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The House Negro And The Big House Paddy

Angloland - Home of the Anglo-Irish
Angloland – Home of the Anglo-Irish

Some political activists from the African-American community in the United States have a pejorative term for a black person believed to be unduly sympathetic to or enamoured of European-American culture: a “house negro”. The phrase comes from a famous speech made by Malcolm X in 1963 describing black revolutionary politics:

“If you’re afraid of black nationalism, you’re afraid of revolution. And if you love revolution, you love black nationalism.

To understand this, you have to go back to what [the] young brother here referred to as the house Negro and the field Negro — back during slavery. There was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes – they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good ’cause they ate his food — what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master’s house quicker than the master would. The house Negro, if the master said, “We got a good house here,” the house Negro would say, “Yeah, we got a good house here.” Whenever the master said “we,” he said “we.” That’s how you can tell a house Negro.

If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” We sick! He identified himself with his master more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, “Let’s run away, let’s escape, let’s separate,” the house Negro would look at you and say, “Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” That was that house Negro. In those days he was called a “house nigger.” And that’s what we call him today, because we’ve still got some house niggers running around here.

On that same plantation, there was the field Negro. The field Negro — those were the masses. There were always more Negroes in the field than there was Negroes in the house. The Negro in the field caught hell. He ate leftovers. In the house they ate high up on the hog. The Negro in the field didn’t get nothing but what was left of the insides of the hog. They call ’em “chitt’lin’” nowadays. In those days they called them what they were: guts. That’s what you were — a gut-eater. And some of you all still gut-eaters.

The field Negro was beaten from morning to night. He lived in a shack, in a hut; He wore old, castoff clothes. He hated his master. I say he hated his master. He was intelligent. That house Negro loved his master. But that field Negro — remember, they were in the majority, and they hated the master. When the house caught on fire, he didn’t try and put it out; that field Negro prayed for a wind, for a breeze. When the master got sick, the field Negro prayed that he’d die.”

Today I was reminded of that oft-quoted speech while reading this article in the Oirish Independent newspaper, a reminder that our own “Big House” Paddies are still in plentiful supply. For a welcome antidote to the fawning sycophancy of the Seoníní try the words of Séamas Ó Conghaile. Not to mention a timely reminder from An Piarsach:

The Rebel

I am come of the seed of the people, the people that sorrow,

That have no treasure but hope,

No riches laid up but a memory

Of an Ancient glory.

My mother bore me in bondage, in bondage my mother was born,

I am of the blood of serfs;

The children with whom I have played, the men and women with whom I have eaten,

Have had masters over them, have been under the lash of masters,

And, though gentle, have served churls;

The hands that have touched mine, the dear hands whose touch is familiar to me,

Have worn shameful manacles, have been bitten at the wrist by manacles,

Have grown hard with the manacles and the task-work of strangers,

I am flesh of the flesh of these lowly, I am bone of their bone,

I that have never submitted;

I that have a soul greater than the souls of my people’s masters,

I that have vision and prophecy and the gift of fiery speech…

And because I am of the people, I understand the people,

I am sorrowful with their sorrow, I am hungry with their desire:

My heart has been heavy with the grief of mothers,

My eyes have been wet with the tears of children,

I have yearned with old wistful men,

And laughed or cursed with young men;

Their shame is my shame, and I have reddened for it,

Reddened for that they have served, they who should be free,

Reddened for that they have gone in want, while others have been full,

Reddened for that they have walked in fear of lawyers and of their jailors

With their writs of summons and their handcuffs,

Men mean and cruel!

I could have borne stripes on my body rather than this shame of my people.

And now I speak, being full of vision;

I speak to my people, and I speak in my people’s name to the masters of my people.

I say to my people that they are holy, that they are august, despite their chains,

That they are greater than those that hold them, and stronger and purer,

That they have but need of courage…

And I say to my people’s masters: Beware,

Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people,

Who shall take what ye would not give.

Did ye think to conquer the people,

Or that Law is stronger than life and than men’s desire to be free?

We will try it out with you, ye that have harried and held,

Ye that have bullied and bribed, tyrants, hypocrites, liars!”

