It hasn’t been that many decades since there was real prejudice towards the Irish and central Europeans immigrants, mainly because they were Catholic. Remember the days of WASP and what it stood for: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
What a difference a few decades can make. Today, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these Catholic immigrants occupy the halls of Congress, governors’ mansions and state legislatures. One of them currently resides in the Naval Observatory. And when the head of the Catholic Church comes to visit, he will be warmly welcomed and hailed by politicians of all parties and all faiths.
Indeed, America has traveled a long road since the days when many native-born Americans regarded Catholic immigrants as an ideological and racial threat.
But it’s also a fitting time to recall how things once were. Pope Francis arrives amid a political season rife with violent rhetoric directed at millions of Catholic immigrants and their American-born children. Much like an earlier generation of newcomers who faced a toxic blend of racial and nativist backlash, today’s Catholic immigrants have found themselves the unwitting subject of an intense debate about the very meaning of what it means to be an American.
Are we still revisiting the same old prejudices, just from other countries? It seems so.