Let’s jump right on in, shall we?
I truly enjoy it when my hometown daily publishes a look back at a day in St. Louis history. It’s amazing to read about long ago happenings in places I drive by or visit everyday. So, I eagerly dove into the article looking back at the city’s “nativist” riots in 1854.
Nativism ain’t new. I’ve always found it interesting…a group of immigrants move into a territory, plant roots and live there for a spell and then freak out when a new group of immigrants moves in and tries to establish roots. The use of the term “nativist” is also interesting, given that a lot of Missourians seem to forget that there were people living here before people “discovered” here.
Even though we have a strong immigrant history, St. Louis has a history of reacting violently to the introduction of new populations. One of the worst race riots in America history took place here in 1917…with over 100 people murdered and wide spread destruction of property…when white workers felt threatened by cheaper black laborers who migrated North to flee Southern oppression. But, although many remember the 1917 riot, few recall the riots of 1854 that were kicked off by the arrival of Irish immigrants to the city.
The 1854 riots are particularly interesting because they center on the vote. One political candidate courted Irish immigrants while “nativists” were courted by another…a call for “nativists” to monitor polls to protect against illegal voting triggered all manner of violence and ultimately led to the riots.
Fastforward to the present and not a damn thing has changed.
Missouri has a standing date with legislative attempts to impose voter id requirements…and now we’ve got this shameful mess about amending the Constitution to deny citizenship rights to babies born on American soil. All of this is about politics…fear of the other and fear of losing the power that comes with being the majority. The voter id shit is a continuation of this state’s never-ending fear of black liberal voters…the citizenship drama centers around the fear of Hispanic babies growing up to become Hispanic voters.
And the language is often the same too…pundits spoke of Irish immigrants “dropping babies” and then they moved on to speak of black people “dropping babies”, so it’s not surprise that they are now pontificating about Hispanics “dropping babies”.
This has all happened before and it will unfortunately happen again.
But a look back shows us that the root of the problem isn’t documentation…that’s just the hook.
The root of the problem is fear of losing the power that comes from being established and knowing that some other group is moving in and may shake shit up.
I suspect that in the subconscious of those “natives” from 1854 was a remembrance of what they did when they were the new kids on the block.
I can’t help but wonder if that fear and the violence it inspired had something to do with how they manifested their destiny and how they imagined the new other would plant their roots…like they did, on the neck of the people who were already here when settlers “discovered” Missouri.