17 comments on “The House Negro And The Big House Paddy

  1. Matthieu H

    “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”
    ― Howard Zinn


  2. Enda Kenny to offer royal baby 26 counties as a present.


  3. Emmet_Rising1803

    Have to enjoy this line from Edwards article in which she’s clearly trying to say any criticism of her book on Pearse was unfounded and hysterical, “I was born and educated in Dublin and my accent is still Irish, but after publishing a biography of Patrick Pearse that wasn’t hagiographical, I became almost overnight a “West Brit”.’ Never mind that was it badly researched, came to poor conclusions, and been dismissed (whether overly or subtle) in every major historical – and not at all hagiographical – work written about Pearse in the last decade.

    This is a writer who claimed Pearse was a paedophile based on some badly written poetry. (A trap under revisionist writers fall into who debate Pearse’s sexuality, saying that if he wasn’t straight or confused himself, then he must have been an overt sexual deviant which is an appalling leap to make). I’m always meaning to dig up a rather bizarre article she wrote a number of years ago when talking about the death of Michael Jackson, and comparing his alleged sexual tendencies with what she concluded about Pearse at great length. In a tabloid rag or blog you’d easily dismiss such waffle, that it’s given serious editorial consideration in one of the most widely distributed papers in this country is rather incredible.


  4. Pádraig Ó Déin

    Speaking of the Oirish independent, have you ready todays paper? Six pages were given over to the royal birth. Two of those pages being the first pages. How is it that a national Irish paper puts the national news of a foreign country on its first pages? Why not keep it to the international news section.

    I hear bookies are also going bad over bets for the name of the child, who will come out holding the child and earlier, if it was a boy or girl.

    But thats not the worst of it. My own mother and sister were talking about the royal birth. They knew when it happened, the weight of the child etc. All the trivial facts possible. Then I asked them both who the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation were. They could not answer and just told me not to annoy their heads.

    Irish citizens encapsulating themselves with British news, British trends, British television, British culture without being aware of it? Makes me fear for the future of this Republic.


    • Niall O'Donnell

      The media in the USA is just as bad! I’ve found it impossible to avoid this story, even from more ‘reputable’ news sources like NPR. Hopefully they wise up soon and look at something relevant.


    • Forty years of the BBC, ITV, Ch4 and a dozen British newspapers and magazines have done more to colonise Ireland in the 20th and 21st centuries than a hundred infantry battalions of the British Army could have done. If Ireland today was still entirely under British rule I strongly suspect that those supporting independence would number less than a quarter of the population. Ireland in the early 21st century would never have cast off British colonial rule the way Ireland did in the early 20th century.

      Pearse and Connolly were right. Changing a flag meant nothing unless language and society changed with it.

      We have failed the 1916 Revolution.


  5. always thought the rebel expresseed a forceful take-home message


  6. I could not resist venting my rage at that article in the “Independent” (The Irony). So now we have to all grow up and accept that it was really a good thing for us to have been civilized by our invaders? Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with British people and yet I have a significant problem with articles that say this kind of stuff. This is coming from the same paper if I remember rightly which published an article essentially calling our language useless. So I guess the political correctness has now delved in to the territory in which one is required to be grateful for the happenings that have plagued Ireland? As though without these things we would be merely an creative bunch with a backward culture and language, and nothing more than what would amount to Irish hill billies lacking the civility of our counterparts across the sea? hmmm…I guess they called Ireland the land of saints and scholars due to the great British influence that was granted to us…
    Very strange bunch that Independent crowd indeed.. They have gone so far off the scale on this one, I would say they are currently swimming near the Isle of Mann and looking lustfully at the shore of Great Britain.


    • I like that last line, so true 😉

      In the southern United States they have the Neo-Confederates, writers, journalists, historians and politicians who wish to rewrite the history of the Confederate States and slavery. They are engaged in a “culture war” to present the “Old South” as some sort of misunderstood, misrepresented utopia. They are have their Neo-Unionist equivalents here. Neo-British apologists like Edwards and co. are the ultimate revisionists.


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