Shifting Identities in the Black and Green Atlantic (Course Reflection)

Over the course of the semester, we have studied various works that have helped us investigate the complicated relationship between the Irish and Black Americans. Upon reflection on my blog posts, I tended to focus on the theme of shifting identities within and between each group and what prompted these shifts.

In the Black Atlantic realm, I discussed how Blackness was represented in performance by analyzing the In Dahomey play and the Mardi Gras Krewe parades in Cities of the Dead. Both groups made use of racial stereotypes and caricatures like blackface, one as an act of ridicule to whites and the other to entertain and profit from whites. Both sought to change the narrative of Black people in their own way but I challenged their methods, likening them to a double-edged sword due to the backfiring consequences for the collective Black reputation. Regarding Moon and the Mars, I discussed how the Black people in New York were living in multi-ethnic communities and co-opted traditions from these groups and made them their own, like Pinkster. Regarding Transatlantic, I discussed how Frederick Douglass had to reckon with both Irish and Black struggles during his trip to Ireland and how he had to reckon with his own identity post-servitude. Regarding Characteristics of Negro Expression, I discussed Zora Neale Hurston’s statements about originality and mimicry and the dynamic and fluid nature of culture. Regarding Uptight, I raised several questions about the purpose of the remake, one being if it was it was meant to show intra-racial divisions during a contentious time in Black history.

In the Green Atlantic realm, I discussed how the Irish “became white” when they came to America and shed themselves of their previous identity in order to ascend the socioeconomic ladder, at the expense of Black people in response to the David Lloyd reading. I also discussed how the Irish reckoned with their newfound freedom post-Independence through the experience of Gypo Nolan in Liam O’Flaherty’s The Informer. 

All of these works revealed how each community dealt with navigating new spaces and circumstances. They each were faced with various struggles and had to make difficult decisions about how they were going to move forward in society, some that many of us may not agree with today. Despite an overall rocky relationship, each group still managed to see each other as kindred spirits and took influence from each other which manifested itself in various ways. From this course, I have a better understanding of the nuanced relationship between the Black and Irish and look forward to seeing how this relationship will progress in the coming years.

One Reply to “Shifting Identities in the Black and Green Atlantic (Course Reflection)”

  1. I really liked this reflection! And I’m really interested in how you mentioned the relationship between the Black and the Irish progressing in the future. I feel like the majority of our readings (especially the narratives/stories) have been more historical, with some of the more recent ones involving characters up until around the 80s/90s. I wonder if connections between the two groups are still relevant today, and for how long this will remain true.

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