An interview with Noel Ignatiev


"In the
historical literature on race relations, there is much that
safely can be ignored. However, from time to time a study comes
along that truly can be called path-breaking, seminal, essential,
a must-read. How the Irish Became White is such a study. Noel
Ignatiev has produced that rare York of historical scholarship
that, while firmly grounded in past events, also speaks
forcefully to current concerns."

– Prof. John Bracey, W.E.B.
DuBois Dept. of Afro-American Studies, University of
Massachusetts at Amherst

 

Q: What exactly do you mean by
your book’s title, Race Traitor? How did the Irish become white?

A: In the epilogue to The
Autobiography of Malcolm X,
Alex Haley tells a story about
being with Malcolm at the airport when they saw a plane landing
from Europe. The east European children getting off the plane
were dressed in their traditional clothing. Malcolm turned to
Haley and said, "Pretty little children. Soon they’re going
to learn their first English word: nigger."

What my book is about is how an
earlier group of immigrants, the Catholic Irish–the first
non-Protestant, non-Anglo group of European immigrants to arrive,
at the beginning of the 19th century, around the period when
industrialization was beginning to take place–learned the
American racial set-up and found their place in it.

When I say that the Irish
"became" white what I hark back to is that in Ireland
the Catholics were victims of a kind of discrimination which in
many respects was parallel and analogous to what we, in the
United States, call racial discrimination-although there’s no
visible, physical type difference between Catholics and
Protestants in Ireland. Notwithstanding this, if there were any
people who were racially oppressed in Ireland it was the
Catholics, who then came to the United States and found a new
situation in which there was a color line–something they
weren’t familiar with, something they had no experience with. It
was something they had to learn. They had to learn what it
meant, how it operated, and how to find their own place in it.

So what I’m really talking about
is how the Irish went from being members of an oppressed race
in Ireland to being members of an oppressing race in the
United States. The period that the book covers begins in the
1790s and closes in 1877, but the real heart of the book is the
1830s and 1840s, when I think the decisive elements fell into
place.

Q: In the book you compare the
situation of the Irish prior to their emigration to that of black
folks in the U.S. during the same period. Just how oppressive was
it for the Irish in Ireland?

A: Ireland was governed by the
penal codes for most of the 18th century and into the period
where my study begins. Catholics were not permitted to vote or
serve in Parliament or hold public office of any kind; they
weren’t allowed to practice law or serve in the military or civil
service; they couldn’t open or teach at a school, or serve as
tutors; they weren’t allowed to attend universities or send their
children abroad to school; they weren’t allowed to manufacture or
sell arms, newspapers or books, or possess them; they couldn’t
own a horse worth more than a few pounds; they were barred from
apprenticeships in most of the trades; they were limited in the
kind of land they could rent; they had no inheritance rights (a
Catholic could convert to Protestantism and disinherit his
father, in fact his entire family); priests were not allowed to
travel in Ireland; Bishops were banned from the country; and the
list goes on.

I suppose it can be captured best
by citing an 18th century Anglo-Irish Protestant judge who said
that "the law presupposes no such person to exist as an
Irish Roman Catholic"–which is parallel, of course, to
Judge Taney’s dictum in the Dred Scott case that "a Negro
has no rights that a white man is bound to respect." In all
important respects, the Irish Catholics were treated as an
oppressed race in Ireland. This is the background they were
coming from when they arrived on American soil.

 

Q: You describe in the book how
this background provided a context for interaction between the
Irish and the blacks they encountered in America. But things
changed dramatically from the Irish initially identifying with
black Americans and their situation to later violently
dis-identifying with them. What was responsible for this shift?

 

A: During the period I examine in
the book, from the 1820s onward, the Catholic Irish who came over
here came from the poorer classes. Not necessarily the poorest
and most desperate-that emigration didn’t really begin until the
famine in the mid1840s. But they certainly came from the poorer
classes of society, and when they came they were, in the words of
Mr. Dooley–the old Chicago columnist Peter Finley Dunn–given a
shovel and told to start digging the place up as if they owned
it.

They were used for dangerous,
brutal labor on the railbeds and canals, sometimes working
alongside black laborers. In the South, they were sometimes used
in dangerous situations where it didn’t make good sense to risk
the life of a valuable slave. As one person put it, "Let the
paddys do the work–if one of them gets thrown overboard or
breaks his neck, it’s nobody’s loss."

