People who aren't discriminated against anymore?
March 17, 2013 12:37 PM   Subscribe

It always seems that ending racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination ends up being a whackamole sort of game: get rid of slavery, and people will still try to be racist, they'll make Jim Crow laws and institute poll tests and all that stuff. Are there any example of groups of people where this didn't happen, where the discrimination against them basically went away without any, or with only insignificant consequences?
posted by curuinor to Society & Culture (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

The Irish in America is the first example that jumps to mind,
posted by asterix at 12:39 PM on March 17, 2013

Well, the European immigrant groups around the turn of the 20th century, by Americans of English descent: Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans. That's mostly a thing of the past in the U.S., as far as I can tell.
posted by supercres at 12:39 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter for a discussion of how "white" society used to exclude a lot of people that we can scarcely imagine used to be discriminated against.
posted by Etrigan at 12:40 PM on March 17, 2013 [15 favorites]

Then again, those same social forces are just transitioned onto different groups. The same people who give Latin-Americans and Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants a hard time today would probably have disciminated against Italians, Eastern Europeans, and Jews a century ago. So it is still sort of a whack-a-mole situation.

What about (non-Muslim*) religious discrimination? Whole wars were fought in Europe over whether to be Catholic or Protestant, and this was still a thing in Northern Ireland within the last 20 years. Meanwhile, I grew up Protestant in a Catholic enclave and never heard a negative word. Plenty of people were ignorant about any faith outside the Catholic Church, but I never heard "you're going to hell" or the like.

*I actually think religious discrimination against Muslims is really a part of racism/xenophobia against Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants, not purely religious in intent. But maybe that muddies the waters?
posted by Sara C. at 12:46 PM on March 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

There's definitely still discrimination against people who aren't mainstream, Protestant religious believers (all the dumb stuff about Mitt Romney--whom I voted against with pleasure, mind you--because of his religion, insistence in many pockets that Catholics are not Christian, Jewish stereotypes, resistance to the building of gurdwaras, etc., and that's without getting into discrimination against nonbelievers).
posted by wintersweet at 12:53 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bearing in mind that this varies considerably between and within different regions/settings. It's still quite challenging to be a Catholic in a lot of places in the US, despite the prejudice (at least, of the variety you saw from the Know-Nothings in the 19th century) mostly fading away.

And actually, that prejudice fading away is tied up in knots with the decrease in prejudice against the Irish and Italians.

And for the most part, you can't match this up as easily to slavery/Jim Crow/etc.; blacks in North America spent several hundred years under nearly uniform legal subjugation, and the ambiguity that Southerns were fighting to retain was closely associated with that. In contrast, the Irish and Italians in the US in the 1840s-1950s were a huge new group that had been left behind in the old country - it was about "foreignness" and wishing they'd just go away as much as it was about preserving any definition of a social order.

Also, it seems to work better the less you see of trying to pass a ton of laws or enforce specific rules and regulations on people who still haven't been convinced of anything (because laws and force aren't very good at convincing.) It got significantly easier to be Jewish in America after Hitler killed a bunch of us, for instance, and a lot easier to be a Mormon in America after polygamy was repudiated and Mormons basically hid out in just one state for two and a half generations straight. I'd argue neither prejudice is gone, but it's way better now than it was. Same with being Chinese or Japanese: the laws that are relevant are the late-19th-century ones that were eliminated; no one went around ordering folks to be nice to Asian immigrants. And no one passed laws against treating Germans badly, even after WWI when it seriously, profoundly stank to be German in the US (I suspect that the post-WWII prejudice was largely wiped out thanks to us stepping in to defend Western Germany from the big bad Soviet aggressor.)

See, also, that one AskMe from a while back, about Reconstruction.
posted by SMPA at 12:59 PM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

And no one passed laws against treating Germans badly

There was a wave of laws passed against teaching grammar students in a foreign language (even as a second language) in the WWI-era that was specifically directed at German-American communities in the USA. Which is to say that the original round of laws largely succeeded, along with social intimidation, so there was no need to use a legal retaliation against the first wave. They just quietly repealed those laws after they were no longer relevant and now considered bad taste.
posted by deanc at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anti-Italian prejudice in the USA is pretty much gone now, as far as I know.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2013

I think the Normans discriminated against the Saxons in the years following the Norman Conquest. This is a piece of random information stuck in my head from a historical novel I read in my teens, so additional research might be called for.

