Nicolas Shump: America celebrates its diverse heritage

Nicolas Shump is a columnist for The Topeka Capital-Journal.

As I sit here writing this column on Saint Patrick’s Day, I cannot help but think of the rich Irish connection to the culture and history of the United States. Like a sizable number of Americans, Irish blood runs through my veins and I am proud of this fact. I’m equally proud of my Mexican ancestry and the profound impact of my cultural heritage on my own life. As someone of Irish and Mexican ancestry, I have found it to be an interesting mixture, one perhaps best captured by a friend of mine who dubbed me “Juan O’Clock” in graduate school.


Today, there is little controversy regarding being Irish in America, however, the same is not true of many Mexican immigrants and those who have come from other parts of Central and South America through Mexico. Our president did not begin his presidential campaign by railing against Irish rapists and criminals as he did about Mexicans. There is not a plan and an executive order to build a wall to keep Irish immigrants from coming into this country. However, if we were to go back nearly 200 years ago, the story would be vastly different.

In New York, Irish immigrants found themselves unwelcome and the victims of much overt discrimination by English and Dutch Americans who audaciously referred to themselves as “Native Americans.” This is depicted in the 2002 Martin Scorsese film “Gangs of New York.” Americans, nearly all of them immigrants, viewed the Irish suspiciously because of their culture and their religion. They had fled horrible poverty and famine in Ireland in search of a better life across the Atlantic. However, as Roman Catholics, other Americans feared these Irish would not truly assimilate into the United States. As scholars like Noel Ignatiev demonstrated in his 1995 work, “How the Irish Became White,” originally the Irish were not viewed as white people.

Time does indeed change everything. Today as parades proudly celebrate Irishness and as rivers run green and people eat corned beef and cabbage with a pint of Guinness, those aforementioned “Native Americans” roll in their graves. Who could imagine that these questionable immigrants would become part of one of the most, if not the most, celebrated ethnic holiday in the United States?

So while I have many concerns about the current president and his policies, I am hopeful, if not confident, that in a century or more when Trump is in the dustbin of history with other ignoble bigots from our past, the United States will similarly celebrate the many contributions Mexican Americans have made to the history of the country.

There are already celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, though it is often an excuse for people to sicken themselves from too many margaritas and shots of tequila. I believe that September 16, Mexican Independence Day, will become celebrated with parades and fiestas. I believe this because as a student and teacher of history, I know this is how truly great nations handle periodic influxes of immigrants.

Both cultures, Irish and Mexican, are hardworking, proud and faithful people. If any of you have ridden a train, it is very likely you owe the ride to Mexican, Irish and possibly Chinese workers who laid the tracks. As I teach my students in my classes, most immigrants did not necessarily choose to come to America. Many like the Irish fled because of the bleakness of life at home. Others like Mexicans left because of revolutions or terrible economic conditions. While the immigration situation with Mexico is in need of reform, a wall is not the answer.

What makes America great and what makes America a destination for people in search of a better life on our shores is the very idea on which this country was founded – freedom. I cannot wait to see the beautiful colors that new immigrants will add to the American mosaic.

Gary Sandell 8 months ago

"I am hopeful, if not confident, that in a century or more when Trump is in the dustbin of history with other ignoble bigots from our past"-Shump

I find it not only disrespectful and rude but rather funny Nick, that you would classify our President as an "ignoble bigot" while he is simply trying to "protect and serve the citizens of the United States", which is his job, by wanting those who come here, to do so legally and by the laws we currently have! 

  I believe that the Irish immigrants came here, and were granted legal status to gain their citizenship, whereas the current "illegals" coming into our country from other countries, do so without any desire to do it legally and above board!  They also appear to have little desire to accept our culture and our laws, while expecting to be taken care of while they get their "feet on the ground" in OUR country! 

 Just what is so hard to understand about the term "Illegal"?

Cory Soon 8 months ago
Just because something is a law doesn't mean that it's right, nor is it ethical or moral. Protecting and serving is also a duty of the police of our country, but we all know how there are a select few police officers who easily corrupt that purpose. 

Lol and just because you liberally "believe" something doesn't make it a fact. You should probably verse yourself in when Irish immigration occurred in America and when the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services were formed, and you will be surprised at how flawed your argument really is.

Just what is so hard to understand about U.S. History?
Gary Sandell 8 months ago
So Cory, I guess you choose to believe that laws really don't mean "squat" anymore, they are just a nuisance that we have to put up with, or ignore!  Is that your belief?  And apparently Judges do not have to follow law anymore, they just have to rule according to how they are feeling on a particular day.  Is that it?  The Constitution only has to be followed when it fits our particular belief, the country has no borders, and what is yours is mine and mine is yours, if I can take it from you!  As you said Cory, " just because you liberally "believe" something doesn't make it a fact."  
Cory Soon 8 months ago
Lol this guy. You may have missed my point. My point was that just because it's a law doesn't make it right. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was illegal for a Black-American to share the same water fountain as a White-American, and that was the law. In 2017, we know how wrong that was. And of course Judges don't have to follow the law! They are the law! How do you think some rich folk are able to get away with the heinous crimes they commit? 

Clearly you've never read George Mason's Objection from September 1787 and how the Constitution was created and signed by Rich Elites that overshadowed the local populace. The Constitution isn't fair to every American. LOL who am I kidding, it's all liberal propaganda to you. This is all from the man who thinks the Irish were granted legal status when the Immigration and Naturalization Services weren't even around when the Irish were immigrating here. Let me know when you want to debate with the real men and we'll talk.  


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