In Ireland, once the Protestant Ascendancy had effectively handicapped the Irish ruling elite, it became necessary for English politicians to extend the Irish some concessions due to growing sympathy for them. In the 1840s, the English adopted a policy of allowing some numbers of Irish Catholics into position of real civil and judicial power. But due to the fact that there had been so many years of Irish disfranchisement, few Irish had the skills or education to fill these posts. Here, a policy very much like America’s affirmative action was enacted, in which English officials tamped down Irish “agitation” by giving hiring preferences to Catholics. Allen argues that similarly, in the New World, the British began to extend privileges to assimilated blacks in the West Indies, but not in America. He claims that “while the history of the United States presents no parallel of this phenomenon, parallels were seen in the history of the British West Indies.” In this respect, I would have to disagree with Allen, however. Although it could be competently argued that Southerners intentionally maintained a policy of racial second-class citizenship, many Northern states had long since fostered communities of well-to-do free blacks. This was the stratum that birthed the New Negro Movement. They had been educated and had been brought into the corridors of power by sympathetic whites ever since the end of the Civil War. Still, about this black intermediate stratum in the Americas, Allen says, “the ruling power, faced with the combination of insurrectionary pressures and external threats, over a period of time resolved the situation by the decision to recruit elements of the oppressed group—Catholics in one case and persons of African descent in the other—into the intermediate buffer social control stratum.
England’s Protestant leaders were very purposeful in regard to how much power they gave up, and when. Although some Catholics were now being welcomed into the Irish ruling class, English elites instituted roadblocks to full equity by barring English investment in Irish industrialization. According to Allen, this policy had the same effect as “red-lining” in the United States, in which generational wealth was kept from black families by policies that made housing and bank lending predatory and discriminatory. Catholics were eager to be reabsorbed into Ireland’s economy by the 1860s, but “networks of family and friends reinforced the hold which the Protestant community had obtained over the engineering trades.” Just as country-club circuits, neighborhood associations, and sports lodges have been spaces in which the white community could socialize and establish professional networks free of the black gaze, Protestants used social networks like these to keep Catholics in a second-class citizenship. As a result, just like with American whites, “The Ulster Custom, a Protestant privilege, made possible the accumulation of capital in the hands of successful tenants.” Policies like these kept money in the hands of emigrated Ulster Protestants the same way lower-class whites were allowed to lynch people, destroy communities, and appropriate property through organized actions of mass antiblack violence in the early 20th Century.