Oh right, Huguenots.
posted by bunderful at 1:21 PM on March 17, 2013

Anti-Catholic prejudice in Australia was rampant in the 1950s and even into the 1960s. It's non-existent today.
posted by dontjumplarry at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seems as though prejudices against groups such as Irish or Italians or Catholic vs. Protestant may fade more completely because it's fairly difficult to look at someone and tell if they fit one of those groups.
posted by uncaken at 2:14 PM on March 17, 2013

And no one passed laws against treating Germans badly, even after WWI when it seriously, profoundly stank to be German in the US

I remember my Grandmother talking about how it was "illegal" to speak German on the telephone during World War II. They were out in the country, on a party line, and although she'd always spoken German with my great-grandmother, during the war they had to speak English over the phone. I was never sure if this was an official law or just not wanting to raise suspicion.

My German immigrant ancestors are much more recent, but between WWI and WWII, the family assimilated itself pretty ruthlessly, so that not much tradition remains. Whereas my Norwegian ancestors came here before the Civil War but that side still carries on with table prayers in Norwegian, and folk dancing, and the whole nine yards.
posted by ambrosia at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anti-Italian xenophobia was pretty strong in Southern France in the late 19th century, resulting in two massacres and lingering resentment. The latter article (in French) tells how French an Italian immigrants workers eventually made peace... and became united before WW1 against a common "enemy": North African immigrant workers.
posted by elgilito at 2:36 PM on March 17, 2013

In medieval England there was a sometime hatred against Flemings settled there. Most wellknown is the massacre of London Flemings in the peasant uprising of 1381, but there was also an expulsion in 1154-5 and likely other wrongs against them that I can't bring to mind. Much of this was economic-based, but they were an easy "outsider" target. Maybe it was transferred onto other groups, but certainly it itself is long gone and forgotten.
posted by Jehan at 2:38 PM on March 17, 2013

[The question is quite specific. Please skip the theorizing. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:02 PM on March 17, 2013

Left-handed people! I come from a long line of left-handed people, and most of them were forced to use their right hand for everything. In the US/Western Europe, that has changed. Mostly. Infrastructure is still geared toward right-hand dominant people, but the attitudes have improved over time.
posted by ambrosia at 3:06 PM on March 17, 2013 [12 favorites]

I would say religious prejudice in general has fallen off a cliff. Catholics, Mormons, and Jews will be unlikely to face outright discrimination whereas not too long ago we could find any number of examples of all of those groups being burned out of house and home.

Even FDR outright said, "You know this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and Jews are here under sufferance."

The Warren Court was known for its anti-racial-discrimination rulings, but it was also known for its rulings that put a stop to the use of public schools and governments as advocates of Protestant Christianity, and this has more or less been accepted as a matter of course. We generally tend to accept that "religious discrimination is bad" without attempts from factions to try to insert religious discrimination through other means and the modern disputes on this issue generally occur on the margins.
posted by deanc at 3:15 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

This doesn't directly answer your question, but you might find this 2009 article -- "Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice" -- interesting.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:15 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Centuries of discrimination against the cagots of France eventually faded away, but part of that might be that the 'cagot' identity itself more or less faded away.
posted by gimonca at 6:05 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Us Bohunks were discriminated against for a while.

Most of the ethnic neighborhoods in urban US cities are the result of discrimination/redlining.
posted by gjc at 6:46 PM on March 17, 2013

Poles, when was the last time you heard a 'Pollack' joke?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:20 PM on March 17, 2013

Scottish people used to be discriminated against. Apparently they were stereotyped as stingy. I know this from old books of jokes and anecdotes.

I would note that discrimination of the french by americans is fairly recent, and weird, given the close ties between the french and americans, historically.
posted by gryftir at 2:33 AM on March 18, 2013

Scottish people used to be discriminated against. Apparently they were stereotyped as stingy. I know this from old books of jokes and anecdotes.

That stereotype continues to exist.
posted by atrazine at 5:36 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Immigrants from Finland used to be discriminated against in the Iron Range in Minnesota back in the early 1900s. Racial prejudice against Finns sprang from a belief that they were related to Mongolians.

Minnesota Public Radio did a two part story, links: Part 1 Part 2
posted by lstanley at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2013

« Older What is the name of this phenomenon?   |   ID these Rubix's cubes (and other puzzles)? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.