Irish Need Not Apply

One way that John and I have been discovering things in the city is by going on unorganized self-guided walking tours. We basically pick a neighborhood, a subway station, a restaurant, and a “landmark” of interest and just go for it. If you should decide to tour around a city this way, I highly recommend the Google Maps app on the iPhone, for which none of this wandering around would be possible.

On Sunday we walked about four miles in the East Village, Lower East Side, and SoHo. The subway station: Astor Place. The restaurant: Creperie. The landmarks of interest: St. Mark’s Place and the New York City Tenement Museum. This area is interesting because it’s one of the few “hipster/bohemian/artsy” neighborhoods in Manhattan that hasn’t been gentrified and/or taken over by Robert DiNiro. Because of this, it seems to be home to the best deals in the city as well, for example, Creperie. Honestly, this was one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a very tiny little hole in the wall with a ginormous menu of amazing sweet and savory crepes. John and I shared a brie, avocado, and olive tapenade and ended with a Nutella, banana, and strawberry pocket full of sweet melty heaven. The best part? All under $20. All in all, we now seriously regret not moving to this neighborhood.

The Lower East Side is also known for its vital role in New York’s immigration history, most famously its tenements. Many newly arrived families shoved themselves into these incredibly tiny, unsanitary, and most certainly not up to code boxes, as described in the book How the Other Half Lives.

This history is of interest to me because my dad’s family came from Ireland to New York, and it was fascinating to walk those streets and think of what my great-great grandfather’s life might have been like when he came here in the late 1800s. The poorest of Irish immigrants came to this country after they survived the Potato Famine, which was the case in my family. The Irish weren’t very popular in New York to begin with, but this motley crew of poor, starved Catholics?  Even worse. Not to mention, my great-great grandfather came from the west coast of Ireland, and so the chances that he actually spoke English were slim. I don’t know where he lived when he came here, and I don’t know when he left the city for Maryland to work on the railroad, but I like the idea of wondering what he might think knowing that his great-great granddaughter is here, living in the city where Irish Need Not Apply.

Unfortunately in my experience, maybe not so much has changed.

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3 thoughts on “Irish Need Not Apply

  1. kelly says:

    i love your blogs:) great-great-great-great (that may be one too many greats) graddad would be proud!!!

  2. joseph says:

    I am an African-American of slavery (Kentucky) descent. My wife is 2nd generation Irish American. We seem to have plenty of discussions about the discrimination that both the Irish immigrants and the African American slaves and former slaves suffered from during the Jim Crow times. She seems to see no difference in the experiences of both groups. I, of course, tell her that the Jim Crow era was much worse for African Americans than the discrimination that the Irish experienced in that era in the United States. Help us by giving us an educated opinion about this, so that we can clear this up. Both Eric Foner, and Douglas Blackmon, are educators and writers about the Jim Crow times and have good books about this era concerning the African American experience during Jim Crow. Please send us some references about the discrimination that the Irish experienced in the USA during the late 1800’s up to the mid 1900’s, so that we can truly compare the experiences had by these different groups of people. We’d truly appreciate your input.
    joe and johanne

    • Kealan Casey says:

      Hi Joe and Johanne –
      Thanks for your comment. I’m certainly no expert, but you’re not the first to compare the two experiences. I actually wrote a term paper once on this same subject! In no way did the Irish face anywhere near the hardships that African Americans did in this country, but there are some fascinating parallels. Here are some sites you might want to check out: http://www.yale.edu/glc/tangledroots/ and http://www.laprogressive.com/rankism/irish-and-black-americans-have-the-parallel-lines-finally-met/ .

      As for my own opinion, I think that the Irish and African Americans at heart are artists, entertainers, comedians. Our ancestries carry a lot of sorrow and hardship, lost land, prejudice and poverty. Maybe this means at the core we’re sad, but we’re able to express that through humor, writing, and a way with words that I’m not sure any other ethnicities have truly matched. Not to mention, we have a knack for holding grudges for a long, long, long time!

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