F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Irish Memes: Proof of a Guilty Conscience

When reading the interview about the lie of Irish slavery, I keep coming back to the idea that these memes say more about those who believe them and perpetuate them, then about anything else. The belief in the notion of Irish slavery speaks at least to me about a concern among Anglo Americans that they refuse to confront their participation in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. But more than the participation the memes speaks to a guilty conscience, one that is desperately trying to find some form of absolution from the sins of the past. In this particular case, the Irish slave memes speaks to the need of Anglo Americans to try to downplay their role in slavery. More importantly, it is about denying the overall structural nature of slavery in order to feel less awful about how whiteness continues to be used to silence any serious discussion of slavery and Anglo American participation in the institution.
            There is something strange about these Irish slavery memes that I think need to be addressed, and that is that these memes reveal that Anglo Americans know (to a certain extent) just how awful the slave trade was and the dehumanizing treatment of enslaved Africans by white Europeans. Seen in this light the memes of white slavery give Anglo Americans an out in which they can recuse themselves from having to confront the legacy of white supremacy and to a further extent the continued participation of Anglo Americans in the domination of Black people. There is a sense of triumph because the Anglo Americans understands that people of African descent have them in a moral hold, that there is a debt to which they cannot repay. The presence of the meme relieves their conscience allowing them to say to Black Americans, “see it’s not just one sided, we were treated as badly as you were, we were victims too,” evening if this is not true that fact that the meme exists is enough for them to believe. The wholehearted belief in the meme reveals how desperate many are to relieve themselves of the guilt that coming with having white skin and its historical implications.

This page has paths: