Day 15 – Stranger Love

Today, everyone is Irish! St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Chicago where the river is dyed green and people enjoy not one, but two parades.  The Irish are loud and proud, and those who are not Irish wish they were.

But when the Irish first arrived in the U.S. as immigrants, they weren’t so welcome.  They were viewed as an “inferior race” who by nature were violent alcoholics, and they were regularly blamed for all of society’s ills.  Many suggested mass deportation to deal with the “Irish problem.”  Many employers refused to hire Irish–especially in predominantly English cities like Boston.  “No Irish Need Apply”  was found on many job postings.  The “NINA” addendum gave birth to a number of folk songs in the late 1800’s.  HERE is Pete Seeger’s version.

Today, the U.S. has absorbed St. Patrick’s Day into the mainstream and we don’t hear about the “Irish Problem” anymore.  However, the narrative of immigrants as the cause of social ills remains, and new immigrants still face discrimination and mistrust.

Questions for Reflection

Who are are identified as the “Problem” immigrants today?  Why do you think we identify some immigrants a problem and not others?

We often pride ourselves in being able to incorporate elements of immigrant cultures (food, music, language) into the American mainstream.  How has your life been enriched by immigrant culture?




  1. My life is regularly enriched by a middle eastern immigrant, Sumaya. She loves to prepare food and share it, and I love to eat it! Homemade hummus, baba ghannouj, falafel, tabbouleh, and–my favorite–baklava. I feel blessed and honored to be the recipient of her generosity.

  2. Growing up, it was “the Mexicans” who were the problems. Now, even though there is talk of a wall, I don’t hear as much about that group as I do about Syrians or other Middle Eastern people. I think it’s totally born out of fear and ignorance. We are afraid of what we aren’t familiar with. There is a ton of misinformation out there.

    We, too, love the food that comes from immigrant cultures. Our current favorites are Vietnamese and Ethiopian, restaurants we frequent with friends and family. My refugee friends have redefined friendship for me and taught me how to love without any condition.

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