As they moved into the big cities,
they were thrown into the same districts with free black folks in
the North, and in the South–New Orleans, the Irish channel, the
rookeries. And there they socialized. They fought each other,
they fought with the police, they fought with
everybody–eve-rybody fought with everybody. That was the
American city of the 1820s and 130s: a war of each against all.

 

In a lot of respects they
developed a common culture, as well. There was some
intermarriage. And there was a kind of "life among the
lowly." In the early minstrel stage, along with the stock
black characters Jim Crow and Jim Dandy, there were the Irish
characters Pat and Bridget–objects of scorn and ridicule.

 

Q: You point out that at one point
the Irish were known as "white Negroes" and black
people were referred to as "smoked Irish." What did
those terms reflect?

 

A: They reflected the scorn and
disdain with which both were regarded by the better situated, by
the leading elements of American society. There was speculation
that there would be some "amalgamation," that is, that
Irish and black would blend into each other and become one common
people. That didn’t happen; in fact, the opposite happened.

 

Q: What exactly happened?

 

A: Essentially what happened was
the Irish became white. That is, rather than 3′olning with black
people–free and slave–to overthrow the system of slavery and
racial oppression which prevailed in the United States, they
chose, by and large, to find a way to gain for themselves a
favored position within it.

In 1841, the Irish political
leader (in Ireland) Daniel O’Connell–he was something of a
combination of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, the most popular
figure among Irishmen throughout the world–issued an appeal–he
and 70,000 others in Ireland–to the Irish in the United States,
calling upon them to join with the abolitionists in America, to
join the struggle to overthrow slavery. Treat the Negro
everywhere as your equal, your brother, he said, and in doing so
you will bring honor to the name of Ireland. O’Connell was
speaking from a situation where Catholics in Ireland were members
of an oppressed race. He was the leader of their movement to
overturn that kind of subjugation. So he naturally reached out
for alliances with the struggle against racial injustice
everywhere.

 

The Irish in America rejected him.
He went so far as to say if you don’t do this, then we won’t
recognize you as Irish. They thought about it and concluded,
okay, if you force us to choose between our love for Ireland and
our attachment to the institutions of our new country, then it’s
South Carolina forever. What they decided to do was integrate
themselves into American life as citizens, invoking the
privileges of whiteness.

 

Having fair skin made the Irish
eligible to be white, but it didn’t guarantee their admission.
They had to earn it.

 

Q: And how were they supposed to
earn it?

 

A: There were two things they had
to do. First, they had to distance themselves as much as possible
from the black population of North America. They had to do
whatever they possibly could to create barriers, to insulate
themselves, to separate themselves from the black population.

The second thing they had to do
was overcome the resistance to their own civil rights coming from
the people who were better off than them–that is, the native
Protestant, bigoted, anti-Catholic, anti-foreigner establishment
that was running the country.

There was a relationship, in fact,
between these two tasks. To the extent to which they could prove
themselves worthy of being white Americans–that is, by joining
in gleefully in the subjugation of black people–they showed that
they belonged, that they deserved all the rights of
citizenship. On the other side, to the extent to which they were
able to force their way into the white polity of this country,
they were able to distance themselves from black people.

What my book is about, then, is
how the Irish used the different institutions of American society
to accomplish these tasks: the Democratic Party, early labor
unions, the church, forms of urban social disorder–race riots,
for example. It’s about how they managed to implement and carry
out an agenda which finally gained them admission into what I
like to call the white race in America.

 

Q: Is there any one event of the
several you go into in the book–a particularly explosive
episode–that you would point to as a dramatic turning point in
the relationship between the two communities?

 

A: One that I think is an
especially interesting and important one was what came to be
known as the New York City Draft Riots, probably the most violent
urban riots in American history. They took place in July 1863.
They began as a protest by the Irish and others against the
social inequities of the Civil War draft–the fact that poor
people had to serve while the rich could buy their way out by
paying for a substitute.

But this quickly linked up with
the Irish effort to exclude black workers from the docks, and
from other jobs on which they felt they had a right to establish
a monopoly. It led to a week of rioting in New York, in which the
Irish raised the confederate flag, they cheered the name of
Jefferson Davis, they attacked, lynched, burned a colored
orphanage. Nobody knows for sure how many black people were
killed in those riots, but the estimate has gone up as high as
1,000. In fact, Lincoln had to withdraw federal troops from
Gettysburg and elsewhere in order to repress that rebellion.

