Saturday, August 14, 2010

Immigrant bashing is, sadly, nothing new


This week I found two stories -- one on the radio and one online -- marking the anniversary of the 1834 destruction of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown (near Boston) by an angry mob. Fueled by rumors and stereotypes, a mob vented its hostility toward the newly-emerging Irish community by burning down the convent and surrounding buildings. Punishment of the perpetrators was minimal: one conviction, followed by a pardon.

I recommend listening to the Megna Chakrabarti's interview with Salem State University professor Nancy Lusignan Shultz. One of the listener comments posted online provides an overview of anti-Catholic violence that continued in the region for another century. The stories are important for understanding why some members of the now dominant Catholic community in the region continue to view themselves as a persecuted minority. The account from Mass Moments provides more details of how the events unfolded on August 11 and 12, 1834.

For me, the episode is a tragic reminder that immigrants have always borne the brunt of societal stresses, and that pretexts can always be found to justify their ill treatment.

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