Ethnicity always determined social stratification of the American society. Today, racial minorities like African Americans and Hispanic are considered to be unprivileged social groups as compared to people who once emigrated from Europe. However, not all Europeans were considered “white” throughout the American history. In the nineteenth century, Irish, Italian, Jews and other people from Southern and Eastern Europe were treated as “colored” too. These Europeans belonged to the unprivileged minority and were greatly discriminated in employment.
There were two races in the erstwhile America – black and white. Irish and Italians were called “inbetween” people, and this status did not enhance their economic development, safety, and acceptance. These ethnic groups gradually become “white” due to the process of ethnic succession. Religion played a great role in the American society of the nineteenth century, and the Protestant hegemony was omnipresent. Apparently, Methodists converted Italians into Protestants establishing centers for immigrants.
Irish immigrants found another way to gain acknowledgment of the Americans. Irish Catholics also suffered from the contempt of Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Irish were treated as an impoverished social group which was predisposed to alcohol and crime. Unlike Italians, they worked their way up to “white” society. It took several generations for Irish to prove that they can work hard. They proved their full potential working long hours in the factories.
Apparently, people used any possible way to transfer to the higher social class in the nineteenth century. Being “white” promised them success, advancement, security, and privileges. Immigrants gradually engaged in social activities, police, municipal work or politics. Women usually married out to assure financial protection to themselves and their kids.