What that was about, it seems to
me, was, first, to establish an Irish-administered white monopoly
of jobs on the docks and in the civil service. The Irish also
wanted to make it clear that while they favored the Union (they
did not want to see the country split; they did not support the
secession of the South), they also did not want it to become a
war against slavery or a war for racial justice. They were
fighting to defend the white Republic and to make sure that they
were a part of it–not to make it an inclusive and racially free
Republic.

 

Let’s talk about your publication Race
Traitor,
which you call the journal of "the new
abolitionism." Appearing across its cover is the slogan
"Treason to Whiteness is Loyalty to Humanity." There’s
some pretty provocative language packed in there. What,
precisely, do you mean to covey with all this? And how does the
journal’s purpose relate to your aims in How the Irish Became
White?

 

A: The relationship between the
two projects is this. In the book I’m studying how a group of
people who were not white became white, that is, became
members of the white "club." In the journal I’m trying
to explore how people who now think of themselves as white, or
who are white, or who act white, might become un-white. So in a
sense it’s a way of studying how the film might be run backwards.

 

Q: Of course this raises the
question of exactly what you mean by "white."

 

A: Indeed, I’m not referring to
people of fair skin, straight hair, or any of the other physical
characteristics which we normally think of as white. No one has
any control over how they were born, how they look, or any of
that. So far as I’m concerned those things make no difference.
I’m talking about what’s going on in people’s minds. To me, being
"white" means being part of a club, with certain
privileges and obligations. People are recruited into that club
at birth, enrolled in that club without their consent or
permission, and brought up according to its rules. Generally
speaking, they go through life accepting the rules and accepting
the benefits of membership, without ever considering the costs.

 

Q: What are the costs?

 

A: The cost of membership in the
white club is that it requires a loyalty and conformity to
official American society in a way that’s making life very
uncomfortable and even dangerous for all of the ordinary folk in
this country–those who are called white, as well as those who
are called black. The project of our journal is to break up that
club. Essentially the way we think the club can be broken up is
by disrupting the conformity that maintains it.

In our view, the country needs
some reverse oreos: a whole bunch of folks who look white
on the outside but don’t act white. So many, in fact, that
it will be impossible for those in power in this country to
really be sure who’s white merely by looking. When that
happens the value of the white skin will diminish.

 

Q: What sorts of things might
result from this?

 

A: I think political issues and
conflicts and divisions would take place on no-rmal bases,
having to do with people’s interests in terms of wealth versus
poverty, for example, and questions of that kind, which would
open the door for all sorts of social and political changes that
haven’t happened yet, la-rgel_y because some people settle for
being white rather than take a chance on being free.

It seems to me that culturally,
the United States is not a white country. Culturally, the United
States is, at the very least, as Albert Murray once put it,
"incontestably mulatto." Every American, merely by
virtue of landing on these shores, becomes culturally part
Yankee, part American Indian, and part black, with a little pinch
of ethnic salt. In a certain sense people know this. Just
think of the music we listen to, the dances we do, the sports we
admire, the dress, the rhythms of speech, certain attributes of
Protestantism and even, in some places, Catholicism–all of these
things indicate a black influence in American life. And Americans
by and large enjoy this–although they’re not quite willing to
admit it. They prefer to deny it. But even insofar as it’s
acknowledged–and this is crucial–they want to separate all of
this from questions of political rights and citizenship. So what
I like to say is that the United States is the largest country in
the world of people who pass for white. There are a couple
hundred million of them who are denying the black presence within
their own souls and hearts.

The result is that people accept a
lot of abuse and a lot of suffering–and I’m talking about
so-called white people now. Everybody knows that black people are
oppressed. I’m talking about the white people who accept a lot of
abuse and a lot of mistreatment–from the government, from their
employers, from their landlords, from the people in
authority–because at least they have the consolation of being
white, or thinking that they’re white. I want to see that broken
apart.

 

Q: How could that happen?

 

A: I think the way to break it
apart is to attack and disrupt the structures that reproduce the
color line in the United States.

 

Q: Which structures are we talking
about then?

 

A: I’m not talking about racists.
I assume that there’s a small number a white people in the United
States who are dedicated, ideologically committed white
supremacists. And there’s a small number of white people in the
United States who are really, genuinely against white supremacy
and want to overturn it. And I assume that the majority of white
people in this country probably mean as well as most human beings
have since the beginning of time. They lead their ordinary
private lives, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. They don’t
wish ill to people of color, but on the other hand aren’t willing
to take chances to change anything about it. And by and large
they function like the "good Germans" during World War
II: they don’t know what’s going on because it’s more comfortable
for them in many ways not to know.

