Discrimination and Ethnic Groups: Polish-Americans Understanding Polish Immigration Poland’s unique past is littered with oppression, servitude, and foreign rule over and over again. The land was fought over by many countries during the 1800’s and subsequently was annexed and divided. The primary conquerors included Russia, Austria, Prussia, and later Germany. (Buffalo Department of Education,). There were many smaller country’s nationals who descended upon Poland and mixed with the nationals, seizing land and jobs.This included The Ukraine, Lithuania, Belorussia, Latvia, not to mention Jews, Tartars, and small groups of gypsies.
At the end of the 18th century Poland basically no longer existed as the rival surrounding countries split this land and claimed it as a part of their domain. Finally in 1918 Poland achieved independence and re-emerged as a country under Communist rule (Jones, n. d. ). These events led the Eastern Europeans to view the Poles as low-class, bohemian, even non-whites, who were beneath them in education, social status, and economics.It is understandable that this sentiment stigmatized the immigrating Poles as they arrived on America’s shores, seeking political democracy, good jobs, and a piece a land. Expecting a better life they often faced prejudice and problems in America.
Polish-Americans Essay Example
Assimilation According to (),“Many of their neighbors viewed Poles as rowdy, disorganized, ignorant, filthy, and prone to drunkenness and sloth. Polish immigrants were subjected to spitting, name-calling, physical violence and the other abuses” (Jones, n. d. , para. 15). Despite these setbacks, Polish patriots had an easier time assimilating than other non-European groups, such as Asians.This assimilation was only surface due to their strong cultural, ethnic, and religious ties to Poland isolating them from mainstream America.
Often the brunt of ethnic jokes, this practice has only died down in the entertainment arena since the late 1980’s. America was predominantly Protestant and the strongly Catholic Poles were looked down upon and church construction blocked. Faced with these issues the self-reliant Polish-Americans created small, self-supporting ethnic communities (Polonia) remaining isolated from the rest of the local community (Znaniecka, 1994).According to Jones, “It has been at times a country within a country, Poland in the new world” (Znaniecka, 1994, para. 3). Dual Labor Market / Industrial Discrimination Hoping to find jobs in agriculture and woodworking and a small piece of land to farm was not a reality for hard working Poles. Instead, shunned by Americans and Eastern Europeans they were sent to larger developed areas and offered laborious jobs working in mills, refineries, industrial plants, and the garment industry.
They were strong and hard working and were often given the hardest tasks; working is extreme heat of factories or damp, bleak conditions in underground mines for 10-hour days, six or seven days a week. The Poles, with a strong history of agriculture, farming, and woodworking experience, somehow managed to adapt to these unsatisfactory conditions. The were ridiculed for their broken English and further segregated from native-born Americans ( ). Redlining Shopkeepers would often overcharge the Poles for goods and services, or supply them with inferior products.It was a common practice for employers to withhold wages. Newcomers were often paid less than they deserved. Landlord rentals were often unclean and uncomfortable.
This simply strengthened the growing Polish communities (Polonia) that funded and constructed banks, churches, schools, retail stores and shops, all owned and operated by fellow Polish-Americans ( ). Glass Ceilings, Walls, and Escalators Polish-Americans were discriminated against on the workforce. There was never a chance for upward mobility and career advancement. Poles were viewed as strong workhorses without many brains.Eastern Europeans and native-born Americans were granted the better lateral jobs and there was no inside secret or fraternization that could help a Polish-American obtain a raise or a better company position quickly (Lutenski, 1994). Reverse Discrimination Poles assimilated easily and became “more-white” (J. Giordano, Personal communication, April 30, 2011) once they became naturalized.
They slowly shed the stigma of being non-white by shunning blacks so they could emphasize the difference. They felt this would add assurance to the native-born Americans of how white they really were.They even enacted strict segregation for black housing to minimize any association. Even the poorest Polish-Americans thanked God they were not black. Job competition also clouded the Poles reason and tolerance (Lutenski, 1994 ). Sadly, a normally rational immigrant group forced the same isolation they had fought against onto another minority group. Affirmative Action Poles cried reverse discrimination when they were denied any rights under Affirmative Action.
They cried ethnic discrimination for all the long years that they withstood discrimination. Ironically, now that the U.S. government accepted them as fully assimilated as the majority class of white Americans, they felt ignored (Lutenski, 1994). Polish-Americans Today I am an American first and foremost and a third generation Polish-American. I grew up in an ethnically diverse community with a strong sense of family, church, patriotism, and allegiance to the United States. My mother grew up in Brooklyn in a predominantly Polish neighborhood and even attended the Polish National Catholic Church.
I am proud of my heritage and my family’s personal stories of courage, faith, and endurance.I continue to observe several religious holiday customs and have passed them down to my children, grandchildren, and now my great-grandchildren. There are still large pockets of Polish-American communities across the U. S. today. The fourth and fifth generation Poles are more Americanized but still have a deep respect and connection to their ancestral roots, customs, and beliefs. More young single Poles immigrate to the U.
S. hoping for better career opportunities. Poland today is a free republic, no longer a Communist state. The economy is stable and there has been no recent political unrest.The new generation is more tolerant with respect for all races and ethnicities. The first non-Italian, Catholic pope was the pride of Poles and is one step away from sainthood since his beatification today. Polish – Americans are proud, patriotic, and respectful.
They participate in government, finance, education, business, aviation, the arts, and the medical field. There are no longer the prejudices or injustices of yesteryear. The glass ceilings and walls are gone and they have taken their rightful place on the glass escalator. May they lead the way for others who are still oppressed and repressed.