Hyphen Nation

For our History 297 class, we had to read chapter one of Roots Too by Matthew F. Jacobson. The chapter was entitled Hyphen Nation.

Jacobson begins the chapter by stating the importance of President Kennedy’s “return” to the Republic of Ireland.  Jacobson wrote about the importance that the descendent of an Irish immigrant became the President of the United States. From this, Jacobson shows that Kennedy was able to celebrate his Irish heritage without being “un-American”, and not an assimilation of the Irish-American into simply being American. It should be noted that amongst the many Irish people who greeted President Kennedy was Eamon de Valera. de Valera was born in New York City, led the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and became President of the Republic of Ireland.

From there, Jacobson highlights the rise of the hyphen American movement and the increased love of the culture of ones ancestors.  However, as he noted, with this movement, especially after the civil rights movement, there was a side effect of increased white nationalism. With this their was also an increase in Zionist thought, as well as anti-Zionist thought. Jacobson made the point that, as these ideas were rising and as the grievances of these races were aired, the idea of trying to distance oneself from “whiteness” became more appealing. The idea of group rights was widely accepted, yet people were hesitant to say the same for white groups, especially in the wake of Birmingham.

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