So I’m not talking about Tom
Metsker or hard-core white supremacists reproducing racial
oppression. I’m talking about the ordinary mainstream
institutions of this society–the labor market, the school
system, the police and the court system, the social work
industry, the housing authority. All of these various social
mechanisms, which in many cases are operated and administered by
well-meaning folk who would be horrified at the suggestion that
they are, in fact, reproducing the structures of racism.

 

Q: How a-re they reproducing the
structures of racism?

 

A: Well, for instance, tracking in
the public schools, which has a clear racial characteristic. We
are not dealing here with two groups of people who are coming out
of the same history. It becomes an excuse for dividing black from
white. People are channeled, even from the first grade; they get
sent directly onto one track that’s going to lead them into
skilled jobs, into better situations, into a certain kind of
occupational future. And on the other hand, we have people who
are being sent, being channeled, directly into the army, prison,
the warehouse, or the most menial jobs available. The schools do
this under the guise of what are considered to be objective, fair
kinds of testing. But, as a whole number of people have pointed
out, these standards and these tests are race-loaded.

Another example is the job market
and the implication of the unions in controlling the job market
and maintaining a kind of father-son system of
continuity–particularly in some of the remnants of the skilled
trades industries, where plumbers and carpenters, and so forth,
can pass on what amounts to the right to work in these industries
from father to son, uncle to nephew, in a way that excludes black
people. And again, it’s not done openly as a matter of
color–it’s done through the family–but the result of it is that
there are still many of these trades that are restricted to
people who are called white.

Another example, of course, is the
courts and the criminal justice system, which has attracted the
most attention recently. The institution which involves the
greatest amount of participation of black males–in particular,
those in their twenties–is the criminal justice system, far
outweighing the higher education system. Drugs provide the most
illuminating case study on this score. The penalty for using even
a tiny amount of crack are fa-r more severe than the penalty for
using or possessing a similar amount of powder cocaine–crack
cocaine being the drug of choice for black folks in the ghetto,
powder cocaine for white folks in the suburbs.

The result is the prisons are
filled with people who are in for a paltry amount of crack, while
the folks in the suburbs enjoy impunity. Drug use has now filled
America’s prisons with poor, by and large black, people.

Congress, in fact, voted down a
law that would have eliminated this discrepancy in the severity
of the respective penalties–although the words "black"
and "white" were never mentioned in the law–thus
making it clear that young black men will continue to be
channeled into prison, while the law will

wink at cocaine use by white folks
in the suburbs.

 

Q: The other day you described a
poignant example from your own experience of this apartheid-like
double standard so deeply entrenched in our legal culture. Would
you share it again?

 

A: That sort of experience poses
us with a question: How do we break out of this? The last
time I was in New York, I made an illegal right turn on a red
light. I didn’t know that you can’t do that in New York City. A
cop stopped me. I gave him my license. He looked at it
courteously and admonished me, told me not to do it again, and
let me go.

I tried to say to myself, what was
going on here? It seems to me that they looked at me–I look
white–and they said, okay, we can let this guy go, he’s not a
danger to us, he seems okay. He violated the law, but no big
deal, we’ll cut him a little slack, give him a break.

 

Q: He’s part of our club.

 

A: Exactly. Now people know that
had I been black, the outcome might have been different. I might
have gotten a ticket. I might have been taken down to the station
and been worked over. I might have been Rodney King by the
time they were done with me. Most black Americans have
anecdotes–it’s a standard thing, the cops stopping black people
for the well-known crime of DWB: Driving While Black.

This was a small example of the
maintenance, you see, of the white club. Recruiting me. Holding
me. It works subtly. It’s a reward to me for assumed past
good behavior, and an incentive for assumed future good behavior.
So I think to myself: What am I gaining and what am I giving up?
What I gain from it, obviously, is that I don’t get a ticket; I
get released with a little bit of courtesy. But what I gave up is
my ability to struggle against those people: the cops and
the judges and the landlords and the employers and the political
officials, who are reducing the American economy to a shambles
and destroying the quality of American life–all because at least
I have the privileges of club membership.

So I say to myself, well, what
could I do to get out of the club? How could I break apart the
club? What would make the cops treat me differently?

