Xenophobia — We’ve Been There Before

With the current concern about the security risks of immigrants and refugees, this is a good time to remind everyone that episodes of xenophobia (fear of foreigners) have happened periodically throughout our history.

One example — when I was visiting Boston in April, I learned about NINA.  It’s an acronym that means “No Irish Need Apply”.  Anti-Irish sentiment even has its own term — Hibernophobia.  During Ireland’s Great Famine of 1845-52, about a million people emigrated from the Emerald Isle.  Many Irish came to North America, and since sea voyages were still hazardous and money was tight, a large number booked passage to the closest major port — Boston.  Unfortunately, they were not always welcomed.  That’s where NINA came in.

Double unfortunately, anti-Irish sentiment wasn’t confined to North America.  In England, negative attitudes go back as far as Henry II.  Later, during the Great Famine, many Irish fled to Liverpool, England, where prejudice was widespread.  This was partly due to anti-Catholicism, partly due to extreme poverty, but all of it was ugly.  In this cartoon from the Wikipedia entry on anti-Irish sentiment, an Irishman is depicted as a gorilla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment).

Philosopher George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  ( http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/George_Santayana/)

I really wish we had better memories.

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