Rooted – Connections in the Atlantic

As I finish the semester, I cannot help but think that I wasn’t all that far off from my original thoughts at the beginning of the semester. The Black experience continues to be unique in a way that cannot be replicated. However, after encountering Irish literature for the first time, I have realized the disparities and distress of colonization on this group of people. People across time have learned to see and respect each other long before academics could pin these pieces together. Our ancestors have looked across the Atlantic, hoping they would find understanding and connection. Artists and creators are usually the first to find each other. In this Black and Green Atlantic, struggle, music, and bodies have merged together to create cultures in a post-Middle Passage world. 

“Down with the system that makes one man a serf and the other a slave, then sets them at each other’s throat” (Eagan 39). Tension exists between these two Atlantic peoples and it starts with the system. It is uncomfortable to analyze these two oppressed groups, seemingly pitted against each other. It makes me question how much these sorts of analyses contributed to it. Regardless, there are objective differences between the two groups, and Eagan encapsulates that here. The Irish were placed into servitude while Black people were forced into slavery. The suffering of either side should not be diminished, but their circumstances are wildly different. Irish people chose to migrate under arduous conditions – flee or die. Africans were caught in nets and chained in their forced migration. One was based in self-preservation, and the other was denied choice. Douglass struggled with this knowledge as he moved across Ireland with his slave shackles. The pieces of this movement do not fit together neatly. I once thought that a new blend of cultures would come out of this, like the perfect Venn diagram. That was a big misconception. Different bodies of people were the result, but there exists a unique boundary between the two marking their distinction. This is the boundary of race. The Irish chose to assimilate into ‘whiteness’, gaining privileges they were blocked off from before. They “were not trying to become white – they were fighting to prevent the elevation of non whites” (Meagher 223). This type of backwards hatred can only come from those who were not originally in a position of power. 

I still am not sure what to make of my stance on this, especially when I consider the modern context of Black people and people of color. The entire context of this course has been a personal reflection of where I stand with all my identities in relation to others.