiers for hire, or mercenaries (the Hessians from Hesse-Cassel, and others from outside the most militarized state in Europe)). As for the Irish, they hated the British and became the immigrant heart of the Eastern Cities and gravitated to the Democratic Party and eventually took over Tammany Hall in NYC and virtually reinvented politics in America.
What amazes me is that many of the grandchildren of the last great European immigration from Eastern and Southern European immigrants have forgotten their roots. The heart of these people, who are mostly Catholic, along with some Jews, were helped and assisted by the Democrats from Wilson to FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ and beyond, are now the “New” Republicans. They forgot the Wagner Act, which allowed unions to collectively bargain, they have ignored the efforts of the Democrats and the unions to end discrimination regarding housing, education, and the work place, where their grandfathers and fathers couldn’t get a job in a Fortune 500 company, a law firm, or practice in a hospital. They have ignored the efforts of the liberals who opened the doors of education for them and for their daughters. Who supported Social Security, Medicare, the Minimum Wage, anti-discrimination in the work place, the fight for equal pay for equal work, Choice, and women’s healthcare, Ttile ( and hundreds of other benefits that helped the children of immigrants? They have ignored the age-old efforts of the Democratic Party in opposing the exclusion of these people from all of our “closed” institutions. This history has been chronicled in 10’s of thousands of books and millions of articles. But, how often do I read from some of these same people that the Democrats keep the poor in economic shackles. How short are their memories! Isn’t ironic, that the South, which was the home of home of Southern-based, Jefferson branch of the Democratic Party, which supported slavery and sustained Jim Crow is now the new home of the most conservative Republicans and the reddest states in the Union. Many of these people seemed to have forgotten discrimination and bigotry and where it has stemmed from. What happened? Do these children of immigrants now think that it is their turn to be the next generation of bigots and haters who believe in Social Darwinism, “the end justifies the means,” and “divide and conquer?” it is a sorry state of affairs when they forget the remarks of George Santayana, who sagely wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”