What would make them treat me
differently is if they couldn’t be sure whether I was white
merely by looking at me. And what would make them think twice is
if there were enough people who were acting–in a public
way–defiantly, flagrantly un-white. Then the cops really could
no longer be sure. They’d have to start examining each person’s
individual behavior. Or else they’d fall back on the standard
that governs police conduct all over the world where race is not
the issue-that is to say, social class: speech, dress, the usual
tokens.

All over the world, cops beat up
poor people, That’s their job. What has to be explained is not
why they beat up Rodney King–they do that in all countries in
the world. The question isn’t why they beat up black people, but
why they don’t regularly and routinely beat up people who look
white. The reason for that is this club that exists. Well, whites
gain something from this club, as I’ve pointed out, but they also
lose something from it. They also pay a price for membership in
this club, and the price is living in a society which is going to
hell in a hand basket and everybody knows it.

 

Q: When you talk about not acting
white, and therefore not being assumed into this club, what
concretely do you have in mind? Are you talking about particular
forms cultural behavior? Are you thinking along the lines of
people developing a new political and intellectual framework? Or
are you suggesting a more total sense of existential
identity–something that would go to the core of someone’s being?
How are you suggesting, in other words, that people express to
the managers of the race-class system in this country: I’m not
part of your club.

 

A: I’m talking about a number of
different things–all of the above. What if I had had a bumper
sticker on my car that said AVENGE RODNEY KING? Then the cops
would have responded to me differently. I’m not sure that would
have been the wisest thing to do. I might have wound up as
just another statistic in the middle of the night–I don’t know.

One possibility of a program that
I know some people are beginning to implement is what they call a
"Cop Watch" program. These are people who look white,
and they walk around on the street with big signs saying
"Cop Watch." Or they drive around in a well-marked car,
targeting neighborhoods where the police are known for stopping
black people and roughing them up or catching them on Saturday
night as they come out of the joints. And they’re there with a
video camera, taking notes and observing the police.

Now this is a perfectly legal
program; these people are within their rights to observe public
officials. And yet it’s clear that this kind of program drives
the cops c-raz_y. They do not wish to be scrutinized or observed
in their malfeasance. It seems to me that people doing this sort
of thing are, in a sense, using the protection of the white skin,
but -rejecting it. Because in undertaking this kind of a program
it’s clear that they’re placing themselves outside of the
protection of the white skin. They’re saying to the cops, and to
the society in general: We are not on your side, and, moreover,
we intend to hold you accountable.

I think something like this,
people taking this kind of action–it’s not violent, it’s not
even illegal–is disrupting the way the police and the court
system normally function: to channel black folk into prison and
white folk off to college, or at least to a tolerable situation
in the world. And there’s a need to think of some kinds of
analogies that might apply in other spheres of society.

It seems to me that the
fundamental point of it is that people who look white have to go
beyond merely sympathizing with the sufferings of people of
color; they have to identify with them. If they do that, then we
can talk about breaking apart the scene.

 

Q: What, for you, constitutes the
difference between merely sympathizing versus actually
identifying with other people’s situations?

 

A: Let me give you an example.
Every person who looks white in this country has heard race
jokes, anti-black jokes–a hell of a lot of them. I’m speaking
now of people who do not consider themselves bigots. I’m talking
about the majority of the people reading this interview, and the
majority of my friends. Most of the time, we don’t say anything.
Somebody makes some crack about one of them, and we say
nothing. In our silence, we’re engaging in a process of white
bonding. We’re validating that experience. We don’t have to go
along; we just have to keep quiet about it.

An alternative response is the
liberal approach. The response is a lecture: prejudice is wrong,
and _you shouldn’t talk that way about them. That’s sympathy.
It’s beyond neutrality. It’s an expression of sympathy, but it’s
not yet an identification.

A third way, which would get my
vote, would be to respond to the person by saying: Oh, you
probably said that because you think I’m white; that’s a mistake
that people often make because I look white. That’s a step
beyond sympathy. That’s already an identification. As I said to
one guy: What if you responded to slurs against black people as
if they were directed against your mother? How would you
respond then? Just apply that same rule to people talking about
black folks and you will find that you’ve gone beyond
sympathy–you’ve reached the point of identification.

What you might also discover in
that situation is that you find yourself outside of the white
club. If you do this regularly and consistently, you will find
yourself outside of the privileges of whiteness. That’s what I
mean by "reverse oreos": people who look white but are
not
white. I would suggest that when there comes into being a
critical mass of these people in the United States, the white
race itself will self-destruct.

 

Q: On what scale do you envision
this "critical mass"? What size block are we talking
about?

