The Weight of the Struggle

Learning to comprehend the transatlantic struggle requires tugging on a variety of perspectives. The impact of slavery, famine, and trade showed up differently for each group of people. Who and how to help became prominent questions as cultures crossed to create new experiences. When Douglass escaped and fled to Ireland with the support of abolitionists, tension sparked between his struggle to speak out against slavery and the beginning of the Irish famine. 

In class, disputes arose over sympathy or lack thereof Douglass had toward the suffering of the Irish. People found him to be disconnected and distant even though he was going through issues as well. However, I disagree. Douglass was vaguely aware of the Irish suffering, even encountering it firsthand. Despite that, his position in society prevented him from being able to show up as a dazzling figure of transformation. When Douglass began to intermingle with the Irish and speak out against their pain, Webb made sure to remind him that he can’t bite the hand that feeds him. It’s a quiet display of power that reminds him that the power dynamic in the relationship. Douglass is still a slave and his tour in Europe is to raise money to buy his freedom. He cannot step on others toes in the process of trying to free himself. That interaction gave him an additional mental strain. He was not blind to the suffering. He saw the welts around a child’s neck, indicative of abuse. However, he himself was draggign around his own chains in the shape of barbells, lifting them, exhausting himself to remind him of the work he had to do before he became this self. 

While we cannot expect leaders of various social movements to support every cause actively, they are still able to interact with the concepts and ideologies of the various freedom movements. McDowell and Douglass interacted closely here, but many movements have been tied together – Black and Yellow Power, for instance, are very closely linked. When one group protested, they were joined by the other. Minorities needed to stick together in front of a divisive majority. It was intentional that news sources made a point to set the Irish and Black populations against each other as tensions rose in the States. It is hard to dismantle systems of activism when they understand why each is fighting for the other. This was apparent as Black activists stood up to support people against the Vietnam War and Asian discrimination.