Will the Irish ever be able to again exist as their own race?

In class conversations about the Green Atlantic, many conversations centered around the idea of the Irish becoming white, whether it was on the first day of class in discussion of Baldwin’s work, or the latest class while reviewing “Aren’t We a Little White for that Kind of Thing.” This idea in itself is an interesting one—there are many proposed answers to explain this phenomenon of the Irish facing a similar oppression that Black people faced, whether it be their appearance that sets them apart or their use of Black people as an “outgroup” to establish themselves in the “in group” of white people. However, I noticed that in all of these conversations, Irish people exist somewhere on a spectrum between black and white. 

A prime example of this is found in “Aren’t We a Little White for that Thing,” when Onkey wrote that “In Ireland, blackness becomes a foil for the Irish to explain their experience of colonial oppression, to define a transatlantic antiracist, anticolonial identity. In the United States, however, blackness becomes a negative foil, used by Irish-Americans to distance themselves from African Americans in order to assimilate into mainstream white American society” (Onkey 2). Here, Onkey nails the head on what I interpret as a serious issue for the Irish identity: whether trying to become closer to blackness in Ireland for an explanation of antiracism, or further from blackness to become closer to whiteness, the Irish do not stand on their own as their own racial identity. They are always a function of either blackness or whiteness. 

It is interesting to use this conclusion of the Irish as “trapped” between black and white identities to provide possible conclusions on whether this accounts for the appropriation of Irish culture discussed in class. In The Irish in Us, Diane Negra seems to think so, but writes that “Irish Americans’ rediscovery of their ethnicity, so long obscured by the muck of green beer and shamrocks, certainly has the potential to be a healthy antidote to the ‘identity panic’ Gitlin has described” (Negra 27). Negra’s comment leaves me hopeful that the Irish identity is not permanently trapped between the spectrum of black and white for consumption on either side, and that the race can be on its own.