 

A: The example I like to think of
is the counterfeit money example. How much counterfeit money has
to circulate in order to undermine the value of the official
currency? Well, studies have been done of this. It turns out that
it’s nowhere near half. Five or ten per cent of counterfeit money
circulating is enough to destroy people’s confidence in the
official currency of the society.

White skin is the official
currency of this society. It buys admission to
neighborhoods, to schools, and so on. This what I call white skin
privilege. The white skin is the currency.

Now if there were five or ten per
cent counterfeit whites around–people who looked white but
really weren’t–then, I think, the white skin would lose its
value. The judge, the school principal, the cop, the social
worker, the personnel officer at the plant–and all of the other
people who implement and carry out the racial tracking of our
society–would no longer be sure about how to perform their
function. The white race would undergo some kind of fission or
self-destruction, and we would open up to the possibilities that
could transform this country from the nightmare that it has been
into the dream that it might be.

 

You’ve said that the two options
you foresee in the immediate future of this country are fascism,
on one side, or the dissolution of the white race, on the other.
Why do you see these as the only two possibilities right now?

 

A: One thing is that it’s clear to
me that for many poor, so-called white folks, the privileges of
the white skin are not doing as much for them as they have done
in the past and as they think they ought to be doing.
There’s a whole lot of white folks who are in dead-end jobs,
whose schools are going nowhere, who find themselves being
hassled by the cops. They know that, for the first time, their
situation isn’t going to be as good as their parents’ was.

And what’s happening is that the
fascists–the white supremacists, the skinheads, the Aryan
brotherhood, and various groups like that–are making attempts to
recruit these people into groups around the project of: We are
going to restore the white race to its position of
prominence–its proper position-through a violent, poor white
man’s revolution. That’s fascism. In a certain sense, the
fascists are recruiting and gaining influence among the angriest,
the most dispossessed, the most alienated, and potentially most
radical
sections of white America.

I’m convinced that the middle way
is dead. The possibility of minor reforms and patching things up
and so forth is defunct. There is no possibility of the opening
of a new Great Society or the passing of any great reforms that
are going to change people’s lives. There’s going to be some kind
of fundamental, very dramatic change in the United States. It’s
evident to me from all of the things I see in popular culture and
from listening to how people talk.

Either the fascists are going to
lead people into a poor white man’s revolution, which would open
the doors to horrors beyond anything that we’ve seen–from which
I do not exclude Germany in the 1930s and 140s. Or these people
are going to say: To hell with this. We do not wish to be white.
We wish to recognize that other people, those fighting hardest
against the injustices of this society, the most extreme victims
of it–the black youth–who are doing their best to resist what
American society is doing to them: therein lie our closest
potential allies. In other words, we are not going to be white
anymore. We’re going to take a chance on being free.

In a sense, this gets me back to
the situation of the Irish: landing here in the 1820s and ’30s,
being thrown on the bottom of the pile, next to the slaves and
free black people, and this time saying no–we will not try to
enter the white race. Instead, we will try to bring down the
whole system of racial, economic, and cultural injustice, and
build ourselves a new world on the ashes of the old one.

 

 

 

Subscriptions to Race Traitor are
$20 for 4 issues ($6 each for single copies), Race Traitor: a
journal of the new abolitionism,
PO Box 603, Cambridge, MA
02140-0005

An anthology of writings from the
journal have now been published as a book, Race Traitor, edited
by Noel Ignatiev and John Garvey (Routledge, 1996).

 

 

 

"Race Traitor is the most
revolutionary challenge to racism made by American-European
intellectuals in my lifetime."

– Ishmael Reed

 

Noel Ignatiev worked for over
twenty years in steel mills, farm equipment plants, and machine
tool and electrical parts factories. He is the co-founder and
co-editor of
Race Traitor: a journal of the new abolitionism,
the author of How the Irish Became White (Routledge,
1995), and co-editor, with John Garvey, of the anthology
Race
Traitor (Routledge, 1996). He teaches history at Harvard
University.

 

Danny Postel produces and hosts
a weekly political -radio program
called Free Associations, which
is broadcast on the Chicago stations WZRD and WHPK. His
interviews and articles have appeared in the pages of
In
These Times, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Alternative Press
Review, New Politics, 3rd Word, and the Chicago newspapers New
City and La Raza.

 

This interview was originally
broadcast on St. Patrick’s Day of 1996 on WZRD-FM in Chicago.