- Bill Wade
No Irish Need Apply
I can remember these tales of terror… as if they were being told yesterday…of menacing signs all over New York and Washington. During a random rainy afternoon session on genealogy, both my father and grandfather continued to press the case that this had happened… and right up through the 20th century.
'HELP WANTED - NO IRISH NEED APPLY'
These stories were so unsettling that I called my Uncle Dick, a history professor at the University of Chicago and political advisor to the Daleys and the Kennedys. My soon-to-graduate-from-eighth-grade mind was sharper than this BS… especially two days after St. Patrick’s Day, 1961.
My special expert in all things history (especially in the city of Chicago) not only backed up Dad’s story, but added to it. “The same things had happened right here in ‘Dublin of the Midwest’. NINA signs could be found everywhere. First, we were the oppressed…and soon roles were reversed,” he concluded.
My uncle, finishing a huge book ‘American Cities: Rise of the Metropolis’ at the time, took probably an hour to explain the deal… we Irish were not exactly angelic in these events:
‘Bloody Monday’ in Louisville, 1855
NYC Draft Riots, 1883
Philadelphia Riots, 1884
‘Bridge Workers’ Bombing in Los Angeles, 1911
‘The Red Summer’, Chicago, 1919
Most had occurred because established American citizens were afraid of the nation losing its white, Anglo-Saxon identity amidst an influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, Ireland and even China. The newer arrivals were seen as inferior, with strange religions, customs and different languages.
“Thus, he concluded “when the Irish families moved into neighborhoods, other families often moved out fearing the real or imagined dangers of disease, fire hazards, unsanitary conditions and the social problems of violence, alcoholism and crime.”
Then He Dropped the Bomb. Mayor Daley the First (my political hero, based on other Uncle Dick stories) had been a cause of this bloodbath. The ‘Hamburgs,’ of which Daley was a leader, were an ‘athletic club’ - a gang. These Irish toughs played sports, but they also terrorized and beat people senseless…and, of course, they got out the vote.
What's often forgotten is that they ignited the worst and deadliest race riot in Chicago's history. In 1919, a Black youth was killed because he dared to swim at the all-white Rainbow Beach on the South Side.
Reports say 38 people were killed, more than 500 injured and 1,000 left homeless. Most of the victims were African-Americans. Politics cleansed the Hamburgs over the decades, and they played politics well. The Black gangs have played it poorly.
Some of the Irish climbed the social ladder through the Democratic (Hamburgs) machine, later legitimized through politics. A few, like Daley, later graduated from college. They used street cunning and ruthlessness and physical force to grab the political jobs, the riches and power in our ‘City of Tribes.’
Why Do I Bring Up This Story?
First, nearly 100 years after Rainbow Beach, I live in the largest segregated city in the US… Chicago. No surprise. Most of the ‘boundaries’ were drawn by Daley. By strategically rerouting major expressways and airports, he successfully set the rigid mold for the city today. Similar to the ‘redistricting’ done to countries and territories at the conclusion of World War I, this political gerrymandering has guaranteed social disruptions to this day.
Second, it also made me think again about our industry. Not by cunning nor deals, we operate in one of the major segregated industries in North America... both light and heavy-duty sides.
Stop it! I didn’t say that the numbers result from some evil system. The fact is that you can leaf through any trucking, logistics or industrial distribution magazine without finding any minorities in the pictures… simply a reflection of how it is. Doing a little further research, I found that Hispanics make up only 12% of truck drivers. Blacks are less than that.
I remember speaking to over 1,000 guys (literally) at an AWDA session in the middle ‘90s. The subject was the struggle to find new people for the aftermarket. It dawned on me right there at the Mirage ballroom podium. I moved away from my script, and asked that the houselights be brought up. I barely had to say a thing… there may have been 3 Blacks, 10 women and not many more Hispanics.
How, I asked, would we progress through this and future labor shortages ignoring over 35% of potential employee prospects? I’m still concerned.
With the huge employment dislocation about to bloom (as a result of COVID disruptions), now might a good time to get away from strictly referral hiring. Over 40% of workers in a recent poll said that they would consider a new job, a new industry, or schooling for new skills.
Even as a philosophy major, I am not whining about the legalities or morality of our hiring history. This is a realistic, economic, commercial and, I hope, common sense prospect for our aftermarket leaders to ponder. We may have been cheating ourselves.
6/16/1858… Lincoln warns Republicans that America is becoming a “house divided.”
6/16/1885...The dismantled Statue of Liberty arrives in New York.